Get Out There

Wells Gray tourism operators making the most out of shortened season

 | July 17, 2020
Luke Robinson (IWE trip leader) guides guests down the powerful Clearwater River

Wells Gray tourism operators are facing an increasing level of uncertainty this tourism season not only due to COVID-19, but also due to a road washout and changing clientele demographics.

Interior Whitewater Expeditions (IWE), an adventure tourism company who have been operating on the Clearwater River for 38 seasons, were unable to open for their spring runoff trips for the first time in nearly 40 years due to COVID-19. 

Now, as pandemic restrictions are easing off, their season is in further jeopardy after excess rain and melt water flowed from Spahats Falls which raised creek levels and washed out kilometre 11 of the Clearwater River Rd.. All three local rafting companies in the area use the roadway shuttle rafts and clients to and from remote areas of the park.

“A large amount of water and debris was pushed into the opposite side of the river and bank taking out a large portion of the access road,” said Luke Robinson, trip leader for IWE.

“The road falls under the (Wells Gray) parks’ jurisdiction to maintain and fix it. Having just fixed another hazardous spot on the road the budget for repairs is quite depleted. We must now navigate provincial and municipal politics to regain our access to one of the most pristine free flowing river systems in BC.”

Due to the pandemic, equipment must be properly sanitized  between guests.The B.C. River Outfitters Association (BCROA) released a document with best practices for rafting companies during the pandemic. One of those guidelines suggests outfitters follow a strict cleaning protocol of gear that will be shared between guests such as fleece sweaters and wetsuits.

“The cleaning supplies are in short supply. Our normal, powerful cleaner used for wetsuits and fleeces has been out of stock from suppliers since the pandemic began,” said Robinson.

Because of difficulties related to cleaning gear and maintaining physical distancing, Robinson said he thinks their capacity of clients will be cut in half once they do reopen. A tentative date for reopening has been set for Aug. 1.

A glimpse of the luxury tents at Cedar Haven Resort

Cedar Haven Resort, a boutique camping resort near Wells Gray provincial park, is also facing surmounting difficulties on top of reduced business because of the pandemic.

Right now, the resort would normally be at 80 per cent capacity but due to COVID-19 travel restrictions they are booked at only 50 per cent, similar to projections that IWE is expecting.

Normally, Cedar Haven welcomes mainly Europe travellers during their operating season of May 1 to Sept. 30. This year, they couldn’t open to the public until July 1 and are now targeting domestic travellers.

Meira Larose, who is part owner of the resort, discussed in an email how the resort is adapting to uncertainties caused by the pandemic.

“We rented longer term to people in industry for the first few months such as tree planters, CN, and Trans Mountain [pipeline] workers”

The destination marketing organization for Wells Gray is helping the resort and other tourism operators in and around the park entice domestic guests with an adjusted marketing campaign.

“They are starting to work on marketing campaigns in conjunction with Destination BC to encourage domestic travel now that restrictions are lifted. They couldn’t do anything for awhile as the district of Clearwater was not encouraging tourism earlier on,” said Larose.

Although things are feeling different for Larose and the resort, he is staying optimistic about operations.

“We actually are enjoying having domestic travellers book with us. Normally we are fully booked with Europeans so this year is very different. We have some great biking trails here – Candle Creek trails and a few lakes, of course tons of hikes and waterfalls.”

To book a trip with IWE, visit their website at www.interiorwhitewater.com, and to book with Cedar Haven Resort, visit them at their website www.cedarhavenresort.com.

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