The Shuswap River is the heart of many small North Okanagan communities. Ask any local and they’ll happily recount many a summer spent on the shores of the Shuswap River — Jacob and I included because we grew up in the area. Whether you’re a local or excited visitor, the Enderby River float is a must-do summer activity.
There are countless places to hop in and out, which makes the float a true choose-your-own-adventure adventure. Or in this case, a choose-your-own-float adventure.
What to expect on the Enderby River float
The Enderby River float is a summer tradition for North Okanagan locals and is sure to leave you with warm memories. When the sun is blazing and the are roads packed with tourists, head to the river and forget it all.
The Shuswap River, which is also known as the Enderby River, curls its way along the valley bottom from Mabel to Mara Lake. It flows past forested canyons, sprawling fields, and the majestic Enderby Cliffs (which you can hike!). Herds of cows are often spotted, as well as bears, deer, and plenty of birds. Unlike the Penticton Channel, the Shuswap River is a natural waterway and makes for a relaxing nature float.
Even on its most popular days, the river is large enough that you won’t feel packed like sardines and can enjoy hanging out with your friends and family in peace.
When should you float?
Depending on what time of year you visit, your float time on the Enderby River can vary a lot. In the early summer when the water level is still high, the float is very fast because the river is running very quickly. By late summer, your trip can double or even triple in time. Don’t try to float large sections of the river because it can take hours and hours — sometimes longer than there’s daylight. Long floats can also be extremely tiring, chilly, and even turn dangerous if you’ve been out for too long.
The safest, and in my option the best, time to do the Enderby River float is middle to late summer because water levels are low and manageable. In some sections, you can even walk along the sandy bottom!
Please remember that all float times are approximate and highly dependant on the type of watercraft you’re using, the weather, and water conditions. River Ambassadors patrol hand-launches during the summer (July 1 to August 31) and are a great resource if you have questions about the river.
Where Should You Enter and Exit the River?
There are many different enter and exit points, but the most common float is from Belvidere Park to Tuey Park. Other popular options are Belvidere Park to Riverside RV Park and Trinity Bridge to Eby Hand Launch.
The Shuswap River runs through or alongside private property for most of its length. Be respectful to the owners and only enter and exit at designated launch sites.
Belvidere Park to Tuey Park
If you’ve never done the Enderby River float before, you should start with the Belvidere to Tuey Park float. It’s 2.5 km and can take anywhere from half an hour in the early summer to two hours in the late summer. It’s a very scenic route with few obstacles and a sandy bottom. By late summer, you can easily walk most of the float.
If you want to cut your trip short, you can hop out at Riverside RV Park which is 1 km into the float. The exit is very obvious and is usually crowded with people from the campground enjoying the river. There are actually two exits here: the first is at a set of stairs that leads to the Riverwalk while the second is a cement boat launch. To find your way back to Belvidere Park, follow the Riverwalk upstream until you reach the park.
If you don’t cut your trip short, your float will end at Tuey Park. You’ll likely hear locals refer to Tuey Park as Waterwheel Park — they are one and the same. This exit is very obvious as well. You’ll round a bend in the river and come upon a large, usually extremely crowded sandy beach. Stay to the river’s left and you’ll have no trouble getting out here. In fact, you’ll likely have to walk because the river gets so shallow here.
There are no shuttles to and from the hand-launches, but you can park at Belvidere Park and easily walk back. Enderby is a small town and the walk back takes about 20 minutes. This is our favourite route because it’s relaxing but doesn’t take all day.
Trinity Bridge to Eby Hand Launch
The second most popular float is from Trinity Bridge to Eby Hand Launch. This 2.5 km float is located upstream near Ashton Creek and takes about a half hour to one hour. There are no exit points along the way, although the river is a bit faster here than in Enderby and the float is generally faster. There are numerous sandy areas along the way that makes a good resting place for lunches.
This float is a little harder to access because there is less parking at both the enter and exit locations. The walk back is also much longer and takes about an hour.
There are numerous other floats available, although they take much longer and more preparation to enjoy. People will usually kayak these sections instead of float them.
Stay safe on your float
Despite what you may think, spending a few hours floating peacefully down the river is actually quite tiring. You’ll be exposed to the hot sun the entire time and it’s important to think about your safety while on the water. The Shuswap River is a natural waterway and possesses many natural hazards and unpredictable features. People have drowned on the river by being caught unawares.
Everyone on the river is required, by law, to carry and/or wear a life jacket/PFD and whistle. No matter your age, strength, or swimming ability, you need to bring safety equipment! It’s also against the law to have open alcohol or to be intoxicated while on the river, but you’ll still often see people drinking. The police do patrol the river to enforce these laws.
To have a great float, make sure to bring lots of water — you’ll quickly get dehydrated! — and sunscreen. Don’t pollute the gorgeous river by dumping your trash in it and always pack out what you pack in.
And as always, enjoy your float! You’ll have a wonderful time and make great memories.
What to pack
The great thing about floating the Enderby River is how easy it is. You don’t need too much to have a great time, but the few things you do bring are very important.
Do I really need to say it? You need a floatie to float the Enderby River. Floaties come in all shapes and sizes, but nothing beats a good ol’ rainbow floatie. They’re cheap and work great. Plus, they’re light and easy to carry back to your car!
You also need to bring plenty of water. I like to bring my S’well bottle because it keeps my water cold the entire time. Another great option is the Lifestraw Go because you can drink directly from the river with it. Plus, both are reusable so it’s much more likely it won’t just get dumped into the river.
I also recommend a GoPro. Now, you definitely don’t need a GoPro to enjoy the beautiful Enderby River float, but you will want to capture your memories. The last thing you want to worry about is damaging your electronics. For years, I didn’t bring a camera on our floats for that exact reason. And then I got my GoPro! They’re made for capturing your adventures, no matter where you go. So what’s a little water to it? Nothing it can’t handle! You’ll remember your float for years, so why not capture it for forever?
If you don’t want to invest in a GoPro, another great option is the Lifeproof phone case. They’re waterproof and will protect you phone when you’re out on the river.
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The Enderby River Float is a wonderful summer activity to do with your friends and family. It’s relaxing and lots of fun! Jacob and I both grew up floating it almost every summer, so if you have any questions please ask away!
The Enderby River float is 100% free. The only costs you might have is buying your equipment for it. There used to be a business called The Tube Taxi (fun fact: I worked there for a few summers!) that provided tubes, PFDs, and a ride, but it’s not longer there.
Distance + duration
There are many different floating routes on the Enderby River. These times are all approximate and based on using a floatie like the one above. If you kayak or canoe, your time will be cut down significantly.
- Brandt’s Hand Launch to Cooke Creek Rec. Site: 4.5 km, 2 – 3 hrs
- Cooke Creek Rec. Site to Dale’s Hand Launch: 4.5 km, 2 – 4 hrs
- Dale’s Hand Launch to Trinity Bridge: 11 km, 5 – 8 hrs
- Trinity Bridge to Eby Hand Launch: 2.5 km, 0.5 – 1 hr
- Eby Hand Launch to Belvidere Park: 11 km, 3 – 6 hrs
- Belvidere Park to Riverside RV Park: 1 km, 0.5 – 0.75 hr
- Belvidere Park to Tuey Park: 2.5 km, 0.5 – 2 hrs
- Tuey Park to Grindrod Bridge: 13 km, 8 – 12 hrs
- Grindrod Bridge to Mara Bridge: 11 km, 8 – 12 hrs
- Mara Bridge to Mara Lake: 7 km, 7 – 11 hrs