Deleah and David Nadin have been kayaking the North Thompson River for over 10 years, but folks travelling down Highway 5 may have noticed two not-so-likely crew members on board. The couple’s pups, Willie and Tater, came along for the ride, sitting comfortably on deck slabs placed on each kayak.
“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.”
She said Willie, however, is like their captain, guiding the ship through tough waters. He won’t retreat into the cockpit, so he’ll lay down on the nose of the kayak. Willie was just six months old when he started the kayak journeys. He’s now five.
“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,” said Deleah.
The crew travelled down the river from Clearwater to McClure, taking a few days for the journey, leaving July 30 and finishing up Aug. 1. They took their first trip down the North Thompson River around 2007 and the Nadins made it an annual event. The only year they didn’t kayak was 2021 because of the air quality.
The kayak journey began as a birthday present. Deelah has Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes issues with balance and vertigo. David bought her a kayak in the hope it would lower Deelah’s motion sickness in the water - and it worked.
“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,” explained Deleah. “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 using the kayak.”
In fact, the kayak worked out so well they were soon paddling area lakes and moving on to other waterways. After a colleague told David about a trip they would take from Clearwater to Heffley, the couple was intrigued.
“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.”
She added they both grew up in the Cariboo and would regularly float on inner tubes down the creek whenever they could. Because of this, they were already familiar with a few creek and river phenomena, such as back eddies, where the river’s current reverses direction and flows upstream.
The journey takes a couple of days, so the couple packs their kayaks with camping supplies and a few items to make meals and snacks for in between. But they also make a few stops, indulging in some local eats.
“When we stop at Little Fort we usually pull off the river right beside the reaction ferry,” said Deleah, noting they’ll grab a bite from High 5 Diner and other eats from Jim’s Food Market. “While one of us stays with the boats and the dogs, the rest of us take our list and grab lunch and beer…We always try to support whoever we can along the way.”
The crew will stop and set up camp in the middle of the river on sand bars, resting up for another day of kayaking. Stopping along the shoreline isn’t recommended as the mosquitoes can get really bad.
“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,” said Deleah. “But it later turned out it had been a beaver doing the dragging.”
Their annual adventure ends where the travellers pull their boats out of the river at the McLure Ferry, as they’ve “heard some horror stories about the river between McLure and Kamloops.”
“There is a huge whirlpool in that section, and people have apparently capsized their boats in there and got sucked under,” said Deleah. “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.”
However, she does tell of a scare that took place one year when they were going down the North Thompson just below the Fishtrap canyon where they ran into a whirlpool. Deleah noted it may have been a one-off because they haven’t seen it since.
“I was in a smaller kayak then and when I hit that whirlpool it suctioned the bottom of my kayak,” she said. “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!”
The Nadins have enjoyed a number of waterways with their kayaks, such as day trips of three to four hours down the South Thompson River from Pritchard to the Lafarge plant and the Mahood Lake area campsite in Wells Gray Provincial Park where they portaged their kayaks “a couple of kilometres up Canim River and then came down from below the falls.”
Deleah says a special part of their trips down the North Thompson in the fall is the amazing sites.
“Passing the Indigenous fish weirs on the river banks around the end of August beginning of September – they are so cool,” she said. “And seeing the 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.”