Reverence for the Fraser River flows in new coffee table book

Looking up the Fraser River to Crows Bar. (Rick Blacklaws photo)Looking up the Fraser River to Crows Bar. (Rick Blacklaws photo)
Carol and Rick Blacklaws have produced a new book, The Fraser. (Photo submitted)Carol and Rick Blacklaws have produced a new book, The Fraser. (Photo submitted)
Soda Creek Bluff along the Fraser River. (Rick Blacklaws photo)Soda Creek Bluff along the Fraser River. (Rick Blacklaws photo)
A river rafting expedition seen at Sailor Bar on the Fraser River. (Rick Blacklaws photo)A river rafting expedition seen at Sailor Bar on the Fraser River. (Rick Blacklaws photo)

Update:

A book signing event for the Station House Galley Friday, Nov. 13 has been cancelled because of the yuytwsb dsnew travel restrictions in place for non-essential travel in and out of the Lower Mainland.

Diane Toop, the gallery’s executive director said the event for The Fraser is postponed to the spring.

Original:

The creators of a new book share their deep love and respect for the Fraser River.

“Our relationship with the river started as a 10th wedding anniversary pledge to the river that engulfed our family and our summers,” said Carol Blacklaws of White Rock who recently published The Fraser: River of Life and Legend with her husband Rick Blacklaws.

“It wasn’t until four years ago that I actually made the commitment to write the text.”

She said it felt like there wasn’t enough respect for the river.

“It’s actually in the estuary where people cross the river by bridge and tunnel and the reporting is always referenced by the bridge and tunnel and very seldom is the Fraser mentioned. It was that sort of disrespect for this incredibly long, diverse and quite remarkable river that I thought, ‘I need to write this.’”

Both of them made discoveries along the way as they developed the book.

Rick said he learned the river has great diversity that it is almost like five countries joined.

“Each one is distinctly different in terms of landscape and culture. The culture of the Robson Valley in the Rocky Mountains, the culture of the Cariboo and the culture of the grasslands. It was really an awakening to me that B.C. has such great physical and cultural diversity.”

There used to be a lake from where the Sheep Creek Bridge crosses the Fraser River all the way to Prince George, thousands of years ago called Glacial Lake Prince George, he explained.

“That’s why when you drive from Williams Lake to Prince George it is relatively a flat drive and the river is right beside you. At Sheep Creek Bridge that’s where the river drops because the old headwaters of the Fraser River used to be the Chilcotin River.”

Historically the Chilcotin River flowed south to the Pacific Ocean whereas west of Williams Lake the Fraser flowed north to the Arctic Ocean, he added.

For Carol the layers of history up to present surprised her the most in terms of geography, wildlife and complexity of each region.

“It was challenging to make it story-based and tell a story about a river when it is so complex,” she said.

Local people know a lot about the river where they live and that knowledge surpasses anything the Blacklaws could gather, Rick added.

In the future Carol would like to create a data base outlining initiatives that different people and groups have along the river and how they are connected.

Circumstances added to the opportunity to explore the Fraser closely when the Blacklaws became friends with a rafting company out of Yale.

“They had the big boats that you need to travel safely,” Rick explained. “That really is a big deal.”

Carol said they are floating vessels that allow travellers a liquid corridor or liquid highway.

“You don’t see beyond the banks when you are in the river, except for in Prince George or in Quesnel.”

In the Williams Lake area, there is a break on the river between the Cariboo and the grasslands at the Sheep Creek Bridge.

The grasslands probably rank high in the world in terms of tourism potential or soft adventure, Rick said.

“If you drive the back road from Alkali to Dog Creek and Canoe Creek, the scenery is stunning.”

Over the years the couple have tried to get community groups and members, particularly First Nations, on the river, and that’s been with Phyllis Webstad, Irvine Johnson, Ralph Phillips and others, Rick said, adding it’s been a focus of theirs because it reinforces that value of the river.

There have always been several students joining the trips as well through Xat’sull First Nation, Langara College and the Rivershed Society of B.C.’s Sustainable Living Leadership Program.

Enthusiasm shared by the youth has been contagious, Carol said.

For Rick the high velocity of the Fraser is not something to approach lightly.

“It’s not a friendly river to access without the proper equipment and we have to work with that. It takes organization and we would normally plan one trip a year.”

Historically the Fraser River has never been dammed, compared to the Columbia River which has 19 dams in B.C.

Because of work by Roderick Haig-Brown and the Salmon Commission back in the 1970s, the salmon were determined more important than dams, Carol said.

“I mention that now because the velocity of the river is in its natural state and that is something to celebrate as well.”

Twenty-five years ago Rick worked on a book about the Fraser with Haig-Brown and said there has not been one written about the river since.

Rick is an archaeologist turned photographer who spent a number of years working in the Central Interior locating archaeological sites associated on the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail.

Read more: Photo exhibit documents life on the Grease Trail

Carol worked as an archaeological assistant before embarking in curriculum development. She also taught English and Spanish.

The Blacklaws will be at the Station House Gallery on Friday, Nov. 13 for a COVID-friendly book signing from 12 to 3 p.m.

The book is also available at The Open Book in Williams Lake.

Read more: Cariboo landscapes brought to life by Fraser River Encaustics



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