Revelstoke as River City?

By Leslie Savage

Earlier this week, before the cold air snapped in, a friend and I went canoeing on the river. We put in just south of the Revelstoke Airport, where a small turn-off allows parking for several vehicles. Out we went onto the river, in a borrowed canoe, and had a delightful afternoon paddling around the inshore. With the river  so high, it’s a perfect time to enjoy life on the water. The current was negligible, the views spectacular, and the paddling almost too easy both upstream and down.

This leads to the question: why isn’t there more river life in Revelstoke? Yes, the currents from the dam to the Illecillewaet junction can be strong, and the water is cold. Water levels vary. Weather patterns are changeable. But we have lots of days, spring summer and fall, when life on the river could be highly enjoyable. And we did see, in a few hidden shallows, a kayak or two pulled up on the shore, evidence that some do use the river for boating.

As a frequent walker of the greenbelt trails, I know there are sandbars and obstructions on the river, uncharted and possibly shifting, that would make power-boating potentially hazardous. Perhaps there are dangers that I’m unaware of, and stories I need to know.

The river shoreline, depth, and current change. The dam is the variable. But on ocean shores, tides create similar changes, and docks still manage to operate. Admittedly, south of the airport where we were canoeing, the shoreline variable is over a kilometer. However, docks can float.

In the past, steamboats came to Big Eddy from the Arrow Lakes. Nakusp was a boat-building centre. All that’s left is a boat ramp just north of the playing fields. At Rough Country Marine, where I went to price out a new canoe, they told me that BC Hydro offered Revelstoke funding to upgrade the boat ramp, but the city turned them down. I’ like to see botht he ramp upgrade and also a municipal dock as a place to tie up canoes and kayaks. Seems to me a possible and desirable addition to Revelstoke’s tourism infrastructure. A small sightseeing ferry, of the sort that cross False Creek in Vancouver taking visitors from the West End to Granville Island, would be a marvelous hour-long trip for tourists, and a way for people to see what the river is about.

Go on, tell me I’m crazy.In the meantime, I’ll dream about Revelstoke as River City.