2007 Columbia River Brigade Journals
Compiled by Norm Crerar, Project Coordinator
2007 Brigade Updates
- June 22, 2007 - Stage Show rehearsal night!
- June 24, 2007 - The first Stage Show
- June 25, 2007 - Road trip to Canal Flats
- June 26, 2007 - Canal Flats
- June 27, 2007 - Invermere
- June 28, 2007 - Edgewater
- June 29, 2007 – Columbia River, Edgewater to Parson bridge
- June 30, 2007 - Columbia River, Parson bridge to Nicholson bridge
- July 1, 2007 - Golden and Revelstoke, BC
- July 2, 2007 - Revelstoke
- July 3, 2007 - Shelter Bay
- July 4, 2007 - Nakusp
- July 5, 2007 - Edgewood
- July 6, 2007 - Castlegar
- July 7, 2007 - Trail
2007 Brigade Photos
2007 Columbia River Brigade Overview
The idea for the 2007 Columbia River Brigade grew out of a dream, a sense of adventure and a sense of obligation.
Veterans of the 1967 Centennial Canoe Pageant came together for a reunion May 24th week-end of 2005. Representatives of most of the 10 teams were in attendance and besides getting together and reliving 1967, there was a purpose of our paddle down the Saskatchewan River from Rocky Mountain House (RMH) to Edmonton. The Queen was visiting Canada at the time and Vic Maxwell, captain of the 1967 Alberta team, a resident of RMH and a bit of a historian, thought it would be appropriate if a Brigade of Voyageurs delivered the HBCo rent to Her Majesty. The “rent”, which had only been paid twice before, was the rent due the Crown, if requested, by the Hudson’s Bay Company as the price for the exclusive right to do business in Rupert’s Land (most of western Canada). The rent, two beaver skins and two elk hides, were duly bundled up and the Brigade handed them over to the Queens representative, Lt. Governor Normie Kwong, at Fort Edmonton.
While in RMH, a big Rendezvous was held and at that party, it was revealed that a group, headquartered in Edmonton, was planning a Voyageur Canoe Brigade in 2008 from RMH to Thunder Bay. This trip would commemorate David Thompson’s 1808 trip over the same route, 200 years later. Some hours of discussion and a few beers later, it was thought that a shorter trial event would be in order to work out logistical situations, timing and build anticipation for the 2008 trip. As well, in 1807, David Thompson made his way east of RMH to the headwaters of the Saskatchewan River (Saskatchewan River Crossing on the Banff-Jasper highway) through the Rocky Mountains via Howse Pass and arrived at the Columbia River just north of today’s Golden, BC. He then traveled south (upstream) and set up Kootenay House at today’s Invermere, BC. To commemorate David Thompson’s historic involvement on the Columbia River, it was decided to promote a 200th anniversary of David Thompson’s arrival on this very important river resource. A five day trip the last week of June of 2006 was organized and five Voyageur Canoes and teams traveled from Canal Flats/Columbia Lake, the headwaters of the Columbia River, to Golden, BC. The 2007 trip was planned to last 14 days and travel from the headwaters at Canal flats to Golden and then Revelstoke to Trail. This Brigade would stop at all the communities on the Columbia River in BC. Over the next full year, all communities and business organizations in the Columbia River Basin were contacted, visited, presented to and visited again. Almost without exception, the Chambers of Commerce and/or civic governments became enthused with the event and became involved. Along with the Voyageur “Canoe Show”, we promised to bring along the David Thompson “Heritage Stage Show”.
The “dream” part of the equation was a result of conversations with the 2008 David Thompson Brigade Society and the invitation to be part of that project. The “sense of adventure” came from the simple fact that my regular paddling partner Gib McEachern and I have paddled somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 miles with professional racing and recreation canoeing. Our plain love of paddling and taking our friends with us was incentive enough for us to be involved. Our sense of “obligation” came from the simple fact that David Thompson is a great Canadian hero, has almost been forgotten and we feel he should not be.
Ross MacDonald is the working Chair of the David Thompson Bicentennial Commission. He and his organization have been working since 2005, and will be through 2012, as an umbrella organization to encourage groups and organizations, governments and individuals to get involved with David Thompson projects. The 2007 and 2008 David Thompson Brigades will certainly be two of the most energetic events. Ross brought to light some very interesting points in the times that he was able to join the 2007 Brigade and speak to the folks along the way. To quote Ross:
The Brigade: The Brigade validates our collective ties to the water and landscapes of the Columbia Valley, reminding us that we are as much residents of the watershed as that of our respective communities. Every stroke of the paddle whispers the history of the river. The ache of tired muscles speaks of the hardships that built the highways of history.
Rivers: Canada is a nation built on rivers and lakes. These were the first highways, the heritage corridors of trade and exploration. If David Thompson taught us anything, it was that rivers were the arteries of culture, community, trade, commerce and settlement in North America. The Columbia River became the last leg of the fabled Northwest Passage – the route that connected Montreal to the Pacific.
Trade: All of Thompson’s historically significant contributions are subsumed under the activities in which he was engaged as a trader. Above all else, Thompson was involved in trade and anything else he did, all the surveying, map-making, diplomacy, development of inter-cultural relationships and even nation building were undertaken in the service of the business in which Thompson was engaged. Thompson not only traded for furs but also for the knowledge of the Aboriginal Peoples and for the rights to travel through their territories.
Aboriginal Peoples: Native People’s lives became intertwined with those of the early fur traders in ways that could not have been anticipated. David Thompson and other employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and Northwest Company, in their business ventures, created strong economic bonds characterized by reciprocity and strengthened by intermarriage. Names currently in Tribal membership such as McDonald, McKay, Carriere, Morigeau, and Finlay attest to this long-lasting legacy. For these native peoples, their heritage is fur trade history. However, history as reflected in trader’s journals and business records does not reflect their history.
Native People’s perspectives on that period of time are very different, sometimes perhaps complementary to and sometimes at variance with the historic written record. Either way, all interested in fur trade history will be enriched by understanding Native People’s history. There are different ways of looking at the world and history. Much of history would look different if tribal people had been the authors. Accept that stories will vary even within native groups. Recognize there are lands and waterways that contain tribal histories, landscapes and uses. Each is valid.
