The lakes and rivers in the Quesnel area are ripe with paddling opportunities.
Ron Watteyne is the president of the Blackwater Paddlers.
“If I went out every week to a different lake, it would probably take me four or five years to cover every little lake that’s around Cariboo country,” Watteyne said.
The Blackwater Paddlers organize trips, teach lessons and hold events throughout the year.
“If (you’ve) never taken canoe lessons, you would really benefit from it,” Watteyne said.
“I’ve been teaching canoeing for 30 years, and the difference that I see when I get a beginner group of paddlers for three lessons from the beginning to the end is unbelievable.”
Watteyne said learning how to properly control a canoe can increase enjoyment on the water immensely.
Everything from how to sit to balance a canoe, proper stroke technique, and canoe rescue can help paddlers better enjoy the water.
“Anyone who goes on a trip on the Bowron Chain, or anywhere, should know (canoe rescue),” Watteyne said, recounting a story where a paddler in a group was saved from drowning after a snowbank collapse caused a large wave.
“One person in the upright boat had taken the course, learned how to do a rescue. His partner in the bow had no idea how to do a rescue, but the guy in the stern was able to talk him through it… They got the guys back in the boat and onto the shore, and if they hadn’t been able to do that, two people would have drowned.”
Watteyne himself credits taking a beginners course with increasing his enjoyment of paddling and changing his perspective on canoeing.
“As a Canadian, you’re born into canoeing,” he said, remembering buying his first canoe.
“I paddled around a bit, then my wife said we should take a canoe course. I said, ‘what do we need a canoe course for, I know how to paddle.’ It was the biggest eye-opener I ever had.”
Even Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson can be seen out on the water.
“Quesnel and area offers lots of great paddling experiences for all skill levels,” Simpson said.
“Flat water or moving water, day trips or overnight adventures, there are plenty of opportunities to kayak, canoe, and paddleboard throughout the North Cariboo.”
Quesnel council is also looking into increasing water activities around the area. The city is in the middle of revamping their waterfront, and is investigating the possibility of bringing a standing wave water feature to the Quesnel River.
Lakes very close to Quesnel include Dragon Lake, Ten Mile Lake, and many more. For more advanced paddlers looking to get into moving water, Quesnel is situated at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers, with many other great paddling experiences found throughout the region.
“It’s hard to fathom how many little lakes there are,” Watteyne said.
“A lot of them have forest service recreation sites on them.”
Out east, paddlers can take on the Bowron Lake Chain, a multi-day trip that takes paddlers through many different bodies of water. Watteyne called it the “premiere” paddling location in the region. The Bowron Lake Chain opened on April 6 in 2022, and paddlers must book spots on the BC Parks website (https://bcparks.ca/reserve/bowron-lake).
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