Fraser River rafters in Williams Lake area this weekend

Seven young men and women who are making the trip of a lifetime down the Fraser River will be in the Williams Lake area this weekend.

Seven young men and women from across B.C. who are making the trip of a lifetime down the Fraser River will be in the Williams Lake area of the river this weekend, says Richelle Giberson, communications co-ordinator for the Rivershed Society of BC which sponsors the event.

The group left the headwaters of the Fraser River Thursday, Aug. 2 and will be staying at the Xats’ull Heritage Village from Saturday night until Monday morning, when they will push off by raft to Sheep Creek Bridge where they will take part in a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish demonstration and spend the evening camping, say organizers of the event.

The group is taking part in the Sustainable Living Leadership program, a 25-day  journey by canoe, raft and foot from the Fraser River’s headwaters near Mount Robson to where it meets the shores of Vancouver some 1,400 kilometres away. The program is run by the not-for-profit Rivershed Society of BC with the goal of fostering sustainable living and responsible community and resource development.

Participants convene in Mount Robson Provincial Park, near Valemount, where the Fraser River, and their journey, begins. Now in its ninth year, the program has developed an incredible curriculum.

In the river’s upper reaches, participants learn about the relationship between forests, riversheds and the logging industry with a hike on the Goat River trail. They also visit an ancient cedar forest grove east of Prince George — home to some of the province’s last remaining old-growth — and tour a pulp mill in Quesnel.

In the Fraser Canyon, they learn about the importance of the Fraser for fishing and water in the dry interior plateau. Participants stay at a traditional First Nations village, visit sites that have been used as summer camps by First Nations for centuries, witness salmon dip-netting techniques, and see a demonstration by DFO.

Through the Fraser’s lower stretches they tour Glen Valley Organic Farm and learn about sustainable agriculture in a region that boasts some of the best soil in the country. They get to see firsthand the impacts of urban development on the river.

The program’s founder, Fin Donnelly, has swum the Fraser River twice to raise awareness about river ecosystems, and what can be done to protect them.

“There’s no better way to learn about sustainability than to be out there in the environment, on the river, going from community to community and witnessing the issues,” says Donnelly, who also serves as MP for New Westminster, Coquitlam and Port Moody.