The David Thompson Heritage Stage Show – It was recognized early on that it would be difficult to tell the David Thompson story with just the Voyageur Canoes. I contacted theater groups and individuals in the Vernon, BC area (where I currently live) and the name David Brotsky kept being mentioned. I contacted David in July of 2006 and “laid the vision on him”. David had just retired from 30 years of teaching drama at the local high school and turned out to be a rare find of enthusiasm, vision, carpentry/electrical/sound/lighting/welding and other skills. His wife Lorraine is a seamstress and costume maker. David and Lorraine, while on a trip to Alberta, went to Rocky Mountain House and visited the National Park there where the Northwest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company both had trading posts and where a commemorative canoe display of the 1967 Centennial event rests. They became believers and I was to meet them in Calgary at the Glenbow museum to see a one man David Thompson show put on by actor/ playwright Geoffry Ewart. We were all impressed and now went to work to try and put it all together. Joining the stage crew would be a local musician, Cormac Eby, fiddler.
Funding for the event was a constant worry and never left our minds. All of our creative meetings would boil down to costs and where the money would come from. Finally, it was crunch time. Geoff had to have a commitment as he had other job offers pending and Dave needed time and money to build the stage. Just after a few friends and friends of friends promised support, word was received that a couple of our funding applications had been approved and we were off! Thom Tischik, executive director of the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, really came to the table with his organization and his experience working with the funding agencies in the east and west Kootenays. The Revelstoke C of C office would be the agency through which the funds would flow and be accounted for. A big job and well done!
The Voyageur Canoe Brigade: Word of the 2007 Columbia River Brigade had been going out through the canoeing community for over a year. Teams and individuals started to make plans and commitments to the event. The first team to officially enter was the Robusters from the Trail/Castlegar/Christina Lake/Grand Forks area. This all-female team was made up of breast cancer survivors and a few friends and supporters. The second team registered was the Mountaineers from the same area, a mixed team with lots of mountaineering experience and some canoeing experience. The teams that followed came from Edmonton (David Thompson 2008), Rocky Mountain House (David Thompson Mapmakers), three teams from the Vernon area and one team from Nakusp (paddling only part of the West Kootenays). The Vernon teams were sponsored by: Salmo Watershed Stream Keepers Society; Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing; Don Kassa ReMax.
Many of the teams came as a group and were involved the whole 14 days. Some teams had members come and paddle for two or three days at a time and others then take their places. All in all, over 100 people were cycled through the 8 big Voyageur Canoes on the trip.
Funding: The event needed funding to be ale to pull all the parts together. We had our adventures securing enough funds to even get started. Selling a vision is difficult but over the next year, we managed to get a few believers and that grew. The first to come on board was Thom Tischik, General Manager of the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce. With Thom and his Chamber backing the project, other communities in the West Kootenays and then, finally, the East Kootenays all backed the project. This was important as that backing was the necessary ingredient to have the Columbia Basin Trust come on board. The CBT and its considerable support was the catalyst that brought BC Hydro, Columbia Power Corporation and FORTIS to the table. The funding from these agencies gave us enough to get the project started, pay some of the administration costs such as travel and insurance and guarantee that the Stage Show would be a reality. The teams also all paid a registration fee that, in part, paid for the GPS tracking units that went in each canoe and the Google Earth mapping facility that tracked each canoe each day. The funding also gave us a start on an educational Video that will be available to all communities, sponsors, schools and other interested parties by October of 2007. Small donations from individuals at the community stops along the way will all go toward the completion of the Video.
The 2007 Columbia River Brigade
June 22, 2007 – Stage Show rehearsal night! It was time to get the show on the road—well, almost on the road. Geoff Ewart, our “David Thompson” player, Cormac the fiddler and the Vernon crew all met at the Brotsky residence the evening of June 22 for the one and only run-through of the show. Don Dodds, outdoor culinary expert, had set up a BBQ for the occasion as well as the “Trading Post”.
Weather – dark clouds to the west and showers forecast. We would get through the evening with cool and cloudy conditions but no rain.
The Trading post was a big trappers wall tent requiring large poles, crossed at the top, to hold up the front and back. The trading post carried a supply of Metis Sashes, event t-shirts, event pins and copies of a water color of the Brigade logo done by Carol Dodds. The Trading Post, invited guests, Voyageurs and Stage about took up the Brotsky driveway and back yard.
The whole of the Stage Show was run through and adjusted and added to as the evening wore on. Needing a fill-in part for continuity, the Voyageurs had to learn to sing “Flower of Scotland” (unofficial national anthem of Scotland) As well, Don MacLeod, Pipe Major of the local Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band, was on hand to back up me playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes as David Thompson headed off into the sunset at the end of the play. The reason P/M MacLeod was there was the simple fact that I was in the process of learning the bagpipes and was his student and I needed help!
The evening was deemed a success and it was declared the Stage Show was as ready as it would ever be and at any rate, we could and would all get better after a few performances. The first performance was scheduled for Kin Beach in Vernon, June 24th. The reason for a performance in Vernon was to get a show under our belts and also to showcase the event to our Vernon partners, families and sponsors.
June 24, 2007 – The first Stage Show: Weather – cool with rain forecast.
The day was a busy one. We had advertised the Stage Show in the local Morning Star newspaper with a 4 page pull-out insert that doubled as a program. Local and provincial dignitaries had been invited as had the Okanagan First Nations and the Metis Association BC. The whole of the Vernon paddling contingent were busy all day packing for the next two weeks, getting equipment in order and making arrangements for their dogs and cats.
To kick off the evening event, the three Voyageur Canoes from Vernon were to paddle from Paddle Wheel Park to Kin Beach, a distance of about 1.5 km. It had been arranged for Chief Fabian Alexis of the Okanagan First Nations to be at the beach so the Voyageurs could “seek permission to come ashore”. This ceremony was a standard procedure with David Thompson in all of his travels and one reason why he was respected and accepted by most First Nation peoples. We wanted to make the ceremony a part of our travels as well.
