Leave Vancouver and follow the Fraser River east through Chilliwack to time travel through BC history into prehistory via the Fraser River. The treacherous and deep waters of the Fraser Canyon are home to the white sturgeon, often referred to as a living dinosaur. With fossil records dating back to the Triassic Period, or roughly 200 million years ago, this boneless, toothless freshwater monster is your guide to stepping out of time and into an ageless sense of wonder and deep respect.
This adventure requires a guide–not just for navigation of the powerful water system but to fully reveal life on the river and how to travel respectfully. Dean Werk, owner and guide at Great River Fishing Adventures, invites guests to experience white sturgeon in the Fraser Canyon and offers other adventures on tributaries of the river. Great River Fishing Adventure guides are more than happy to create a custom tour for your level of adventure, including family-friendly jetboat tours.
Dean says his approach to learning is cautious and respectful and can trace his Indigenous ancestry over nine generations. From his grandfather to his son, the family contributes to their Indigenous heritage as nomadic Cree Metis by living, showing, and teaching about Indigenous culture. Dean enthusiastically shares what he knows, pointing to traditional fish camps and remnants of the gold rush as he steers the boat down the river: “All of these sites are traditional fishing sites, handed down through generations. So you see, not just anyone can come and fish at these spots,” he says.
Great River Fishing Adventures is active in sturgeon conservation and teaching about respectful use of the river. They have been involved in sturgeon tagging and monitoring since 1995, which helps to provide data for their management. For Dean, the value of the sturgeon is not in its catch. Instead, he says the value is in “showing and teaching Indigenous culture. This up here is the birthplace of BC.”
Dean works with local communities, including First Nations fishers, to protect and preserve life on the Fraser River. “I respect their fishers, their territory. I want to do it out of loyalty, respect, and consideration,” he says of his approach to guiding in the Fraser Canyon. “This river runs through my veins. From Lillooet to Vancouver. I love this part of the river, and I love learning and connecting to all of the different people and understanding a little bit better.”
Guests are welcome to partake in a jetboat or fishing experience with Great River Fishing Adventures, combine the tour with unique accommodations, or relax at Dean’s Fraser Canyon Riverside Domes right on the banks of the Fraser. Enjoy the wood-burning cedar hot tub under the trees and stargaze from your luxury king bed in this private location. Every detail of these two 550-square-foot state-of-the-art geodesic domes is luxurious, environmentally conscious, and well-appointed.
Dean is a knowledgeable guide and warm host who enjoys sharing his passion with the public: “We’re creating a well-rounded experience. We’re talking about communities; we’re talking about tradition. We’re talking about what this area means to people. To me, this is the most meaningful place in all of BC. This has the most feeling for me. I am so well-connected to this land, and I am learning things every day. But I feel this is where I belong and where I can share the most of my knowledge.”
As you follow the river back toward the city, stop and visit the Sto:lo Gift Shop at Coqualeetza in Chilliwack, BC, across from the welcome figures at Sto:lo Nation. Sto:lo Gift Shop highlights Indigenous, local, and cultural products, including jewelry, sage and sweetgrass, art, coffee, and a great selection of Indigenous books.
Blog photo credits: Nicole Gurney Photography