Rossland resident Wannes Luppens recently completed a 25 day, 1,400 km journey down the Fraser River. The trip began at the headwaters near Mt. Robson and finished at the river’s mouth in Vancouver.
Travelling by voyageur canoe and raft, he was one of seven participants on the Sustainable Living Leadership Program, organized annually by the Rivershed Society of BC.
Evenings were spent camping under the stars along the banks of the river, while days were spent learning about stewardship and designing sustainability projects to implement in home communities.
Luppins had nothing but good things to say about the trip, from being in nature the whole time to the friends he made from all over B.C.
“I got to see and learn about a big part of BC that I had never had a chance to experience before,” Luppens said. “Finding out about the Fraser’s history and its impact on the development of the West was fascinating”.
The weather on the trip turned out to be great as well, so they spent most of the nights sleeping under the stars. There was a lot of wildlife, including a huge sturgeon, bears and bighorn sheep. Tracing the river brought him a new perspective on the environment around it.
“You see the river getting bigger and bigger. Where we started, you could call it a trickle,” he said.
The group began the journey in the voyageur canoe, but switched in and out of military style rafts, depending on the severity of the rapids in the part of the river.
“It gets way too wild, I’d say in the beginning it has a similar feel to the Columbia, but then from Soda Creek to Hope it’s wild,” he said. “There’s spots where even with a lifejacket on you wouldn’t stand much of a chance.
At one point, just before Hell’s Gate, a notorious part of the river before Hope, one of the rafts sprung a leak, but they managed to get it to shore.
The idea behind the annual trip came from Fin Donnelly, who twice swam the entire length of the river to raise awareness for its health. Fin has co-facilitated almost all of the trips since 2002, and was also on this year’s trip.
“The two facilitators, Fin and Doug, were awesome,” he said. “Very knowledgeable and inspiring. I love the whole idea that one guy’s ambition to swim a river has ultimately evolved into an entire network of people and organizations right across B.C. that have a shared passion. And it’s literally the river that connects everyone.
“Sustainable living is the common vision.”
Wannes was the only participant that wasn’t from the Fraser Basin.
All in all he said it was great to experience a different river and a different basin than the one he grew up in. He defined is as a trip of a lifetime.
Wannes would like to encourage anyone that is up for a challenge and an adventure and has an interest in sustainability to apply for next year’s trip. Details can be found at www.rivershed.com.