The Voyageur Canoes started the short journey from Paddle Wheel Park to Kin Beach and were almost at the beach when a dugout canoe, paddled by the Okanagan First Nations, intercepted them. We were not aware of the protocol but Chief Alexis, on the beach with us, explained it. The Voyageurs were expected to ask permission to come ashore and to remind the Voyageurs the First Nations people were in control of their lands, the Voyageurs would be symbolically refused and would be turned away but then would be invited to return and come ashore. I was not immediately aware of this and was watching the clock as we had the whole evening pretty well planned and the weather was now threatening. When the canoes, by now a bit late, stopped in front of the dugout canoe, I was giving discreet but frantic hand signals to the Voyageurs to “get to shore”! Lo and behold, they then circled away from the beach. I was now waving my arms and giving plain-to-understand arm signals!
- The Stage is set up at the east end of Kin Beach Park and the Trading Post, selling Metis sashes, Brigade t-shirts, pins and color logo prints. is off to Stage left and provides part of the “historic” look. The Voyageur Canoes will add to the scene.
- Chief Fabian Alexis of the Okanagan First Nations welcomes the Voyageurs ashore and provides them with two hand-carved ceremonial paddles that will be signed by the Voyageurs and all dignitaries along the route. Chief Alexis blesses the Voyageurs and their upcoming adventure with a prayer. Dave Hodgson and the Metis Nation BC are also on hand to welcome the Voyageurs on shore with smoked meats and bannock. As many of the early Voyageurs and fur traders were Metis, the Metis Sash will be worn by our modern day Voyageurs. The Metis Nation BC gives us their Metis flag to carry with us through our journey.
- MLA Tom Christiansen brings greetings from the province.
- Acting Mayor Jack Gilroy brings greetings from the City of Vernon.
- Dignitaries take the Voyageur oath and are given a certificate, pin and sash and declared Honorary Voyageurs.
- Rain is threatening and a wall of water is marching towards us.
- The David Thompson show goes on, bagpipes are played as David Thompson fades off into the sunset, rain starts to hit and people are running for their cars.
- We pack up the Stage and the Trading Post in an absolute downpour, load three Voyageur Canoes onto our trailer and prepare for the trip to Canal Flats.
June 25, 2007 Road trip to Canal Flats:
- We wake up in the AM to pouring rain and have to bail out the canoes before we hit the road. The caravan from Vernon is 6 trucks and trailers or trucks with campers. My truck is pulling a trailer with 3 Voyageur Canoes on it. Don’s truck is pulling a travel trailer. Stew had a camper on his truck and pulled the "Chuck Wagon/Trading Post". Dick has a 13 passenger van and Dave Brotsky has a workshop/camper for the Stage Show, Richard is pulling the Stage, Geoff Ewart had a motor home and all seats in all vehicles are full.
- The rain stops about Golden and Gib and I, pulling the canoes, make stops at all the communities between Golden and Canal Flats to check the water level of the Columbia (high) and the camp grounds and Stage Show sites at the communities.
- We arrive in Canal flats in sunshine and the weather will get better and warmer as the trip goes on.
- Winston McKay, a Cree from Saskatoon and Cumberland House, will paddle with us and has been at Canal Flats for two days waiting for us to appear. Winston has met most of the people in Canal Flats.
- We camp between the ball field and the Rec Center in Canal Flats and are supposed to use the showers and toilets in the rec center but the center is locked up and the caretaker is out of town.
- Paula Cravens arrives at the camp site. Paula is the Canal Flats organizing committee and was one of the first people to “see the vision” and worked very hard to have Canal Flats participate in the Brigade.
- The Vernon gang including the Stage Show and crew trickle in and Don Dodds, Master Outdoor Chef, cooks dinner for all. Don will end up preparing and cooking for up to 30 people at times. The promised Porta Potties have not arrived.
June 26, 2007, Canal Flats:
Person making things happen in Canal Flats: Paula Cravens.
This is really the first big day of the adventure. We, the Vernon gang, have been on the go for the past three days with Stage Show rehearsals, Vernon Stage Show, packing all the gear and getting special equipment ready that will be used by all teams. We arrived in Canal Flats a day early to be able to get all of the loose ends tied up and to have the campground ready for the arrival of all the other teams.
- The weather has cleared up and we are in sunshine!
- At 1100, everyone that had arrived gathered together to make a symbolic pilgrimage over McGillivray’s Portage, the link between the south end of Columbia Lake and the Kootenay River, so named by David Thompson in 1808. The community of Canal flats takes up most of “McGillivray’s Portage”.
- Paula Cravens is dressed in period costume, the Voyageurs are all wearing their sashes and leg ties. We are joined by Ross McDonald, acting president of the David Thompson Bicentennial Commission (www.davidthompson200.org) and Grant Howse. Grant Howse is a Metis and his family history has Howse Pass named after his great, great grandfather.
- On the shore of the Kootenay River, speeches are made, pictures are taken and feet are dipped into the water. We will see this river again when we pass by Castlegar in two weeks. The Kootenay River joins the Columbia River at Castlegar.
- After a quick lunch, we convene with our canoes at the small provincial park on the south end of Columbia Lake. It is here that we will start the paddling part of our adventure tomorrow. We and some of the other teams have paddlers new to the Voyageur Canoes. We spend the next 2 hours learning how to paddle together and how to change sides, which must be done every 30-40 strokes.
- Back to the campsite-the porta potties have arrived and the rec center is open for showers. It is the first time some of the lady paddlers have showered in the hockey player change rooms. We welcome new teams arriving and by now most of the teams are with us. We now get ready for a quick dinner and get set for the first road show of the David Thompson Heritage Stage Show.
- 7 PM and it is time! The official-kick off to the 2007 Columbia River Brigade. First nations and Metis people are in attendance as are local town folks, Voyageurs and politicians.
- Chief Teneese of the Akisqnuk First Nation brings greetings and sends us on our way with the best wishes of his people and with a prayer for the journey. Native drummers help out with the ceremony and MP Jim Abbot, MLA Norm MacDonald and Mayor John Tilley do their thing. We do our thing by inducting the esteemed visitors into the order of Honorary Voyageurs then put on the Stage Show. The Stage is pointed into the sun so the audience does not have the sun in their eyes. The speeches go on for a good length of time and the on-stage folks are cooking. Finally, the show happens to rave reviews! Charlotte Small, David Thompson’s wife, now plays a part in the show. She is played by a local actress. After the show, we pack up the Stage and the Trading Post. The Stage takes three hours to set up, the Trading post one. The take down and packing away takes one hour but requires the help of a number of the Vernon Voyageurs. A visitor to our event is Ed Stanley, a Canadian living in the Seattle area. In 1957 Ed and a partner paddled a David Thompson historical trip from Edmonton to the headwaters of the Saskatchewan River, walked over Howse Pass and then paddled from Golden to Canal Flats.
