A LOCAL VIEW THAT FEW HAVE SEEN: Naturalist Rick Howie (centre

A LOCAL VIEW THAT FEW HAVE SEEN: Naturalist Rick Howie (centre

Nature lovers get to ride the river in style

A naturalist rafting trip along the Thompson gives glimpses of the river and landscape few get a chance to see.

The weather was perfect—hot and sunny—for a naturalist float trip down the Thompson River from Savona to Ashcroft on  June 17.

Enthusiasts from Kelowna, Kamloops, and Merritt—51 of them—met at Ashcroft’s Heritage Park and were bussed to Savona, where their day-long journey began.

Well-known Kamloops naturalist Rick Howie, and Merritt naturalists/authors Murphy and Katharine Shewchuk, were each on board a raft. Kumsheen Rafting Resort from Lytton provided the rafts, river guides, lunch, and lifejackets for the expedition.

Kumsheen founder Bernie Fandrich hosted the excursion, and provided historical anecdotes and information to the keen participants. Fandrich pioneered rafting on the Thompson in 1973, and has rafted the river continuously since then.

The rafts entered the water at the state-of-the-art new boat launch at Savona. As a special treat and surprise Barb Gale, president of the Savona Community Association, and several other SCA members met the Kumsheen bus loaded with nature buffs as it arrived at the boat launch. Everyone was welcomed to Savona with a smile and a delicious cookie as they disembarked from the bus.

Spunky Adah Gruver from Kamloops was the oldest participant on the trip. At 91 years, she demonstrated an incredible enthusiasm and appreciation for nature and a willingness to see and do it all.

In an e-mail after the trip she wrote: “It is Friday and I am finally home from an adventure on the water. Thank you and your wonderful staff for making this a day to remember. I am the old lady with the cane. I cannot praise enough the people on the trip for all the help I received. I have put June on my calendar for next year.”

For naturalist Rick Howie, the highlight was spotting a record nine Lewis’s woodpeckers en route. “They are a species at risk in B.C. and this is the most birds that we’ve spotted in the three naturalist trips down the river. I’m excited to see that their numbers are increasing,” he said.

A stop at the Walhachin Oxbow Provincial Park provided a glimpse into a rich riparian area along the river that is seldom seen by anyone because access is only from the river.

The luncheon stop at Rock and River Rustic Resort at Walhachin was relaxing and entertaining. Everyone relished watching and listening to the squabble of the Eastern kingbirds that were nesting in the gnarly old wildlife trees on the site.

The afternoon highlight was spotting a band of California bighorn sheep at Rattlesnake Hill, a few kilometres above Ashcroft. At first only two ewes were spotted. Then, as they slowly emerged from their beds and stretched, more and more lambs and ewes came into view until all seven in the band were visible.

Kumsheen Rafting is hosting another naturalist trip on the weekend of July 9–10. This float trip begins at Ashcroft and terminates at Lytton, with numerous fascinating stops along the way. Lunch in the heart of Black Canyon on the first day of the two-day voyage is always one of the weekend’s highlights.

Go to www.kumsheen.com/naturalist for more information.