By Andrea Arnold
On the morning of Sat. Aug. 27, 2022, members of the Coquitlam-based BC Rivershed Society embarked on a journey canoeing a portion of the Fraser Watershed. The society was formed in 1996 after Fin Donnelly completed a “Swim for Life”—a 1,400km swim that covered the entire length of the Fraser River. This journey took him three weeks to complete. He completed a second swim in 2000. The group’s mission is to connect, protect and restore all 34 watersheds that feed the Fraser.
The Society runs a program called the Sustainable Living Leadership Program that allows people from across the province an opportunity to participate in a 27-day paddle down the length of the Fraser. Interested individuals who are working to conserve, protect and restore the watershed are invited to apply. Each participant of the program past and future will have developed a watershed solutions project during the trip and will be equipped to implement it upon returning home.
In past years, a larger Sustainable Living Leadership Program group put in at Tete Jaune after completing a hike to Kinney Lake, as the true headwaters is at Mount Robson and in places there is not enough water to start right at the beginning, and they paddle to the estuary in the lower mainland. They transitioned from canoes to rafts for the Fraser Canyon portion of the trip, completing the journey in 27 days.
“We had done this trip every year since 2001 prior to covid,” said Society Executive Director Justine Nelson. “This year is a scaled-back version. We have many new staff members and this version is allowing them to connect with the river and the communities along the way.”
The 10-person canoe started in Tete Jaune Saturday morning. They will travel from Tete Jaune to Crescent Spur over four days exploring the river, and meeting with members of communities along the way.
Nelson, along with Roberta Webster, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Government Relations, set up a table during the Dunster Farmers Market on Saturday prior to the arrival of the canoe later that afternoon.
On Saturday evening, the group camped in the Dunster Community Green next to the river. The Robson Valley community was invited to attend a potluck open house hosted by the Fraser Headwater Alliance and the Dunster Community Association at the Community Hall to meet with the members of the Society.
“We want to listen to what other people have to say,” said Webster. “We want to hear what people’s priorities are.”
Following the dinner, representatives made a presentation explaining what they hope to achieve.
Saturday’s events will be repeated many times as the team moves along the length of the Fraser River.
“We will be visiting community farmers markets and festivals,” said Nelson. “Meeting face-to-face with people we have visited in past years, and new ones that we have been communicating with virtually over the past few years.”
This year they will then travel by van to Prince George, up to Vanderhoof and then on to Hope before getting back in the canoe to finish off with a five-day paddle to Vancouver.
They hope to return to offering the full Sustainable Living Leadership Program next year and provide opportunities for interested individuals who are working to conserve, protect and restore the watershed. Each participant of the program past and future will have developed a watershed solutions project during the trip and will be equipped to implement it upon returning home.
“Our goal for this year is to reinvigorate the enthusiasm that was there prior to covid,” said Nelson. “We are excited to connect again.”