June 27, 2007 – Invermere
People making things happen in Invermere: Dee Conklin and Venicia Bautista Taveras
The day dawns with clear skies and cool air. It will be some time before the sun is over the mountains along the east of Canal Flats and Columbia Lake. The Canal Flat-ers have invited the Brigade for a kick-off breakfast and the local ladies have turned out in force. Gib and I are up at 0500 as usual and have all of the gear ready for our teams. We will put two Vernon canoes in the water this day and have a third ready for the arrival ceremony in Invermere later in the afternoon.
- Breakfast is served at 0700 with muffins, yogurt, cereals, fresh fruit and lots of coffee.
- Everyone packs up and heads for the lake and the start of the event. Media folks are in attendance with local newspapers and Shaw Cable TV. Marion Barschal, CBC Radio Kelowna, calls me and we do an on air interview just before the canoes leave. Marion is a canoe person of note, has the great CBC morning voice that reaches the whole of the southern BC interior. Randy Jones, our videographer, is up in the air and shooting video from a low flying airplane.
- The paddlers give a last salute to the assembled crowd by banging their paddles on the canoe three times then raising them with a big cheer three times.
- The canoes depart under calm conditions with the sun just starting to come up over the mountain. It will be a two hour run to the mouth of the Columbia River at the north end of Columbia Lake.
- The brigade of canoes has stayed close together but upon entering the river, spread out and then follow each other at a distance. The river narrows down and starts to speed up. There is some fast water as we pass under the highway bridge and into the Fairmont Resort golf course lands.
- There are some sharp turns in the river and the Voyageur Canoes need time to maneuver. It is important to look ahead and get everyone set to keep on course. Everyone adjusts to the current and the quick maneuvering necessary and do a great job in the river. The Robusters, an all women team with 10 in the canoe and used to dragon boats that usually go straight, especially shine.
- There are lots of people along the shore and out in the back yards of homes along the river. In one particular fast part of the river, we come upon a sharp turn to the right. There is a big group of people on shore left with flags and banners. The water is fast and as we pass by at about 20 km/h.. Someone on shore yells out, “you are supposed to stop here for lunch”! We did not know about this and by the time we realize lunch was being served, we are a kilometer down stream and still going fast. A big Black Lab dog chases us downstream for about 5 km, swimming across the river, running down the shore and then swimming back over again.
- Just before noon, we meet the road party at a spot along the river just north of Fairmont Resort and make changes to the crews to make sure all participants get a chance to paddle this day. The canoes leave for Lake Windermere and the road party heads off and meets at Kinsmen Beach in Invermere.
- Communication is a bit wobbly and the canoes miss an opportunity to stop at a beach in Windermere where some folks were waiting with more lunch.
- The canoes arrive early and quietly at 3 pm. Our campsite is on the lawn of the municipal beach, opened up specifically for the Brigade. Canoes and tents take up all the available space.
- The Stage Show and Trading Post is set up at the other end of the beach, a short walk away and Invermere has a big BBQ and tents set up in the same area. The canoes, scheduled to arrive at 5 Pm, quietly paddle around the nearby point at 4:30. Precisely at 5 PM, the canoes arrive. The line of 8 canoes, with flags flying off the stern, stands just offshore and Winston McKay, our Cree paddler, stands in the canoe and in Cree, asks permission from Chief Teneese if the Brigade can come ashore. We are not sure what transpired in the conversations and are not sure if Winston and Chief Teneese understand each other but we are invited ashore. The Brigade gives the big Voyageur Salute and sprint to shore in a spectacular display of close quarter paddling.
- Local entertainment takes the Stage to warm up the crowd then the Stage Show goes on. Native drummers are again in attendance and do their thing.
- Invermere feeds the paddlers.
- The public toilets at the beach are left open for the paddlers to use. Forgotten was the timer that shut off the lights at 9 PM. The same timer turned on the irrigation system at 3 AM. The Robusters make a big hit as they apparently were camped on or near the sprinkler heads. The high volume sprinklers were doing quite a job on their tents and belongings and they are busy running around trying to put garbage cans and coolers over the sprinklers. They started laughing and soon the whole camp was involved. Good thing the next day was going to be a short one.
June 28, 2007 – Edgewater
People making things happen in Edgewater: Barry Moore and the Columbia Valley Music and Festival Group.
- The canoes are on the water at 0800 and back into the Columbia River after a short paddle across the north end of Lake Windermere. We say goodbye to Invermere and head for Edgewater.
- We have been invited to stop at Des Cripigney Island at 1000 for tea and scones with fresh local honey. The Island was first settled by an Englishman, Earl Des Cripigney, in the early 1900s. We are met there by the current owners, John and Monita Blakely. Tea and scones with local honey are definitely on the menu as are other goodie. What a nice place and what a great experience!
- What must surely be a picture of a leap of generations was when one of the bends in the river came up against the CP rail line. Just when the Brigade was making the bend, a huge freight train passed by. The canoes were the freight trains of David Thompson’s day. The engineer and the paddlers waved at each other and we got a toot on the horn.
- We are back on the water after a bit of an extended stay and make our way to Edgewater.
- The arrival at Edgewater is at an old paddlewheel steamship stop. There are no remnants of that time but there were steamers plying these waters on a regular basis. The canoes and paddlers move up to our campsite in a field near the middle of town. Porta Potties, supposed to have been delivered, are not in place. It turns out the supplier, having visited the site hours earlier, forgets about delivery. The units are found and finally delivered. Facilities at the Edgewater Community Hall are available. There was enough time for teams to transport their crews the 12 km to the Radium Hot Springs for a soak and shower.
