The Unlikely Paddlefest will sail ahead in Likely this weekend despite uncertainty surrounding the water in the Quesnel River.
Mark Savard, who started the weekend kayaking adventure 23 years ago to coincide with B.C. Rivers Day, said it was put to a vote to decide if the event should still be held in the town of Likely.
“It wouldn’t feel right to turn our backs on them [the town of Likely] so some of the community’s organizing a dance and some different events, but the paddling will go on,” Savard said.
The Unlikely Paddlefest notoriously attracts paddlers from around the province, and even internationally.
Following the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach Unlikely Paddlefest participants were asked to vote on one of the following three options on how and where to conduct the kayaking festival.
Option one: “To continue as normal. To show up in support of the people of Likely and to paddle whatever waters we can. On Monday we do the Chilko [River].”
Option two: “For this year move the Paddlefest out west to the camp site at the junction of the Chilko and Taseko Rivers and paddle sections of the Chilko.”
Option three: “To put the call out for a peaceful mass camp-in for all who care about our rivers. To show our support to the good people of Likely. To send a message to the government, companies and the people of the world that we care about our waters and that our upcoming ‘Rivers Day’ means something to us. And after the camp-in we paddle the Chilko.”
The vote went overwhelmingly in favour of option one.
Also still in question is whether Paddlefest participants will be allowed to paddle on the Chilko River as the river falls within First Nations rights and title after the recent Supreme Court decision on the Roger William Case.
“We’re hoping to still paddle it,” Savard said. “But I’ve tried getting a hold of [Chief] Roger for permission but haven’t heard back yet.”
Otherwise, the event will proceed as planned.
Friday kayakers gather in Likely, set up camp and take part in some leisurely paddling along both the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers before coming together for a social evening, featuring music, at the Likely tavern. Friday is also family day on the lower Cariboo River with a meeting spot arranged for 12 p.m. at the Likely Store.
On Saturday and Sunday kayakers will paddle both the Quesnel and Cariboo rivers, before taking to the Chilko River — if given permission — on Monday. On Saturday morning between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. there will be an ‘Anything that Floats’ parade running from the dock in Likely and under bridge to just past the surf wave.
Shuttles will be provided throughout the weekend by a group of volunteers.
Quesnel’s Big Canyon Rafting Co. Ltd. will also be running a lower Cariboo River and upper Quesnel River trip on Saturday, Sept. 20, and will meet at 10 a.m. in Likely. Seats are limited so anyone interested is asked to give BCRCL a call at 250-992-RAFT beforehand to reserve a seat.