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Ashlu River Whitewater Festival

Local paddlers plan to celebrate the glory of the Ashlu River

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Local paddlers plan to celebrate the glory of the Ashlu River even as they fight to save the waterway from an independent power project.

The first-ever Ashlu River Whitewater Festival will run from Thursday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 22.

"It’s such an awesome river so we’ve been meaning to do it (for a few years)," said Stuart Smith, the river projects co-ordinator with the Whitewater Kayaking Association of British Columbia, who helped organize the festival.

"We’ve always wanted to have a festival there."

Smith said this year there’s even more reason to hold the festival as the paddling community fights to save the Ashlu from an independent power project.

For more than two years now, Vancouver-based Ledcor has been busy applying for the permits to get an independent power project on the creek.

By the fall the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District will be holding a second public hearing and then the board will decide the fate of the project.

Like the Rutherford Creek and the Brandywine Creek power projects before it, the Ashlu run of river project is designed to divert water from the stream into a powerhouse and then back into the river.

But the changing water flows means that for the local paddling community the Ashlu may never be the same again.

"There’s just some places in this area (the SLRD) that we need to have left alone," said Smith.

"They’re getting pretty sparse now."

But next weekend, from Aug. 19 to 22, the river will be running in all its natural glory.

More than 30 whitewater and local companies are volunteering paddling equipment, guides, instructors, kayaks and rafts to raise funds and awareness.

For a $45 event fee people can get two nights camping near the river, shuttles throughout the weekend, guided trips by local expert paddlers, float trips, a BBQ and party and more.

There will be three hour introductory kayak lessons for $15, in addition to freestyle clinics, creeking clinics and save-your-shoulders workshops.

For non-paddlers there will be canyon walks, hikes and scenic float trips.

Float trips will take people down the river amid glacier peaks and free guided hikes will reveal the spectacular scenery of this valley.

The WKABC is also inviting local government and regulatory agencies to experience in person the recreation and tourism values of the river with a trip down the river.

All proceeds from the festival will go towards the WKABC River Projects Fund to help fight to protect paddling streams and paddlers rights.

For more information about the Ashlu River Whitewater Festival check out www.whitewater.org/squish.

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