- The Stage Show is moved indoors to the Community Hall and the Columbia Valley Music and Festival Group provide Dinner to the locals and the Voyageurs for $10 per person. This will be a dinner theater happening and works quite well. Ross MacDonald brings us up-to-date on happenings with the David Thompson Bicentennial Commission. I have to play the bagpipes outside with the doors open due to the size of the auditorium (and some folk’s aversion to bagpipes). It is a great evening!
June 29, 2007 – Columbia River, Edgewater to Parson bridge.
The next two days would see the Brigade cover 120 km of the Columbia River. This was a relatively quiet time with no communities to stop at and the only commitment was the 7 PM Heritage Stage Show at the Golden Eco Ranch, 10 km south of Golden. This part of the Columbia is a protected area and many eagles, osprey, deer, moose and elk are sighted. Traveling by canoe is a very environmentaly friendly way to go and the sighting of the wildlife the obvious benefit. It was a good time for the paddlers as they had time away from urbane areas and time to get to know each other.
- The Edgewater-arians are back at the Community hall at 0600 to get ready for the community pancake breakfast. The paddlers and guests pay $5 and are happy to do so. Pancakes and more coffee, a fill-up for the paddler’s gas tank. The teams hit the water at 0800. The skies are cloudy but no rain!
- .The river is speeding up a bit and is wider. As well, there are some big bends and in some places, the river almost doubles back 180 degrees. Making good 10 km sometimes takes 15 on the water.
- The teams make a few crew changes at the bridge at Brisco and then paddle on to Parson. The road crew proceeds on to the Golden Eco Ranch. This beautiful campground is located in the community of Nicholson, just 10 km south of Golden. Amy and Audrey are hosting us on behalf of the owner Cathy-Ann David. We had originally planned on camping in Golden July 1 but the whole of the town and townspeople are busy with their own 50th birthday celebrations as well as a David Thompson celebration. Stepping up to the plate and giving us a lot of help in the Golden area are Martin and Noreen Olson.
- The teams arrive at Parson and are transported to the Eco Ranch. The Brigade is camped in a big field and there are toilets and hot showers available, a bit of icing on the cake.
- The Right Honorable Preston Manning and wife Sandra Manning arrive. They are in time for the Stage Show and are welcomed as Honorary Voyageurs. They will paddle with us for the next two days.
- The outdoor chefs of the various teams do their thing and there is a lot of visiting and invitations to do so going around. The members of the various teams are now becoming comfortable with each other.
- The Stage Show is set up in a field with a beautiful mountain backdrop. The sun is out but big black clouds threaten. The rain holds off and the clouds move on with just a few drops being left behind. Rosemary Nicholas, a member of the Ktunaxa Nation and one of our paddlers, now plays “Charlotte Small” and will do so through to the finish of the trip. She is being coached and prompted by Mrs. Ted Bentley of the DT 2008 Edmonton team. Rosemary wears her traditional First Nations dress and does a very good job. (Rosemary will spend a lot of time behind the Stage mumbling to herself as she rehearses her lines. I see her there as that is where I am, rehearsing my bagpipe part).
- Folks coming to see the Stage Show are from the valley, Golden and campers at the Eco Ranch. The Eco Ranch is a famous hangout for hang gliders. They are able to drive up to and launch from the mountain peak just to the east and land back in the Eco Ranch back yard.
- Brigade meetings are held daily but are inconsistent as the time to meet seems to interfere with all the on-going duties of camp and paddle life and Stage Show and Brigade administration. We constantly make adjustments that annoy some people. The Town of Golden is visited by most of the Voyageurs, shopping and laundry.
June 30, 2007 – Columbia River, Parson bridge to Nicholson bridge.
People making things happen in the Golden and Nicholson area: Martin and Noreen Olson.
Preston and Sandra are given a Voyageur Canoe safety briefing and then join the two Vernon teams. They are taught the skill of changing sides. This is a bit of a ballet as the paddlers in the four middle seats have to miss a stroke and slide 4 feet to the other side of the canoe. If they do not slide at the same time, the canoe will be in danger of capsizing. The Mannings catch on quickly and we are off!
- The skies show scattered clouds and the wind is from the north. As the day progresses, the wind increases and the canoes battle the strongest headwinds of the trip. With winds going against the current, the water becomes very choppy and the canoes take on a bit of water, most being filtered through the clothing of the bow paddlers.
- Preston Manning, besides being a great Canadian, is an astute student of Canadian History. He and his sons have made special trips on rivers with David Thompson’s journals and were able to put themselves in the spot DT would have had to be to make the journal entries he did. Preston and I do a lot of talking. If we could have hooked our jaw muscles to our arms, we could have pulled a water skier!
- The Brigade arrives at the Nicholson bridge and all make their way the 700 meters to the Eco Ranch. This evening will be a very relaxed one with no Stage Show and no commitments other than the teams cooking for their paddlers. There are many invitations for members of teams to visit each other with the odd beer in evidence to wash down home cooked nibblies. Ice cream and pie finished off the other end of the meal.
July 1, 2007 – Golden and Revelstoke, BC
People making things happen in Revelstoke: Thom Tischik, Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Sonia Cinelli, Mayor Mark McKee.
The day dawns bight and COLD! The north wind has cleared things off but the temperature at 0500 is 0 degrees. There is frost in some of the tents and on the windshields of cars. People are hot footing it to the hot showers and the camp is a hive of activity. We must be on the water at 0700 as arrival in golden is scheduled for 0800-0830. The run is only 12 km and the river is speeding up. We are now making good just over 11 km/hr. (if we don’t stop to visit).
The Columbia River from Columbia Lake to just past Golden is the only part of the great Columbia River not affected by dams. From Golden to Revelstoke, the river is dammed up by first the Mica dam and then the Revelstoke dam. As a result of this and the fact there are no communities along this part of the system, we have chosen to drive the 1.5 hours to Revelstoke rather than paddle the extra week that would be needed. The river now takes a big swing through the Selkirk Mountains and where we have been paddling north for 5 days, we will now be paddling south for the next 6 days. It took David Thompson a couple of years to figure out that the northbound river he had come upon in 1807 was the same river the Kootenay joined into at what is today’s Castlegar. He would use the west Kootenay system to get him up to the Athabasca Pass that he would use for transport and trade from 1808-1812.
