Paddling pilgrimage

By Shanna Baker

They were the Ironmen of yesteryear, braving mighty rivers that now bear their names. From May through October, you can follow the paddle strokes of explorers like Mackenzie, Fraser, and Thompson in a replica Voyageur canoe.

Open to guests of all ages and paddling abilities, the 2.5-hour excursion begins and ends on the shores of McGillivray Lake at a cabin on the Sun Peaks Resort property near Kamloops. The eight-metre-long canoes can accommodate 11 passengers and are remarkably efficient on the flat waters of the lake, says Kevin Tessier, “Chief factor” of the NorthWest Voyageur Company.

During the tour, guides provide a historical narrative about the explorers, who often paddled upstream at rates of up to 55 strokes per minute. “We also try to give people some peace and quiet to just enjoy the surroundings,” says Tessier. Black bears, osprey, bald eagles, moose, and lynx are frequently spotted along the route.

After paddlers return to the cabin, they can view fur-trade era artifacts, including a replica of a map produced by David Thompson in 1813, beaver pelts, traps, and antique paddles. Many linger for the four-course Fur Traders’ Feast, which includes salmon, bannock, berries, and bison. By the time the last course has been served, Tessier hopes his guests will have gained a greater appreciation of the North West Company, which was eventually acquired by its rival, the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Info: Tours ($45; with dinner, $99) run seven days a week; advance bookings required (250-578-5542; sunpeaksresort.com).

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