By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

The sunshine breaks through the clouds and gently warms up my shoulders.

I watch eagerly as more than a dozen twitchers gather around Columbia River Kayak and Canoe owner Penny Powers and her partner, Max Fanderl, to hear what the Wings Over The Rockies festival has in store for them during a paddle through the wetlands guided by Royal Ontario Museum curator of invertebrate paleontology Jean-Bernard Caron early on Sunday, May 10th.

I dont know anything about birds or plants, Dr. Caron said with a chuckle, but I know a little bit about fossils.

The sound of laughter filled the air around the boat launch while the long grass faintly rustled in a mild wind behind us.

While the Powers-Fanderl family gradually began moving canoes and kayaks from storage to the shore, Mr. Fanderl began to explain how the Columbia River the largest river in the Pacific Northwest spans nearly 2,000 kilometres in a big loop that rounds out on both sides of the border.

Next, he went through the importance of water safety and sports before following everybody down to the waters edge.

Im offered up a single red kayak first and as Im pushed away from the shoreline with a black and white paddle, I glance down the river and see two deer on the opposite side quenching their thirst as the water slowly flows past me.

I paddle in a small circle and catch sight of people from the tour gradually leaving the shore in single kayaks, shared canoes and one large boat for several people.

Dr. Caron and Mr. Fanderl hopped in the big boat to help share insights about the regions history and unique habitat.

I paddled slightly ahead of the group and looked around to become familiar with my new home, thinking about how lucky I am to be in the Columbia Valley.

We paddled past the bridge leading out of Invermere, around some wooden landmarks along the river and used the water as a vehicle to learn about Mother Nature.

I listened closely to the people around me gasp in awe as an eagle swooped down to the river to catch a fish, but with the blink of an eye and the turn of my head, the encounter was over before I could even imagine.

I smiled instinctively and continued to paddle down the river, listening happily to the sounds of the water clinking, taking pictures of the group on my camera and taking stock of exactly how shallow the river was, which was all new information to yours truly.

We continued paddling through the water and noticed as a group that there were small fish and some shells easily observed below us.

As the water began to shallow, Ms. Powers noted that the wetlands are typically shallow but that the levels were seeing now are some of the lowest during the entire year. She quickly double-backed to check on the others and then began taking pictures.

As I carefully paddled through the shallow water and the tan reeds of the wetlands, I began to realize that its easy to take comfort in the wonders of such a beautiful place with the friendly faces on the tours, even if my observations revealed that paddling a canoe as a team seems to be the ultimate test for some relationships.