- We gather at the Nicholson bridge to get the brigade underway. Mist is rising off the water in the cold temperatures to the point of us not being able to see across the river. Rude comments are made about the “summer temperatures”. We get on with the job. The weather will now improve daily for the rest of the trip and we will be complaining about the heat in just a few days.
- The canoes land at the Golden Airport. People in the Golden area following our progress have gathered at the pull-out spot. Some of the town fathers are there and we load up and move to the Rec Center in Golden for a pancake breakfast. We were to have been in a July 1st parade but the parade was changed to a “stationary parade” due to the threat of high water. A “Stationary Parade”? The Parade participants are stationary and the public walks past them!
- We eat our pancakes, make our speeches, and say good-bye to Preston and Sandra Manning. Nice folks and it sure was a thrill for the Brigade to have them along. The folks of Nicholson and Golden appreciated them also.
- As Golden was unable to accommodate us on July 1, plans were “adjusted”. We now had time to make the July 1st parade in Revelstoke. The convoy of canoes and trucks hit the road!
- We arrive in Revelstoke with time to drop off the camping gear at a beautiful camping spot right on the river just below the community Rec Center. We are able to use the facilities at the ball fields across the road and the showers at the Rec Center. The skies are clear, it has warmed up and life is good!
- The Voyageur Canoes and the Voyageurs are able to just make the parade and it is a neat, typical small town July 1st parade. The Voyageurs loved it as did the folks watching along the way. At the end of the parade route, the Revelstoke folks set up a July 1st BBQ dinner for everyone complete with hamburgers, potato salad and watermelon!
- The Stage Show is set up at the Gazebo, right in the middle of the downtown area. The City of Revelstoke has regular entertainment at this location and there are other entertainers gathering and warming up the crowd. We would enjoy the largest crowd for the Stage Show in Revelstoke with chairs provided for those sitting in the street. Others are enjoying the show from seats at sidewalk restaurant tables. The street is full of happy people. Estimates put the numbers at over 500. Mayor McKee is added to the Honorary Voyageur list. It is a great setting and a great show. Revelstoke is voted the place to be July 1st.
July 2, 2007 – Revelstoke
We enjoy a day off!!! Due to the change of plans that got us into Revelstoke July 1, we now have the opportunity to take a day off, catch up on family things and do the laundry, make some canoe and equipment repairs and rest up for the rest of the trip. Our only obligation is a ceremonial arrival at 3 pm at the boat launch right by our camp site. The weather is absolutely beautiful and the setting at our campsite ideal. Life is good!
- The morning dawns with not a breath of wind and the river is absolutely calm. The high mountains ringing Revelstoke are reflected on the water. In the distance, commerce is absolute with the main CP rail going over a bridge just up river and right beside Canada’s number 1 highway. Both have non-stop traffic. David Thompson would have been proud. We do a Tim Horton’s run and enjoy a coffee with the locals.
- A team of ladies from Nakusp has joined the Brigade for the next two days.
- CBC Radio out of Winnipeg calls me for an update.
- The Brigade of 8 canoes gathers upstream of the landing area, just under the CP rail bridge. The run down to the landing area is just 2 km and the river is really moving along. The Voyageurs are wearing their sashes and bright clothing and each team has two flags in the stern of their canoe. A RCMP safety boat is on the river for us and will be part of the flotilla.
- The run down to the landing is very relaxed and we pull up in a nice back eddy. Winston does his thing and is speaking Cree with a local Metis. We think they are on the same page and at any rate, we are invited ashore. Besides the First Nations folks, we are greeted by Aldermen Chris Johnson and Alan Lidster. We perform the Honorary Voyageur ceremony and carry all the canoes up to the camp site. All the canoes parked side by side with the river in the background make a great picture.
- Marilyn James, spokesperson for the Sinixt Nation has joined our Brigade. Marilyn will be with us all the way to Castlegar where she has an office at the College as the First Nations consultant. Marilyn has an opportunity at the start of all the Stage Shows to explain a bit about the history of the Sinixt First Nations.
- A Brigade meeting convenes and we all discuss the timetable for the next leg of the trip. We will be on the water at 0800 tomorrow. We are paddling to Shelter Bay, the western terminus of the Galena Bay Ferry, about a 45 km run.
- The evening is finished off with great meals by the ever improving camp chefs.
July 3, 2007 – Shelter Bay
People making things happen at Shelter Bay: Sally Thompson, Park Contractor and BC Parks.
Today is another great day. We are on the water at 0800 and now heading south. We will have a fair current for most of the day but will soon hit the Arrow Lakes, the pond backed up behind the Keenleyside dam at Castlegar some 250 km away. To make life even better, there is a slight breeze pushing us. The new team from Nakusp adjusts to our pace and we to theirs. There is a midway point today and we will stop there for changes of some crew members. The road crew makes a quick run to the camp site and back to the midway point. It is a bit of a circus trying to work out who is driving which vehicle, who is riding, which trailer is pulling what canoe.
- The day is beautiful and as we exit Revelstoke, we are looking right up at Mt. Begbie and its snowcapped peak. It is reflected in the calm waters as we paddle south. We wait for the Nakusp team from time to time as the Voyageurs that started the trip in Canal Flats are now hardened veterans and are able to move along at a steady pace.
- The Arrow Lakes now provide a new paddling experience for the Brigade. In the east Kootenays, the river moved us along and there was always another corner coming up to keep things interesting. Now we are into lakes with long stretches. Sometimes it takes two hours to get around the next point.
- At the halfway point, some crews make a change, grab a bite to eat and the Brigade moves off. The wind has strengthened but is still a tail wind. The canoes can be spotted some kilometers away and it takes a long time for them to then arrive. The teams arrive at Shelter Bay campground mid afternoon and the whole gang enjoys another late afternoon and evening in a very protected and beautiful spot. Lots of visiting takes place and is only interrupted from time to time by the resident bagpiper practicing down by the lake shore.
- Many people following the Brigade have also come along. We are only 55 km by road from Revelstoke. There is no Stage Show this night so more time for visiting.
