WILD CURRENT OUTFITTERS GETTING BACK TO BASICS
Michael Lodge is excited. For one thing, he’s just launched a new business. For another, he’s following his passion.
“We’re building our own cedar strip canoe,” said Lodge, an experienced raft guide and new addition to Wild Current Outfitters.
Since 2012, each paddling season, Wild Current Outfitters has offered a limited number of multi-day raft trips down the Snake Indian River. Recently, the company was approved to bring guests onto Jasper’s stillwaters. However, they won’t be rafting, they’ll be getting back to basics: they will be guiding clients around Jasper’s lakes with their hand-constructed, custom canoe.
Still under construction and slated to be finished by the end of June, Lodge can’t hold back his excitement for the new boat. He even brings his clients by the shop after the canoe tour in his other boats so they can check it out.
“They seem to really like coming to the shop and seeing the canoe being built,” he laughed.
Wild Current Outfitters was started by Sean Buckle and Brett Haug when the two Jasperites received a permit to raft the Snake Indian River. At the time, their permit limited them to a few trips a year.; the trips were three to six days long, depending on the clients. Last year, Buckle and Haug applied to expand their license so they could increase the amount of trips they could offer in a season to 12 and to add a permit to access all the lakes in Jasper with a canoe. Lodge bought into the company to assist with the canoe aspect after the application was approved.
“We want to create more of a water culture,” Lodge said. “[Lac] Beauvert rents boats and Pyramid rents canoes. But we’re trying to do longer guided trips – show people how to get out canoe camping.”
While a fire permit is not currently included in their license, the canoe guides use a camping stove to boil water for tea or coffee on the partial day tours.
To create a high-end experience with the Snake Indian raft trips, Wild Current has incorporated a horseback-riding element at the beginning of the trip. Guests can choose to ride or walk with a “pack train” of horses that also bring the gear from the trailhead to the river. The horses drop the gear off and they head home the day the tour group starts down the river.
By next year, the company hopes to run an increased amount of both raft and canoe trips down the Snake Indian River, as well as access other lakes by canoe.
“There is (opportunity for) growth with the Snake Indian,” Lodge said. “We want to get more people using the river.”
It is unlikely that the outfitters will be able to accommodate a larger volume of tours by this summer. Instead, they are focused on improving infrastructure along the Snake Indian, such as adding designated camping/outfitting setups with picnic tables to improve their clients’ backcountry experience. They are also looking to improve the products and services that they offer with their partial-day tours around Pyramid Lake so they can grow those services to include a new canoe on a new lake each year. Medicine Lake and Lake Edith will be the first few lakes to be introduced to their docket.
“When you are in the parking lot, you’re only getting one view. When you are in the middle of Pyramid Lake, you can see Edith Cavell, you can see the Colin Range; you can see everything.”