Fraser River no place for novice kayakers

Show some respect for the mighty Fraser.

That’s what local rescue officials are pleading after what has been a busy summer on B.C.’s third largest river.

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It was back on Labour Day Monday when a pair of overwhelmed novice kayakers required help.

“They were reported off the mouth of Steveston Harbour and we were out doing a safety patrol at the time when we were passed up to it,” said John Horton of the OIC Delta Lifeboat, Canadian Lifeboat Institution. “They were actually on the Albion side which is just down river from Westham Island. What they were doing out there I don’t know when you have got the river running at four knots. There is no way you can paddle against that. This is typical of what we are seeing.

“One of them had capsized and was in the water and the other guy was trying to recover him. This is serious stuff. We are just trying to save lives.”

Horton believes the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more recreational water activities as people have chosen to stay close to home and enjoy the outdoors. Kayaks are available for rent and are relatively inexpensive to buy. The trouble is when inexperienced kayakers think they can go just about anywhere in them.

“We are seeing a vast increase in the number of kayaks and canoes that are out in the river,” continued Horton. “Paddling around in the reeds is not too bad or Ladner Harbour itself but I’m seeing more getting into areas where the river is running hard. These are people that have no experience in the river or no boating experience.

“We need to get the word out the Fraser River is not a playground. They may think it looks flat and calm, with no wind but they just haven’t got a clue.”

Horton added inflatable kayaks should not even be considered for use on the Fraser.

“We are also seeing these big inflatable toys with children in them. They might be good for a small lake but not out on the river,” he added.

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