Paddle on an epic brigade without touching water

Follow Kelowna members of the Columbia Brigade on their expedition last summer in a documentary coming to Kelowna Feb. 4.

A couple of Kelowna paddlers following a historic route down the Columbia River are now in a documentary coming to Kelowna Feb. 4.

A couple of Kelowna paddlers following a historic route down the Columbia River are now in a documentary coming to Kelowna Feb. 4.

Just as a couple of Kelowna canoeists followed in the 200-year-old paddle strokes of a pioneer explorer, so did a cameraman follow in their wake, an now there’s a documentary film to prove it.

That film is coming to Kelowna and you’re invited to bring the family along to watch Tracing the Columbia at the Laurel Packinghouse Sat., Feb. 4, from 10 a.m. to noon. You can meet members of the Red Rogues, one of the Columbia Brigade Voyageur Crews and hear about their adventures.

Wayne Wilson, executive-director of the Kelowna Museums, was one of those who paddled a canoe from Invermere in the Kootenays down the Columbia River system to the Pacific Ocean, arriving at historic Fort Astoria, Oregon, 200 years to the day after explorer David Thompson had, on July 15 last summer.

“There was a kind of quiet peace paddling, although at times it could become dangerous because of the speed of the water or the winds,” commented Wilson.

Film-maker Jay MacMillan carried a cumbersome movie camera in a canoe to get his shots from paddlers’ view, just a few feet above the river, although occasionally he had to put it down and take up a paddle when the water got rough or the wind kicked up, recalled Wilson.

He had also documented an earlier expedition from Rocky Mountain House to Thunder Bay in 2008, following in the footsteps of Thompson.

Some days, he would sit out or go ahead of the expedition of some 200 paddlers, to get shots of the crews bringing in their 26-foot voyageur North Canoes to shore.

By last fall, he’d finished editing down six weeks of film to 45 minutes of documentary and Wilson was selected to narrate for it. It was launched in November and is now being shopped to television stations and at film festivals.

“I believe he really captured the flavour and the times of the trip: the hard work, the spectacular scenery, the camaraderie and the wide range of communities we visited,” commented Wilson.

They camped on riverbanks along the route and entertained and educated residents all along the way. Many communities held celebrations and served banquets and offered them the local hall or park in which to lay their heads, said Wilson.

Wilson and Bob Groves of Kelowna were members of the crew of the Red Rogues, and some of that crew will be available to answer questions and talk about their experience.

This special viewing of the 1,800-kilometre trek is being presented by the Kelowna Museums Society and the Okanagan Brigade Society.

Admission is by donation.

 

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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