More than 200 years ago, in 1811, David Thompson made the first ever trip down the Columbia River through Revelstoke.
It was a different landscape back then. It wouldn’t be for another 150 years that the river would be transformed by a series of dams and the rapids north of Revelstoke, including the infamous Death Rapids, would be drowned by the reservoir created by the dam.
This summer, canoers, kayakers and rowers will be able to follow in Thompson’s footsteps as part of a three-day race down Lake Revelstoke from Mica Creek to the dam.
Named the David Thompson Paddlesport Classic, the event is being organized by Bill Pollock and the newly-formed Revelstoke Paddlesports Association on August 18–20.
“I think Lake Revelstoke is a beautiful lake,” Pollock told me. “It’s ideal for this kind of event, if we can find enough canoers.”
The race is inspired by the Adirondack Canoe Classic, a three day, 145 kilometre event held every year in New York State that Pollock entered 20 times. It attracts 275 boats every year.
“The David Thompson Paddlesport Classic will also connect history, awesome mountain scenery and a superior recreational paddling experience in keeping with Revelstoke’s superior hospitality and friendliness,” says the news release announcing the event.
Pollock is from Ste. Agathe, Quebec, and spent 40 years traveling and working in Canada’s wilderness as a forest engineer. When he retired from that job, he started guiding people on multi-day biking, canoeing, hiking and cross-country ski trips.
He moved to Revelstoke 1.5 years ago and immediately recognized the potential to hold a similar event on Lake Revelstoke. He formed a non-profit society, enlisted help of a few others, including Amy Flexman of Flexpeditions and his daughter Caroline Buchanan, and got some start-up funding from the Columbia Basin Trust and BC Hydro.
They registered with Canoe Kayak BC last week and went public with their plans over the weekend. They will now work on getting sponsors and volunteers to help run the event.
The event will be held over three days. Day one will start at Mica Creek and will include 40 kilometres of paddling and two kilometres of portaging to the Goldstream River.
Day two will go from the Goldstream to Mars Creek — a total of 44 kilometres of canoeing and 1.5 kilometres of portaging.
Day three will see participants travel 37 kilometres from Mars Creek to the Five Mile Boat Launch north of Revelstoke.
Along the way, they’ll enjoy the views of the mountains and glaciers that rise up above the lake.
The portages are included to add variety to the event and break up long stretches of paddling, said Pollock.
“There’s always portages on long races,” he said. “Lake Revelstoke has no need, but we put them in any way.”
The event is open to canoers, kayakers and row boats, and there can be up to six people in a boat. While some will treat it as a race, participants can also enter just to enjoy the experience.
“We’re looking for people who will just be in it to finish. They’re not racing, they’re in it to have a good time,” said Pollock.
Anyone interested in taking part or helping out can contact Pollock at 250-814-7473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.