Fort Langley Paddlers enjoy Voyage of a Lifetime

Brian Lewis, The Province - Sunday, July 27, 2008

Twenty hardy paddlers from the Fort Langley Canoe Club are living a dream that has taken them 200 years back into history. And it doesn't matter a hoot to these modern-day adventurers that their three 26-foot voyageur-class canoes also carry digital cameras, cellphones, portable GPS units and other high-tech gadgets.

As far as they're concerned, this voyage is a partial re-enactment of the epic 36-day expedition taken by Simon Fraser of the North West Company and a small band of voyageurs in 1808 from Fort St. James way up north to the mouth of the mighty river that bears his name.

Dressed in period costumes, the group left Fort St. James last Sunday to paddle down the Stuart River and then into the Nechako River, which joins the Fraser River at Prince George.

Wisely, they won't paddle the stretch of the Fraser between Quesnel and Hope for safety reasons -- it includes the Hell's Gate rapids. (The original expedition also portaged the river's most dangerous sections.)

The goal on this 16-day re-enactment of the Fraser journey is to reach the river's lower reaches by the coming B.C. Day long weekend with stops in Agassiz, Chilliwack, Mission and Fort Langley before the culmination ceremonies on Aug. 4 at the Maritime Museum in Vancouver's Vanier Park, which is not far from Simon Fraser's original landing spot.

I reached spokesman and co-ordinator Grant Rawston via cellphone just as the group was leaving Prince George recently for a two-day paddle to the next key stop at Quesnel. He says despite a few sore muscles from paddling for four to six hours per day, the paddlers are holding up very well.

"We've been extremely well-received at every community stop along the river," he says, "and our goal in doing this is to heighten the awareness of just how significant Simon Fraser's voyage was 200 years ago."