July 4, 2007 – Nakusp
People making things happen in Nakusp: Lynda LaFleur, Columbia Basin Trust; Mayor Karen Hamlin; Beth McLeod; Dr. Diana Kelland
Our stay at the campsite at Shelter Bay was another of the many great happenings we had on the Brigade. Coming after the day off in Revelstoke and another long but good paddle, the paddlers had more time to visit and get to know each other. What had started out as a brigade of different people with different backgrounds and personalities was now gelling as a group with the same agenda and “on the same page”. The teams were coming together as good paddling units and were becoming more tuned in to and a part of other teams.
- We are up early and on the water at 0700. This will be another fairly long day with long stretches to cover. The canoes stay fairly close together for support and safety and go a bit out of their way to stay closer to shore. The highway to Nakusp goes along the river/lake for much of the way and some of the road crew stop and watch the canoes pass. From high up on the road, the big canoes look quite small but spectacular in close Brigade formation.
- There is a halfway point by an abandoned park near an active log dump. It is a sheltered spot and four hours into the paddle, the canoes arrive. Again, some crew members are changed out and the Brigade heads off for the final push to Nakusp. The canoes are due to arrive at 3 pm but actually arrive early enough to park the canoes on a point 2 km from Nakusp, head into the camp area, set up camp then go back and paddle in on time. Nakusp is an ideal stopping place for the Brigade. The beach, right in town, has the Gazebo/camp area just across the road from it. We are camped in the treed area and the Stage Show will be on the lawn right beside us. Showers are in the Rec Center just a short walk behind the Stage. Life is good!
- The canoes arrive with the usual fanfare and with flags flying. Nakusp has an additional event planned, a sprint with all the teams involved.
- The sprint takes place at 4:30 preceded by a display of formation canoe maneuvering. This is quite spectacular with the sun just heading over the mountains to the west. Vic Maxwell, Captain of the Alberta ’67 team, organizes this. Vic has participated in nearly every Brigade or Voyageur Canoe happening since the trial events of 1965 and 1966 that lead up to the 1967 event. Vic’s David Thompson Mapmaker team is made up of his children and grandchildren.
- The sprint itself is also spectacular. The 8 canoes paraded from the beach arrival area down 400 meters toward town and can be viewed from the beach walkway right along the shore. The teams are lined up for the straight ahead sprint. Furious paddling is the order of the day. Stroke rates of 40 to 50 per minute on the long haul of the day are now in the 70 range. The team of Nakusp ladies, augmented by bow paddler Gib McEachern and stern paddler Dick Vest, just nose out everybody for first place. The $300 prize money is donated to the Nakusp Canoe Club. A great dinner is served at 5 pm and the Stage Show presented at 6:30 to coincide with the usual “Music in the Park” events that are regular fare at the Gazebo every Wednesday.
- The showers are great and once again, the ladies got to experience showers in a men’s hockey change room!
July 5, 2007 – Edgewood.
People making things happen in Edgewood: Bill Penner of the Whatshan Retreat and Linda McNutt.
- We are up early again as the paddle today will be another long day. The next two days are 60 then 90 km. The pace of paddling is the same and the teams are becoming stronger every passing day. However, there is little to no current on this Arrow Lakes part of the Columbia River.
- The morning is absolutely spectacular with calm conditions. The reflections of the mountains surrounding Nakusp are clean and clear on the water. The only ripples will be generated by the passage of the canoes.
- Marion Barschal, CBC radio Kelowna calls me for an update and we chat about paddling with Preston and Sandra Manning. I speak with her just as the canoes disappear around the first point some 5 km down river.
- There is a great coffee shop in town and it is overrun with the roadies grabbing one for the road as they go by.
- There is a crew change spot about ¾ of the way at the Needles Ferry crossing. The 12 km to Edgewood follows. The road crew drops off the camp gear and set up at the Whatshan Retreat, a really unique facility a short way from the ferry landing. There is a bit of a wait as the gate is locked when we arrived and we have to rustle up the caretaker to open up for us. We are a bit too fast for them but get organized, dropped off the gear and head for the beach in town for the arrival of the canoes.
- Right on time, the canoes arrive and there is a surprisingly nice crowd. A lone bagpiper, Paul Munroe of the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band (the group that took me in and are suffering with my beginner travails), greets us and after the exchange between Winston and Marilyn James, we are piped ashore. The celebration of our arrival is held on the lawn of the park in town that is perched on a cliff overlooking the arrival area.
- There is a huge Voyageuer Canoe Cake. The cake was baked by someone in town and was a real work of art! It was about 2’ long and 5” wide and decorated as our Voyageur Canoes are. There were even paddlers in the canoe. The young children attacked the cake after the initial few cuts and then the Voyageurs finished it off.
- Within a short time, we drive over to the Whatshan Retreat. This facility was built by a charitable society made up of people in the Doukhobor community in Castlegar. It has a great dining facility, shower facility and camping spots. On the lawn in the middle of the grounds stands a great “stand alone’ outdoor stage. Music festivals, weddings and other gatherings take place here. Some folks head off for a quick swim at Whatshan Lake, 100 meters past the camp sites. The weather now is very hot, quite a departure from the freezing temperatures we had just a few days ago.
- One of the great dinners of the trip is served here. No one was moving far from the great pasta and salad or desert stations.
- The Stage Show is set up right in front of the outdoor stage and once again delights the folks gathered. Only one more Stage Show to go!
- Everyone heads off to bed as tomorrow will be the longest paddling day and the longest road party day.
July 6, 2007 – Castlegar.
People making things happen in Castlegar: Audrey Polovnikoff and Peter Perepolkin.
Today is a very important day. It is a day where the canoes have to cover 90 some kilometers (54 miles) and the road crew has its own challenges. The canoe route will cover the longest one day distance of the trip. The road crew will have to go out of their way as they have to double back to Nakusp, drive over into the Slocan Valley and then south to Castlegar. As well, there is only one place for teams to put fresh paddlers in and that will be at Deer Park, a spot that the vehicles will have to double back to.
- This will be the longest paddling day. There is some concern within some teams as to whether they would be up to the challenge. They had no need to worry. Once again, the weather was in our favor with sunshine (hot) and the wind from behind.
- We are up at 0300 and as breakfast and food and drink for the trip was organized the day before, the hardest part was getting everyone up and at it. The tents had to be taken down and packed for travel as was our kitchen.
