Recreating a traditional voyageur canoe trip, these paddlers had a unique opportunity to paddle down the Fraser River as part of the Experience the Fraser project. See how the multi-day event highlights the importance of this crucial waterway.
It’s a bit of a ballet, and a team effort, as the paddlers aboard a traditional voyageur canoe switch sides to avoid sore muscles.
“When that’s first being practiced, there’s a little bit of tipsiness going on,” says paddler Wendy Dadalt.
Wendy and the other paddlers have five days to get in synch. They’re part of a group of about 70 people travelling the Fraser River in large Voyageur-style canoes. The 160 kilometre journey includes camping at several Metro Vancouver regional parks: Matsqui Trail, Derby Reach, Colony Farm and Deas Island.
“We will be on the water for 5 days and nights camping,” explains Dadalt. “We’ve been visiting the regional parks to camp.”
This week Wendy is a voyageur brigader, but the rest of the time she is an Area Manager with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks and inter-regional coordinator with the Experience the Fraser project. Experience the Fraser is a multi-partner initiative which champions the lower Fraser River in terms of connections, public awareness, access and use. She knows how infrastructure can bring the river to life.
“It’s a very exciting moment for me to actually go and see tents being set up. It’s not something that the individual camper could come and do, but as part of an organized group we can make those arrangements.”
Jeffrey Fitzpatrick, a Metro Vancouver Regional Planner working with Experience the Fraser describes one of the project’s benefits.
“The Fraser is a working river. There is industry, agriculture next to the river, log booms. It is a busy river. Part of Experience the Fraser is identifying those places where recreation fits, where we can access the river, where we can spend time by the river.”
Brigade events like these take place throughout Canada. The Fort Langley Canoe Club is the host of this one.
“We heard about the Experience the Fraser and they just came on board and got us this area,” says Sharon Good, Voyageur rep for the Fort Langley Canoe Club. “We have people coming here from Ottawa, Hinton, Alberta, Kelowna, Vernon, and Victoria, and, of course, local folks.
Roy Scully welcomes the chance to meet other paddlers.
“It’s been really cool to meet all the different people that are here.”
Despite some inclement weather, participants Caleb and Jarrod Gibson are still enjoying themselves.
“Yeah, it rained last night,” says Jarrod. “Our tent actually leaked. It was quite a fun night. The paddle was great.”
Richard Wagers is happy they’re heading downstream.
“We had a good, strong current, so we were probably travelling 12 k an hour.”
The Fraser River’s living history comes alive when they stop at special First Nations sites.
“We went down the Harrison River,” says Good. “saw the petroglyphs and the ancient Indian burial grounds.”
A visit to the Kwekwetlam First Nation is also part of the week.
“The First Nations are going to take us through their canoe house,” explains Good.
Voyageur-inspired attire is often the choice of paddlers who have been in previous brigades. Grant Rawstron shows off his traditional clothing.
“This is basically what the Hudson’s Bay employees used to wear. The Hudson’s Bay employees were Voyageurs.”
Since a goal of Experience the Fraser is to showcase attractions along the river, a special presentation was arranged at the Fort Langley historic site. Representatives from several levels of government welcome the group ..and then they ‘test the waters’ during the afternoon’s leg of paddling.
“Events like today are a great example of people taking that idea and running with it,” says Fitzpatrick. “The brigade today is kind of like Experience the Fraser in action.”