A conversation with lead guide Tyler Dinsdale

Joel Hibbard joined river guide, Tyler Dinsdale, for a conversation about the Taseko River and the incredible expeditions he leads for Canadian River Expeditions.
Floating beneath old growth fir on the Taseko River.
Floating beneath old growth fir on the Taseko River. (Photo: Tyler Garnham)

Tyler Dinsdale has been leading expeditions in the Arctic and around the world for more than two decades. Born and raised at the edge of the Chilcotin Plateau, a few years ago Tyler returned home to raise a family in the place he loves! Famous for his energy, we tracked him down in Quesnel, BC to talk about the Taseko River.

Thanks for doing this Tyler! I am excited to get into this conversation, let’s get started. Where did you get your start guiding river expeditions? 

My career began at home in Quesnel back in 1999, I took guide school here and started guiding day-trips and multi-day expeditions in my first season.  Since then I have had the good fortune to guide spectacular expedition trips in places like Africa, Turkey, the Grand Canyon, and the Canadian Arctic. The Taseko-Chilcotin-Fraser has everything that a classic river trip requires, fantastic scenery and hiking, rich cultural history, abundant wildlife, and some of my very favourite whitewater canyons!  I didn’t truly know how special the expedition in my back yard was, until I went away and came back home.

What is your first memory of the area?

I can remember my first trip to Farwell Canyon, looking up at the sand dunes 160 meters above the river, pumping up a raft in the arid climate with the smell of sage on the wind.  I was looking around me at the banks of hoodoos and thinking, “Am I still in BC?” Now floating through that section of the trip I keep my ears open and inevitably hear someone who is experiencing the place for the first time saying the exact same things that I was thinking. It is a powerful place! 

A day on the water taking in the ancient topography of the Chilcotin canyons
A day on the water taking in the ancient topography of the Chilcotin canyons. (Photo: Tyler Garnham)

What is your dream for the Taseko watershed?

My dream for the Taseko watershed is to simply see it continue to run freely as the wilderness river that it is today.  Over the years it has been threatened by hydroelectric schemes and open pit mining proposals, but presently it is a vital part of a robust ecosystem in British Columbia.  A clean free flowing river and a wild salmon migration route.

Why is it important for other people to experience this place for themselves?

It is important for people to experience the Taseko-Chilcotin-Fraser Expedition, because it is a journey through a place that is unique within British Columbia and is truly a world class destination. The landscape is so impressive and the river canyons are exhilarating and beautiful, but there is much more to it than that.  

The mixing of waters at the confluence of the Chilko and Taseko Rivers.
The mixing of waters at the confluence of the Chilko and Taseko Rivers. (Photo: Tyler Garnham)

This is a place that has sustained the Tsilhqot’in People for thousands of years, it is home to wild horses, grizzly bears, astonishing salmon migrations and a huge variety of migratory birds.  It is the first place in Canada to be declared aboriginal title land and there have been huge efforts to protect this area from industrial development and preserve it’s wilderness character.  

This is a place where glaciers melt in the Chilcotin ranges of the Coast Mountains to form streams and rivers on which we travel through volcanic canyons, into expansive grasslands, past towering hoodoos and sand dunes before emptying into the mighty Fraser River which carries on to the Pacific Ocean. 

What do you see happen to people when they experience the Chilcotin plateau for the first time?

Our guests see the Chilcotin plateau for the first time from the bus on our drive to the put-in.  We climb up, up, up, around switchbacks from the depths of the Fraser River Valley and finally crest the top of Sheep Creek Hill. Before us unfolds this wide expanse of land, the sky feels huge and inevitably there are big smiles and excited talk about horses, volcanic rock and how the views go on for days.

What can paddlers do to be more respectful of the area?

Typically paddlers are a pretty respectful bunch, with a low impact and leave-no-trace attitude. While in the planning process of a trip into this area learning about about the Declared Title Land, and the Xeni Gwet’in visitor protocol would be a good start! 

More information can be found at http://www.tsilhqotin.ca/Tsilhqotin-Rights-Title/Declared-Title-Area.

What is one thing you always bring on the river? 

Dental floss! At the end of a day just before bed I like to go to the river and spend a bit of time alone while I brush my teeth, I can rush through tooth brushing pretty quickly, but taking time to floss helps me stay still for a little bit longer and appreciate where I am. It’s also supposed to be good for your teeth.

You are really putting a good face on the river guide Dad! If you could share the river with one person, who would that be? 

I’ve made it a big priority to get out on rivers with my family. Over the years I have done multi- day trips in the Chilcotin with my wife, our 3 sons and our dog, with my brother and my nephews and with my parents. My Father ran Taseko falls on his 70th birthday on one of our expeditions!

A stable expedition raft speeds through Taseko Falls
A stable expedition raft speeds through Taseko Falls. (Photo: Tyler Garnham)

If there were one person who I always wanted to share this river trip with, that would have been the late Stuart McLean of CBC radio’s, “The Vinyl Café”. Now I never knew him, but there was something about his radio show that connected with me, and made me think that he would really appreciate being immersed in a place and an experience, the way you are on a river trip.  I can remember road tripping across the NWT and Yukon one year and timing my stops to make sure I had a signal for CBC North when his show would come on (this was in the pre-podcast years). I can’t think of anyone better to tell a story around a campfire. 

I wrote him a letter once telling him how I thought he would enjoy a multi-day river expedition in BC, I put it in an envelope with a stamp and sent it off.  He wrote me back, unfortunately we know now that there just wasn’t enough time to make a trip happen.

Life is short, I know he would have loved it. 

What is your favourite hike in the Chilcotin? 

Big Creek. The camp at Big Creek gives you a number of different hiking options, a lowland wander through the grasslands and Douglas Fir trees, or an easy ridge walk to a meadow with a view.  For a really good workout, we can cross the creek and head to the top of the dome to enjoy upstream and downstream vistas, and a good leg burn. 

Maybe best of the all is returning to camp for a dip in the creek, it always feels pretty good! 

Thanks Tyler! I can’t wait for summer now and to get back into the Plateau with you! 

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