- It is discovered that Vic Maxwell and his team have headed back to Rocky Mountain House.
- All teams made it to the Edgewood beach for departure at 0500. It was to be a day of long, long stretches on the water. There were long stretches that seemed to look about 3 days long. Some of the slight changes in direction were over two hours away.
- Deer Park is just past the halfway point. It was feared that this trip could take over 12 hours. We are over half way and just under 6 hours. The crews are changed out and the road party heads for Castlegar and Pass Creek Park where we will camp. This is a beautiful Regional Park facility and has been reserved specifically for our group, courtesy of the Region and is just a short way from the city center.
- The canoe teams have to pass through the locks of the Keenlyside Dam. I have been in touch with the dam folks and they are expecting the canoes. We get there at the appointed time and all of the dam employees not otherwise occupied, show up to watch and take pictures of the big Voyageur Canoe passing through the locks. This is a departure from them having to let log booms through as a steady diet. The run from Deer Park to the dam is just 4 hours and the paddlers are confident now that they can handle just about anything that comes their way.
- The paddlers are finally let out the bottom door and are now in fast water again. We have had such a good day on the water that we have to lay up at an old ferry crossing just above Castlegar. Handy to the old landing is a pub where some of the thirsty paddlers repair for refreshments. The Pass Creek Campground is only 10 minutes away so some head there to help set up camp.
- I head down to the beach right in the middle of the city. The canoes are to arrive there at 5 pm. The river at this point is a big volume river and is moving along at a good rate of speed. The canoes will have to make a quick maneuver into the backwater that serves the beach.
- In come the canoes, flags flying. Some make the eddy turn without any trouble and a few go a bit too far and have to paddle back. Winston and the local First Nations people do their ceremony, we are invited ashore. We are still not sure if they understand each other but everyone seems to know what is going on. We load up the canoes and head back to Pass Creek Park.
- This is the last night of the Brigade, the last Stage Show and the last community dinner. The City, Region and First Nations folks have teamed up to make this a very memorable night for all of us. The dinner is BBQ salmon and buffalo burgers. The Stage Show is set up in a neat little field to the side of the camp spots and the teams are all camped in close proximity to each other. Visiting is now free and easy as all on the Brigade are getting to know and appreciate each other.
- The last Stage Show is a beauty. More people are added to it. Before the show, the last of the political speeches happen and put a nice finish to the event. A paddle is presented to the City and it will be displayed in the new City Hall.
- Audrey Polovnikoff, Executive Director of the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce, has had a big part in the success of the happenings in Castlegar but also for the whole event. Audrey was a supporter of the event from the very first time she heard of it and a big supporter through the tense times before funding came to be.
- Tomorrow will be the shortest day of the event and the last.
July 7, 2007 – Trail:
People making things happen in the Trail area: Jan Micklethwaite and the Robusters; Larry Polovnikov; Jack Balfour; Al Graham
The trip to Trail just about did not happen. Originally, plans were made to have the trip end in Trail. Then, the organizing forces there fell apart and no one seemed to be interested. Then, the Robuster Gang, many of whom were from Trail, got involved and with a bit of pushing and political muscle, Trail was back on the agenda. This was fortuitous as the trip from Castlegar to Trail was one of those great canoe happenings.
- We are to land in Trail at 1200 noon. It is estimated that the trip will be 30 km and as the river is moving along, about 2 hours to paddle. We plan to be on the water and paddling at 1000.
- There is concern about dangerous whirlpools and bridge abutments. There is also concern about the proposed landing area at Giro Beach. There are some big rocks out in the middle of the river and a back eddy that protects Giro Beach. To get into the back eddy will take very good timing and if missed, the canoes will be headed for the US of A! Gib and I get up early, grab a Tim Horton’s coffee and drive to Trail to look over the situation.
- There we find another landing area just upriver from Giro Beach and much better suited to accommodating all the canoes. We set a Canadian Flag out on the point we need to land behind and drive back to the campsite.
- We are on the water on time. The roadies are on their way to the finish line. The weather is perfect for the last run down the river.
- The river is moving at a good rate of speed. There are some interesting hydraulics involved with sharp bends in the river and some islands. Because of the huge volume of the river, when there is a whirlpool, the water is actually sucked down but then has to come back up somewhere. We skirt the obvious whirlpools but get bumped around a bit when the water boils back up. It is entertaining to watch the canoe in front make a sudden and abrupt 90 degree turn. The paddlers have to go with the flow and maintain their cool and their balance.
- We make it to Trail in record time and have to hold up just short of the arrival area for about 20 minutes. There are a number of power boats shuttling back and forth between us and the finish line. They are telling us that everyone is ready. We are telling them to relay the message that we are just up river and will be there right on time.
- Miraculously, we arrive on time. The Trail Pipe Band is there to welcome us as are City fathers and lots of local people. The Trail radio station has been announcing our arrival time and place. We land and get all the Voyageur Canoes and the Voyageurs and others lined up on the river bank for one last picture. The Trail Smelter is right across the river and a fitting backdrop to our last official paddling act. David Thompson would have been proud.
- The canoes are loaded for trips home and a bus is waiting to take paddlers off to a Trail civic luncheon. Was this ever a nice gesture! The lunch was terrific, the parting speeches brief and heartfelt. The Mountaineers sang a song about the “12 days of the Brigade” (9 changes of plan). Hugs and tears and we were all on our way back to our respective homes.
This trip and adventure is over. We have taken over 100 people on a trip on a very special river commemorating a very special Canadian. These 100 plus people now know a lot more about the Columbia River than they did before the trip, The thousands of people along the way are motivated to learn more about David Thompson and the role he played in the development of their valleys.
We are now working on the 2008 David Thompson Brigade. This trip will take a Brigade of Voyageur Canoes from Rocky Mountain House to (Fort William) Thunder Bay to commemorate David Thompson’s 1808 trip across most of Canada. DT had to let his Northwest Company partners know he had found a way through the Rocky Mountains.
He paddled back the same year.
For the roster of the teams, click on the link on the home page. For information on how a person can paddle a part of the 2008 Brigade, check out the information on the www.canadianvoyageur.com web site, look for the proper link
October 1, 2007