With the opening of Switzerland internally from lock down, Juerg and I decided to make a paddling trip to Eastern Switzerland, back to the Foder – Rhein and kayak the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. Two years ago, we had come for our first visit and I really enjoyed it – felt like I could stay a long time there. This trip to the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland’s biggest canton was another wonderful adventure. The movie “Youth” was filmed in this area. Famous Swiss water called Vals comes from the area, and there are hots springs and cold springs nearby as well. Even with very big mountains and vast sweeping views, the entire area feels much more open and relaxed than where we live (hard to explain but you can definitely feel it – even the trains are more laid back and not on time!).

Rheinschlucht - The Grand Canyon of Switzerland
As no campgrounds were open, we were fully prepared for car camping which is something I love to do anyway! We found a great spot next to a farm that rescued retired and abused horses with a view down to part of the Rheinschlucht itself. At the Rheinschlucht or Grand Canyon of Switzerland, only hiking trails and occasional train tracks reach the river, so down in the steep and deep canyon, you have a wonderful feeling of being very far away from everything! The train is your shuttle vehicle and it is very easy to use and fun! The train makes several stops as it runs the length of the river so you can easily choose the length of your paddle journey depending on what you feel like. Although the train parallels the canyon, it is from far away so you don’t see the train from the river except occasionally.

Rheinschlucht - The Grand Canyon of Switzerland
On this trip, we parked next to the Kanu Shop Versam and kayak school in Versam. We ran into old paddling friends, Toro, and new ones, Maudi (sp?) as well as the Kanu Shop owner who even stocked a copy of “The Guide’s Guide” written by Whitewater Voyages Founder Bill McGinnis. For me that was a huge blast from the past – to my roots in whitewater from the 80’s when I started working as whitewater rafting guide for Whitewater Voyages on the South Fork of the American River in California. It was a great reminder of how the whitewater community spans space and time, and connects in the most amazing places – like the Grand Canyon of Switzerland! There were lots of people around hiking and getting out in nature and even a group of Swiss paddlers from the AKT club who were there for a week of holiday paddling.

Rheinschlucht - The Grand Canyon of Switzerland
Last time, Juerg and I had paddled the entire river, but this trip we were focusing on the top section as that’s where there is a bit more whitewater. We were blessed with warm days and plenty of sunshine. Our first day on the river, we had higher water levels and plenty of catch on the fly waves and big fun eddy lines. It was so great to be on bigger water again! The famous black hole rapid had changed again since our last visit and really become much easier as water had been diverted away from the actual black hole on the left bank. There was still plenty of squirrely water at the bend in the river and some great big catch on the fly surf waves all the way down the rest of the rapid. There are a few other fun rapids in the heart of the canyon as well as some great options for wildlife viewing!

Rheinschlucht - The Grand Canyon of Switzerland
As the Swiss cows are now on their summer holiday, we saw a whole group basking in the sun near the river’s edge. Shortly after that, we saw a large family of mountain goats down by the river drinking and licking salt off the wall of the canyon in a deep remote part of the Rheinschlucht. It was really cool to float quietly by and observe nature in action! The take out and walk back to the car could not be easier and you even have the option for a delicious coffee and homemade “kuchen” at the café next to the car park! Now after our second trip, I really love that place even more and look forward to our next visit. It’s a near perfect kayak destination with options for everything you might want to do on and off the river.

Rheinschlucht - The Grand Canyon of Switzerland