Water flowing home
Prince George canoe race offers 67.5 kilometres of adventure and escape
Jeremy Derksen challenges you to #TakeOnPG this summer.
Swift-flowing water propels our canoe along the Nechako River near Prince George B.C. As I gaze up at scree slope, leafy canopy and blue sky framing this northern B.C. water highway the swift water—and the powerful arms of Maja Jacobs propels us down the river. Share this page on Twitter.
Jacobs’ toned arms are working like pistons, and though I’m a strong paddler, I have to work to keep up with the pace and simultaneously steer from the stern. Jacobs is a member of the Two Rivers Canoe Club, and one of the volunteer organizers of the Northern Hardware Prince George Centennial Canoe Race, which runs Sunday, July 10, 2016.
Catching the paddle bug
The race pits two-person teams against an over 60-kilometre paddle from Isle Pierre to Prince George along the Nechako to the confluence of the Fraser River. Last year’s fastest team finished in under four hours, but as we paddle, senior canoe club member Bruce Hawkenson argues that Jacobs and her paddling partner could one day have a shot at a first-place finish. If you ask me, he has a point.
“I kind of caught the bug,” says the photographer and mother of two. “It’s an amazing group of paddlers here.”
It’s an easy bug to catch. There’s a timelessness to being on the Nechako, or rather a sense of being within a different time flow more akin to natural rhythm. The water sparkles in morning sun, and the cool, fresh scent of river and forest wakes the senses. An eagle circles above.
This year will mark the second annual event, but the actual history of the race stretches back to the 1960s. It was put on hiatus some years ago, but as the passion and number of the local club grew, so did the appetite for the race. So last year, with the support of Northern Hardware, they brought it back.
While it’s a challenging course, the new incarnation of the race isn’t just about speed. The route takes paddlers through 67.5 kilometres of northern B.C. wilderness, along shoreline frequented by moose, elk, bear and wolf.
Paddlers will also encounter a few sets of rapids, either Class II or III depending on water levels, for an extra splash of excitement. (The less ambitious can register for a shorter, 32-km version of the race on gentler waters).
Off the water, the pace of the town feels less harried than regular urban life, too. Racers can explore the Ancient Forest, a unique inland temperate rainforest, go mountain biking in the Pidherny or Otway trail network or take in the views from the landscaped gardens of the University of Northern B.C. campus. Post-race, Northern Lights Winery offers a great riverside veranda to kick back and enjoy a glass of wine.
The water brings you home – wherever home may be
Beyond the race, water travel has a long, storied tradition here. The original people of this area called themselves Dakelh, which means “people who travel upon water.” Eventually, Simon Fraser would travel up the waterways, leaving his name on the other major waterway in the region.
For Hawkenson, being on the water is primal, part of the way we reconnect to the world around us and restore our sense of balance.
Back in the ‘90s, Hawkenson founded a camp for troubled youth, called Camp Trapping. Some of the kids had come out of juvenile prison facilities, but when they got out and onto the water, everything changed. “When they came to our place, they were good as gold,” he says. “We never had an ounce of trouble."
"But that’s our history… it’s natural for everybody. When you get people out in the wild like this, their whole life just opens up,” he says. “Why? Because it’s our home. It’s a great place to heal.”
Being on the Nechako for a morning does feel like home, and by the time our canoes pull in at Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park (where the race culminates), I’m sorry it has come to an end so quickly. Climbing out, my feet dip into the cool water, toes curling around rocky riverbed. Home, says something deep within… home.
Feel like dipping your paddle into the waters? Find out more about the Northern Hardware Prince George Centennial Canoe Race by clicking here.
Bring the bikes, the skateboards, the fishing gear along with your canoe, SUP or kayak and stay the weekend or week. Tourism Prince George can help you plan your adventure.
The Northern Hardware Canoe Race is just one of many events happening in July, so much so the town is calling the MONTH "Celebrate Prince George Summer Festival". For more on this event and more check out tourismpg.com
Read our Festival Overview for the Northern Hardware PG Canoe Race and start planning.
Are you ready to race!? Share this page with your team and start planning.