Morning Star Staff
Cruising the historic highways of trade and discovery, upwards of 200 paddles dipped in and out of area lakes this week.
The 16 canoes, seating anywhere from six to 10 paddlers each, first dipped into Wood Lake Monday morning, then travelled up Kalamalka Lake. They set off this morning from Okanagan Centre on their journey down Okanagan Lake.
“We have people from as far away as Hawaii, we have a gentleman from Oregon and a couple from Toronto,” said Cor Zandbergen, an organizer of the brigade.
“We are really trying to build an interest in voyageur canoeing,” he said, adding that since organizing the brigade they have learned of more of the large canoes in the area.
Throughout the week they will be celebrating the history of the Okanagan and First Nations people, the days of the Fur Brigade Trail, the early ranching days in the North Okanagan and today’s Winery Trail extending the length of the Okanagan Valley.
The voyage will visit the communities of Vernon, Fintry, Kelowna, Westbank, Peachland, Summerland, Naramata, Pentiction, Kaleden and Okanagan Falls.
“We paddle in legs, everybody rotates and gets a turn to paddle,” said Zandbergen.
One local celebrity taking part in the Kalamalka Lake leg Monday was Vernon Coun. Catherine Lord.
“It thought it was really interesting,” said Lord, who paddled for her first time from Kekuli to Kal Beach. “I find it amazing that those fur traders did that for a living.”
Voyageurs (French for travelers) used the large canoes to transport furs during the 17th century.
They were also used by early pioneers, such as David Thompson – who explored all of Western Canada.
“He’s a Canadian hero,” said Zandbergen.
A seventh generation descendant of Thompson even took part in the Okanagan Brigade.
Toronto’s Lavern Thompson has been paddling for four years, since taking part in a brigade retracing one of his ancestor’s journeys.
“I went through a magazine and saw an advertisement for the brigade in 2008 and thought what better way to find out what it’s all about,” said Thompson, while enjoying the Okanagan scenery.
Vernon resident Marian Bexton is a long-time paddler, therefore she didn’t want to miss this brigade in her own backyard.
“I’ve always wanted to paddle down it (the valley),” said Bexton, adding that paddling is great for your figure.
For more information on the brigade or future trips, including a special Canadian anniversary brigade in 2017, visit voyageurbrigade.org