What originally began as a birthday present for Deleah Nadin 15 years ago, has since transformed into an annual trip down the North Thompson River for her and her husband – connecting with the decades of those past who used the key route for transportation.
Deleah and David Nadin, both in their 50s, say they’re hooked.
Deleah has Menier’s disease, which is a disorder in the inner ear that causes balance problems and intense vertigo.
“I found that I couldn’t ride in a canoe with our kids because it gave me motion sickness as I wasn’t in control of the movement,” Deleah said. “So we thought maybe I should try a kayak, and if it didn’t work the kids could use it. So we went fishing on my birthday, and I found I had no motion sickness problems.”
In fact, the kayak worked out so well they were soon paddling area lakes and moving on to other waterways.
“At the time my husband was working for the Ministry of Transportation as the area manager for Clearwater,” told Deleah, “Then we moved from Clearwater back to Kamloops.”
During that time her husband shared their love for kayaking with a colleague, who suggested they take the North Thompson River from Clearwater to Heffley Creek.
“That’s what got us started,” said Deleah. “The fellow invited us to go with them down the North Thompson, and they brought a friend with them who was a kayak instructor. It was our first time on the river, and with us being new at it, and only having kayaked for about a year, they gave us some little hints and tips on what to do in different scenarios.”
Both growing up in the Cariboo, Daleah and David would take inner tubes down the creek whenever they had the chance. That gave them some insight into how to deal with back eddies, which is when currents reverse direction and flow upstream.
With the exception of 2021, due to the wildfire smoke in the area, the couple has taken a trip each year from July 30 to Aug. 1.
This years trip included four people, on two kayaks and one canoe, as well as two dogs – a first for the Nadins thanks to a recent addition to their family. The sailing pooches include Willie, who is a little Jack Russel Terrier, and Tater (as in Tater Tot) who is a young toy Australian Shepherd and Papillon mix.
The dogs travel in comfort thanks to the couple constructing a special platform on the front of their kayaks for the dogs to sit or lay down on as the boats travel down the river.
“When we get to the still water they get to lay on top of the front of the kayak,” explained Deleah.
“If we are going through any rapids, Tater, who is only seven-months-old goes into the cockpit between my feet. But Willie is like our captain, he’s five, and has been doing this since he was six months old. Because he will not go into the cockpit, he’s learned he has to lay down flat on the front of the kayak when we are going through rapids
“Anyone who sees us from the highway when we are coming down the river in the slow water between Little Fort and Barriere can easily see Willie standing up as we move along.”
Along the way, they switch between packing meals and stopping at local eateries, such as Jim’s Food Market & Subway Restaurant and High Five Diner.
They do not camp along the shore while paddling down the river, because “the mosquitoes can be terrible there,” instead setting up tents in the middle of the river, on sandbars.
“This time coming down there was one sandbar that was just perfect with a little bit of shade, but there were animal tracks on there that showed the animal had been dragging something, so we didn’t camp right there. Although it later turned out it had been a beaver doing the dragging.”
Their annual adventure ends where the travelers pull their boats out of the river at the McLure Ferry.
“We end the trip there because we’ve heard some horror stories about the river between McLure and Kamloops,” said Deleah.
“There is a huge whirlpool in that section, and people have apparently capsized their boats in there and got sucked under. We’ve heard when the water gets low it is hardly anything to worry about, but the stories we’ve heard scared us enough that we’re not going down there.”
The last 14 years’ worth of trips have been disaster-free, with one particular scare that Deleah remembers well, just below the Fishtrap canyon.
“It might have been just that year, because we haven’t seen it since. But I was in a smaller kayak then, and when I hit that whirlpool it suctioned the bottom of my kayak. I just dug in and paddled as hard as I could, and then the suction suddenly let go and scared the living daylights out of me! I came flying out of that whirlpool. Holy cow, I don’t want to do that again!”
Thunder and lightening storms can also cause problems for the crew.
“Fortunately, on one of our trips we saw the storm coming when we were just outside of Barriere. There is a farm there by the edge of the bridge where we pulled our boats off and took shelter hiding by the trees to get out of the rain.”
Outside of the annual milestone trip, the Nadins take day trips along the South Thompson River from Pritchard to the Lafarge plant, and the Mahood Lake area campsite in Wells Gray Provincial Park where they have portaged their kayaks “a couple of kilometres up Canim River and then came down from below the falls.”
They especially enjoy traveling down the North Thompson in the fall, “passing the amazing Indigenous fish weirs on the river banks and seeing plenty of wildlife”.
“You can be paddling along and all of a sudden you hear a big crash and there goes a momma deer and her baby across the river. Seeing the salmon swimming underneath the boats. Seeing bears. Watching coyotes and baby coyotes playing on the shore. It’s a pretty neat adventure.”