Sweden's Best White-Water Rafting
The best way to profit from the meltdown of Sweden's winter snows involves floating downstream atop the surging waters of the Klarälven River, a scenic stream that originates in the high altitudes of Norway and eventually flows through Värmland. White-water enthusiasts gravitate to its northern stretches; aficionados of calmer waters move to points near its southern terminus. One of the most respected outfitters for excursions along any length of this historic river is Vildmark in Värmland, P.O. Box 209, Torsby SE 68525 (tel. 0560/140-40; www.vildmark.se). Established in 1980 and known throughout the region for the quality of its guides, it offers canoe excursions along the northern lengths of the river between April and October, providing instruction and all the equipment and excitement you'll need.
More unusual than its white-water excursions is what the company promotes along the calmer southern stretches: You'll be taught how to lash together a log raft, equivalent to what Huckleberry Finn might have built for treks on the Mississippi. (The logging industry floated as many as six million logs downstream every year until the practice was halted for the most part in 1991.) On a raft lashed together with hemp rope, without metal fasteners or wire of any kind, you'll float downstream, past panoramic vistas, as part of a trek that can last between 1 and 7 days. Participants sleep either aboard their rafts, which consist of three layers of logs stacked atop one another, or in tents along the shore. Rafts are suitable for between two and six passengers, and are eventually disassembled and sent to paper mills to be turned into pulp. A 4-day experience covering about 48 downstream kilometers (30 miles) costs 2,020SEK ($404/£202) per adult; a 7-day jaunt covering twice that distance costs 2,410SEK ($482/£241) per person.
Less structured trips are offered by a competitor in Värmland, Branäs Fritidscenter, Branäs Fritidsanläggin, S-680 20 Sysslebäck, 150km (93 miles) north of Karlstad (tel. 564/475-70; www.j2ski.com). This operation devotes much of its time to the rental of cross-country skis but also conducts white-water rafting on several nearby streams and rivers.