It’s not laps in a pool, it’s not a leisure swim in 10 Mile Lake. Four hardy women plan to swim 1,400 km over 34 days – the full length of the Fraser River.
Quesnel’s Amy Law, Jacquie Lanthier of the Lower Mainland plus Sheena Miller and Ali Howard of Smithers are in full training for the September 2015 relay swim.
“The primary purpose of this swim is to celebrate the mighty Fraser River and to raise awareness of rivershed health and ecology,” Jacquie said.
“This one river is so vital to every aspect of not only this province but the whole planet.”
For Jacquie, she has been surfing all winter, climatizing to the frigid water along with indoor pool training.
“Plus I cross train with mountain biking, ski touring and running, a complete program.”
Amy, who is currently living in Whitehorse, swims three or four times a week in an indoor pool and has taken lessons to improve the efficiency of her stroke.
“I’m not a terribly great swimmer, but I’m hoping to improve,” she said.
“I also plan to train in cold water this summer, which will be easy to achieve as most lakes are still frozen here at the moment.”
Amy went on to say she believes in maintaining an overall healthy and active lifestyle, so hiking, biking, jogging and yoga are all a part of her routine. She also has a couple of summer goals to keep her on track, including doing a triathlon for the first time in August.
As to her motivation, Amy said the more time we spend in nature, the more we become interested in what’s going on.
In 2011, Amy was an eager participant in the Sustainable Living Leadership Program which brought students and facilitators down the Fraser River in voyageur canoe, walking the riverbank and rafting the canyon arriving in the Fraser River delta changed people. The following year she made the journey again as a co-facilitator and in 2013, again as a facilitator, Amy joined the expedition in Quesnel.
“I’m also on the programs committee of the Rivershed Society,” she proudly admitted.
It was on the 2012 trip where she met Jacquie, a participant and together they were inspired by Fin Donnelly, who spoke to the participants of his swim down the Fraser River in 1995 then again in 2000, to consider a river swim of their own.
Ali swam the Skeena River in 2009 to raise awareness about threats to Northern B.C. watersheds as well as protesting Shell Oil’s proposed coal bed methane developments in the Sacred Headwaters. During the course of preparing for this epic swim, she consulted with Fin Donnelly, and has been guiding the four women in their preparations.
Sheena, who is currently rowing up the coast of B.C. on a 100-day journey to Alaska where they are documenting their findings regarding current conditions of B.C.’s coastline, was an acquaintance of Ali and jumped onboard the Fraser River project immediately.
Although each woman is following a different day-to-day path, they are looking forward to unifying on their quest to swim the Fraser River. As the time approaches they plan to get together often to work out the planning logistics.
With the relay model, each swimmer will take a shift in the water, although there will be no night swimming. The entire team will camp riverside each night.
Fraser River Raft Expeditions is providing raft support to carry gear, support staff, emergency response equipment and those swimmers not in the water.
Amy summed up the learning which began with her trek down the Fraser.
“The Fraser River is one of the most important water systems for socket salmon, but the salmon are in systemic decline,” she said.
“I think we have all of the expertise and tools to holistically manage this water system, but there needs to be more support to really take care of our watersheds.”
She added she’s proud of Quesnel’s record with its beautiful river walk trail and the Blackwater Paddlers who promote river health.
She also recounts releasing salmon into the Dragon Creek tributary with schoolchildren when she worked with Baker Creek Enhancement Society.
“My sincere hope is that more and more people in the whole river shed appreciate the Fraser in these meaningful ways,” she said.
The group are looking for financial support in order to make this journey as far-reaching as possible. All donations can be made at rivershed.com.
To find out more information or to get involved with this project, email firstname.lastname@example.org.