Timber Rafting in Sweden
Dive Into a Nature Break With Vildmark i Varmland
By Kristina Kulyabina
Have you ever wondered what life would be like living on Sweden’s longest river for a week?
The Klaralven River, or “the clear river” in Swedish, constitutes over 250 miles of clean and fresh water stretching from Sweden through Norway.
Its big turns and curves were once ideal for log driving, a method of drifting logs down the river to paper industry destinations. Today, the river’s three-foot drops every half mile or so creates the perfect condition for timber rafting.
Thanks to the Swedish travel company Vildmark i Varmland, adventure seekers and nature lovers are provided with the opportunity to drift down one of the longest rivers in the Nordic countries.
Vildmark offers adventures along the Klaralven such as timber rafting, canoeing, camping, and beaver watching.
Anders Junler, partner and chairman of Vildmark says the main goal of the company is to offer unforgettable nature-based activities for families, groups, and companies by giving guests the chance to build their very own timber rafts to float down the river. Although the building aspect might be physically challenging, the drifting is purely relaxing.
“It is also an excellent opportunity for teamwork in the family or with your friends,” says Junler. “You have limited space on the raft and you need to cooperate to make everything work.”
Timber raft tour
The price for the basic equipment and timber rafting tour for four nights is approximately $400 per adult. Although the four nights and five days option is the most popular tour, other time frames are available from one day to eight days.
Children 3-15 years old receive a 50% discount. It is also possible to add kitchen equipment, tents, sleeping bags, and a provisioning package to the total. Vildmark offers group prices for 10-19 persons and 20 plus person groups. However, the maximum capacity per raft is six persons and the minimum is two adults.
At the initial construction site, participants are provided with logs and ropes to build a personal timber raft instructed by a guide. Individuals also learn how to handle occasional challenging conditions along the river.
“You can get stuck on sandbanks, get caught in eddies, and hit stones and trees,” says Junler. “Sometimes you drift away from the stream and can get stuck. Then you need to push the raft back to deep water. Sometimes there is a lot going on so you need to be focused and solve problems.”
While taking a break from rafting, travelers get to enjoy fishing, cooking food, pitching tents, swimming, taking canoe tours, building campfires, and watching wildlife.
This tour is ideal for getting away from a busy lifestyle to finally enjoy nature’s surroundings by camping in the peaceful woods by the Klaralven.
Gemma Frankland and Russell Rafton are partners in their early 30’s from England, both of which experienced the timber rafting tour through Vildmark.
About eight years ago, Russell watched a television program about the tour company which caught his initial interest. After an acquaintance came back from one of the tours endlessly boasting to Russell, he decided to try it out for himself.
Gemma met Russell just in time for his 30th birthday and shared his enthusiasm for the timber rafting tour, ultimately deciding to celebrate by embarking on an extraordinary adventure in July 2012.
“One of the most exciting features of the trip is that there is no tour guide,” says Russell. “You are provided with tutorials and a guide to building the raft and plenty of advice on how to survive our journey down the river but really you are left to experience the wildness yourself, which makes the trip so special.”
This was Russell’s and Gemma’s first time ever building a traditional timber raft on their own. It was approximately 10 feet wide and 10 feet long. “As there were only two of us and the low apex tent would have left us with no room, we decided to build a high rise canopy roof which would allow us to sail and sleep in a shelter but still allow us to take in the beautiful scenery as we drifted,” says Gemma.
Both say building the raft was one of the most challenging parts of the trip, which required far more hard work and effort than they had initially anticipated and took the whole day.
“However, we were a team of two whereas the majority were between 4 and 6 people. Ensuring the raft stayed water worthy and stable throughout our journey also required a little daily maintenance and tweaking,” says Russell.
Although the idea of drifting along a beautiful Swedish river sounds perfectly serene, the trip is not exactly made for those who despise the outdoors - especially the water. The river can be stubborn at times and drift the raft towards the undesired territory.
“There are scary aspects in any adventure holiday due to the unknown events which may unfold. This can create a sense of panic at times, but we didn’t experience anything we couldn’t overcome when working as a team,” says Gemma.
Anders Junler says that for some of the participants, the timber raft tour is the hardest experience they ever had on any vacation. “When they get back, they are exhausted and they will probably never do it again.
But they have still managed something they could never believe they were capable of and they are really, really proud. Others find it just perfect and as the optimal way of spending a vacation,” he says.
“In general the holiday is much more inspirational and exciting than scary,” says Russell. “If we were to pinpoint the scariest part of the holiday it would definitely be attempting to land the raft safely on an evening to camp due to the sheer weight and size of the vessel. The most frustrating part is the mosquitoes!”
The “holiday of a lifetime”
The couple’s tour lasted eight nights, beginning in Branas including the first night at the Vildmark campsite where they gathered equipment and trained. While drifting along the river, the most memorable aspect of the trip was sleeping on the raft under the stars, rather than sleeping in a tent.
“After three nights of camping on land we decided we would simply hang our mosquito net over the raft’s apex and camp in our sleeping bags on the raft,” says Russell.
“We fell asleep under the stars as it was warm outside. And then we woke up to see the sunrise.”
Both Russell and Gemma say that they loved the entire trip and although they would most certainly take other holidays in Sweden, they wouldn’t repeat this exact timber rafting trip because it would take away the exciting survival aspect of the adventure.
“You spend eight days facing challenges and having a new adventure and the excitement wouldn’t be the same the second time around.
The whole experience of the rafting holiday is to forget something and deal with it, to not have the full knowledge of what to do if you drop your spoon and dinner plate in the water, to learn how to catch fish and cook them properly and to overcome the difficulties of living on a three by three meter wooden raft,” says Gemma.
“It is the learning experience of the whole trip and sharing the experience with someone that makes the holiday exciting," says Russell.
"This is something which cannot be recreated on a second trip and that’s why we refer to the holiday as 'a once in a lifetime experience’.”
The couple says the overall experience Vildmark provided was positive. “It is a very unique experience and there aren’t really negatives, apart from perhaps mosquitoes, but rather challenges says Russell.
"It’s a fun holiday for all ages and different types of people. It can’t compare to anything else. It is excellent value for money and really something we will remember for a lifetime!
“But the challenges are really part of the adventure and the holiday experience.
You spend a lot of time relaxing, watching the world go by, reading and talking. It’s just that you are in the wilderness and have to learn how to maneuver a one-ton raft and deal with nature," he says.
“We were impressed that although we completed the holiday as a couple there were many families, with young children taking part in the same adventure," says Gemma.
Bookings for a timber rafting tour with Vildmark i Varmland can be made online or by filling out a booking request, or by email/phone.
It is also possible to arrange everything with booking and payment through any of the travel agents Vildmark cooperates with in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, UK, and the US.
Visit Vildmark website.
For example, Nature Travels in the UK and Greenloons in the US.
Kristina Kulyabina is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD.com. She also blogs for Let's Go, a student travel guide. She is a freelance writer based in Western Mass with multimedia experience. Kristina attended UMass Amherst for a B.A. in journalism and an international relations certificate.
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