By Laura Keil
BC’s longest river is getting its due in a new book by a BC couple who’ve spent decades returning to the Fraser and recording its features, history and stories.
Photographer and writer team Rick and Carol Blacklaws have published “The Fraser, River of Life and Legend,” a coffee-table style book with high quality printing and gorgeous photos. The book is meant to portray one rafting trip from the headwaters to the ocean, but the photos and stories stem from dozens of trips.
Carol said her impetus for writing the text was to bring a greater awareness of the river to urban dwellers who typically see it as an industrial highway.
“I felt there was a disconnect between this river that’s a gem of a resource to British Columbia and the perception of it in the Lower Mainland and in urban settings.”
In the Fraser’s Upper Reaches, like the Robson Valley, the meandering river is a far cry from the silty brown current at the mouth of the Pacific. It’s home to spawning salmon, tourist-laden whitewater rafts, and diverse wildlife drinking at its banks.
The book profiles several locals including Bonnie and Curtis Culp and Gene and Linda Blackman, as well as local history.
/ PHOTO COURTESY RICK BLACKLAWS
On their float trips, the Blacklaws were blown away by the changing landscape — how meandering mountain views give way to canyons, rapids and arid plains..
“It’s remarkable to go through the grasslands, to go through the canyon section and see history all along the way with hand-build walls for the plaster mining, and you go under bridges,” Carol said. “It is it is absolutely a stunning trip.”
Spend any amount of time talking to Rick and Carol and they’ll be trying to convince you, too, to get out on the Fraser.
The river is a hard sell, Rick admits.
“You’re almost brought up to stay away from the Fraser, and rightly so, it’s a big dangerous river. Quite often, in smaller communities, I’ll say ‘Well come on, we’ll get on the raft and go down part of the river,’ and they go ‘Are you trying to kill me?’ Everyone knows someone who has, unfortunately, died.”
He says the river requires respect: a knowledgable guide and proper planning. Part of successfully navigating the 1375km long river is having the right kind of boat. The rafts the Blacklaws use today are 12-person military-style rafts. All their gear comes on the boat and they always travel in tandem (2 rafts).
Rick said if this river were in the U.S., there would be 30 more books written and many more expeditions.
“We’re still on a very juvenile level of understanding (of the Fraser) in British Columbia.”
Carol says she hopes the book can do more than spur interest.
“If you appreciate the value of the river, you’re more apt to protect it.”
The Blacklaws’ book can be purchased at the Goat bookstore in Valemount or online via most book sellers.