Kelowna resident Wayne Wilson paddled to Ottawa, along with others from the Okanagan, to honour Canada’s 150th birthday. - Credit: Contributed

Paddling across Canada to honour sesquicentennial

Residents from Kelowna paddled to Ottawa for the Canada Day celebration

Taking little more than a month to complete their journey, Okanagan residents went on a paddling expedition which ended in celebration; Canada’s 150th celebration.

Around 36 paddlers with three canoes started their journey at Fort St. James in early June on the Stuart River, paddling across Canada to arrive at the birthday bash on Parliament Hill.

“When we finally came down the Ottawa river, down the Rideau Canal, there had to be 40 canoes,” said Kelowna resident Wayne Wilson. “They showed up from everywhere it was wonderful.”

The band took various fur trade routes across Canada and new paddlers joined them as as they made their way east.

During the final leg, around 150 paddles ended up celebrating their journey together, said Wilson. The canoes are traditional voyagers canoe, and reach a length of 25 feet. They can hold six people at a time.

The Red Rogues team had paddlers from the Okanagan, as well as from Vancouver Island, Kaslo, Calgary, Ontario and one from Spokane, Washington. Their red canoe, which is featured on Wilson’s blog, has a home in Vernon.

Many camped in tents, but some brought campers, said Wilson.

The trip left him feeling a little weary. It wasn’t Wilson’s first time across Canada, but it was his first time travelling the country in a canoe.

“I’m always struck at the size and variety of landscapes in Canada,” he said.

The Okanagan paddlers’ first day on the water was June 6, with their grand finale ending July 1.

“We celebrate water and we celebrate First Nations and we celebrate the fur trade,” said organizer Bob Groves, who said the best part of the journey was the celebration.

“We paddled into the very heart of Ottawa and there were all sorts of people cheering and that was quite something… it really impressed our fellow from Spokane.”

The journey was a joint effort. Groves said the Red Rogues, along with two other teams from Rocky Mountain House, Alta. and Manitoba were the only ones to complete the adventure from Fort St. James to Ottawa.

“The teams take care of their own food and equipment,” said Groves, who got involved in voyager canoeing 10 years ago. “We just get together as individual groups, but you know, you’re travelling together.”

It wasn’t the first time Groves honored Canadian history with a paddling trip. In 2011, a group travelled from Invermere to Oreagon along the Columbia River to honor the British-Canadian fur trader David Thompson.

To organize the journey, all he had to do was round up his adventurous paddling acquaintances.

Wilson said the trip could not have been done without the collaboration of others.

“It was a collective effort, like Canada.”

 

Paddlers make their way across the North Saskatchewan River as they paddled across Canada to honour the sesquicentennial. - Credit: Contributed