Fraser River Raft Expeditions
The Colorado River’s rapids are legendary. Hundreds of raft groups head to the river every year to experience traveling through the Grand Canyon. It’s beautiful country, but also easily damaged. That’s why the National Park Service has implemented strict ‘leave-no-trace’ rules for raft groups in the canyon. Those rules are protecting the park and influencing raft travel thousands of kilometers away.
“For how heavily traveled the river corridor is it’s in pretty good shape,” says Susan Baerg, part owner of the Yale based Fraser River Raft Expeditions, alongside her husband Darwin. “Hundreds of people travel down it during the summer and it’s spotless because of the regulations.”
After the couple made a trip through the canyon, they were motivated to increase their own low impact travel methods on the trips that they run down the Fraser River and some of its tributaries; which are equally impressive whitewater destinations but with more wilderness to enjoy. “It’s the right thing to do and the way of the future,” they say. “We have three kids, as well, and we want to set a good example.”
The couple started by minimizing their ecological footprint. Waste is packed off the river and taken back to the company’s base camp. The Baerg’s used to dig outhouses at their regular camping spots along the river, but now they use a portable toilet that gets dumped into the company’s septic system at the end of the trip. At $300 a unit, and with four units, the method isn’t cheap but “it’s as good as it gets,” Susan says. Food is stored in reusable containers. Compostables, recyclables and regular garbage are collected on every trip and brought back to the base to be dealt with. The Baerg’s are equally strict about recycling at the company’s campground; Susan’s been known to dig through the garbage for recyclables.
The Baerg’s used to build fires on overnight trips on gravel bars, below the high water line, so that floods would wash away the remains. However, they have switched to fire pans in order to reduce their ecological impact.
Off the river, Fraser River Raft Expeditions is equally concerned about their footprint. Company T-shirts are made out of organic cotton and the company donates and supports many environmental organizations, with a special affinity for the Rivershed Society and its poster boy Fin Donnelly.
When Donnelly swam down the Fraser River for the second time in 2000, raising awareness about the ecological importance of the Fraser River Basin, Fraser River Raft Expeditions was at his side, providing safety resources and their support. Since then, they have supported and helped the society with many projects on the Fraser, including providing raft guiding for the white-water portion of the Sustainable Living Leadership Program: a three week, 1200-kilometre canoe and raft trip down the Fraser River. The program takes mostly First Nation students down the river, teaching them how to be a sustainable leader and community steward along the way.
“It takes people from different communities and makes them leaders for a sustainable environment and society,” Susan says. “We need more people like that.”
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