Float a Swedish River on a Huck-Finn-Style Log Raft

A trip down the Klarälven River is a journey back in time.
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Raft building on the Klarälven Rier.

Raft building on the Klarälven Rier.

When I was a kid, I once tried to lash a few logs together and push off from shore. For a 12-year-old looking to exert some independence, there’s nothing like following Huckleberry Finn down the river, right? But my “boat” fell apart seconds after launching, and like many would-be young raft builders I was left wondering if such a DIY craft was even possible.

Now, I know it is, because I just built one here on the Klarälven River in Sweden. An outfitter called Vildmark i Värmland, inspired by the area’s historic log drives, has created a way to make your own raft—one that you really can disappear on.

Here’s how it works: You get instruction in design (three layers of logs, biggest diameter on bottom) and lashing (no complicated knots required), plus all the timber and rope you need. After two or three hours of work, you’re left with a raft that weighs more than a ton and can easily accommodate four people with room for camping gear. Ready to go.

And I learned something else after pushing off: Floating on a homemade raft is nothing like canoeing or kayaking. Those boats are made for efficiency; if you want to go fast, stick with one of those. A timber raft is made for going the pace of the river. You have no choice but to slow down, relax, and watch the trees slide by. Occasionally, you might have to use a long pole to steer around sandbars or strainers, but for the most part you’re literally going with the flow.

The Klarälven meanders in big S turns through a forested valley—no rapids, no flashy scenery. But this trip is all about lounging on your handmade raft. You can stay on the river as long as eight days or as little as one (something in between is probably best), camping on shore or right on your raft. Sweden’s “right to roam” law means you can pitch a tent virtually anywhere along the river, and there are established campgrounds as well if you want facilities. The Klarälven isn’t a wilderness river—a road parallels it much of the way, coming close when the valley narrows—but that also means you can stop for the occasional ice cream along the way. That’s probably something Huck Finn would have done, too.

Do It

Season: Summer Price: A 5-day trip is about $300 per adult (about half that for kids). Tip: If you stay a night at the Klarälven Camping pre- or post-trip, spring for the wood-fired sauna.