Named after Simon Fraser, who first descended it in 1808, the Fraser River is the longest river in British Columbia. It drains an area of 238,000 km in the central region of the province and flows 1370 km from the Fraser Pass at Mount Robson, into the Georgia Straight at Vancouver.
To celebrate this important water mass which is a major producer of B.C.’s salmon—and a key element to our forestry industry—a festival called FraserFEST took place at False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf on September 26th. Its goal was to share the Fraser’s history, culture and issues threatening its health, as well as discuss solutions for change. The day’s events took place on unceded territory of the Coast Salish people.
The day’s activities began early morning, as a group of 72 paddlers and 12 cyclists met at Fishermen’s Wharf for breakfast, and to load up bikes before taking a shuttle to McDonald Beach Park in Richmond, where the cyclists mounted up and cycled back into Vancouver along the Canada Line skytrain then northwest through Pacific Spirit Park and the UBC Endowment Lands, and finally past Jericho and Kits Beaches.
Four 34′ Voyageur canoes were filled with paddlers, and the 17-person teams made their way westward down the Fraser River toward the Pacific Ocean. Along the scenic route they passed many log booms, and several pods of seals. Although it was a sunny day, the wind was up and canoeing became more challenging the closer they came to the sea. The group had intended to venture out and land on Wreck Beach for lunch but as soon as the canoes reached the mouth of the Fraser, the ocean waves were upon them, smacking the sides of the canoes and soaking the paddlers. They took shelter on the lee side of a rock jetty and enjoyed lunch as the skippers met to decide their next move.
They learned a small craft warning was in effect so it was decided to turn back up the Fraser to Musquem territory where they were given permission to land. Paddlers and boats were then shuttled to Vanier Park, and placed back into the water to complete the journey to Fishermen’s Wharf.
Speakers at the festival included David Suzuki; Charlene Aleck, Tsleil Waututh Nation; Deb Sparrow, Musquem Nation; Heather Deal, City Council Chair, Vancouver Regional Parks; and Fin Donnelly, M.P. and Chairman, Rivershed Society of B.C. Entertainment was provided by Kinnie Starr; Scott Shea; and The Wilds with Holly Arntzen and Kevin Wright.
“The Fraser has been on BC’s Endangered Rivers List for years,” said Fin Donnelly who in 1995 swam the 1,400 km length of the Fraser to draw attention to its plight. “The Rivershed Society of BC has been working to restore the health of the Fraser and its riversheds for almost two decades, but we need more help!”
“Rivers are vital, but these sources of freshwater continue to be negatively impacted by pollution, urban development, industrial projects, resource extraction and climate change,” continued Donnelly. “Hundreds of people took part in this year’s FraserFEST, with many signing a ‘Watershed Pledge’ showing their commitment to watershed conservation, protection and restoration (Watershed CPR).”
The festival at False Creek was one only 1 in a series of 7 festivals, which took place along the river in Xatśūll, Lillooet, Yale, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Vancouver, and North Vancouver from September 7th, culminating on World Rivers Day, September 27th, which was also the 25th anniversary of BC Rivers Day.
Between festival dates, people had the opportunity to take part in a variety of excursions on, or along the Fraser River. In total there were 9 rafting trips on the Fraser Canyon, 4 paddling trips on the Lower Fraser River, 3 group bicycle rides, 1 group walk, and 1 group swim. All the festivals included live music, salmon-themed food, activities for kids, and educational booths.
Organizers wish to thank all the sponsors and partners of FraserFEST Vancouver:
FraserFEST partners: Trails BC, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, GoFish! Cafe, the David Suzuki Foundation, the City of Vancouver, and photographers Jill Fitz Hirschbold and Ilja Herb.
FraserFEST sponsors: Tides Canada, Pacific Salmon Foundation, Metro Vancouver Regional District, City of New Westminster, Renewal Partners, City of Vancouver, Black Press Community News Media, the West Ender, the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Aaron Gordon Daykin Nordlinger Law, BC Hydro, Pasta Polo Restaurant, David Suzuki Foundation, New Pathways to Gold Society, the False Creek Fishermen’s Wharf, Clearline Accounting, WesGroup, Rhema Health, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, Creative Transportation Solutions, and the Francis & Hawthorne ReMax Realty Team.
You will find more information about FraserFEST at: www.rivershed.com
About The Rivershed Society of BC
The Rivershed Society of BC (RSBC) formed in the wake of Fin Donnelly`s 1995 “Swim for Life” down BC’s longest river, the Fraser River. Since its inception in 1996, the RSBC has been actively delivering public education programs, community initiatives, and building stewardship capacity in the Fraser River Basin. The RSBC is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of the Fraser River Basin and all those who live within it.
Ms. Robbin Whachell