Riverboat fantasy: The Peace Country River Rats

The Peace Country River Rats of Fort St. John live for adventure they find on the rivers and lakes of Northern British Columbia

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Jason and his family get out on the river as often as possible with the Peace Country River Rats.

Jason and his family get out on the river as often as possible with the Peace Country River Rats. — Photo courtesy Jason Palfy

Summer in Northern British Columbia might be short, but its residents definitely make the most of the sun they do see.

“There are two seasons: winter, and winter is coming,” said Jason Palfy, president of the Peace Country River Rats. “We like to enjoy what we get.”

Although some members are jet boat racers, the River Rats are a boating club, not just a jet boat club.

“If you own a kayak and you want to be a member you can be a member,” said Palfy.

About 80 members plus their families are a part of the club. Their main goal is to bring the local community together on the river. “Everyone always has a good time!” Palfy said. 

Volunteer efforts to keep Northern British Columbia clean

“We are a volunteer club that works together to make it happen,” Palfy said.

The club works with provincial parks in the area to provide the ultimate adventure experience for everyone who uses the river and its banks.

For example, each spring volunteers help clean up the riverbanks and campsites of the area.

“We make sure there are no trees fallen on the campsites that we are partnered with,” Palfy said.

Last year the River Rats built a gazebo shelter at one of the sites for all members to enjoy, which they maintain themselves.

Jason Palfy, club president and outdoor enthusiast

Palfy went on his first boat trip in 2004. A year later, he bought his own boat and joined the River Rats.

“I’m an outdoor enthusiast,” said Palfy. “I love going into the backcountry. I’ve seen mountains, lakes and waterfalls, and camped along rivers that not many people get to see.”

Palfy sees these remote locations from his motorboat now. He packs a couple of coolers, a tent, his family and extra fuel, and heads up the river in his 22-foot Hammerhead by FireFish.

Exploring beautiful British Columbia by water

Recreational river boating obviously attracts outdoor enthusiasts like Jason Palfy. Even though their primary mode of transportation is boats, many of the River Rats enjoy fishing, hiking and camping along the shores. The remote sights call them upstream on mountain runoffs. They share the rivers and lakes with other adventurers and wild animals.

The River Rats’ local river is the Peace River in Taylor. They also have access to the Pine River, and to the Murray River, which leads all the way to Kinuseo Falls in Tumbler Ridge. Nearby, the Sikanni Chief River joins the Muskwa River, leading to Fort Nelson.

Even farther north, boaters find the Tuchodi Lakes. Essentially, club members live riverboat fantasies exploring beautiful British Columbia each summer.

“That’s not counting if we travel south!” said Palfy. “These are all different drainages that come out of the Rocky Mountains.”

The River Rats often have to drive some way to meet up with the river they want to launch their boat in. Their launch spot are sometimes a bit makeshift.

“A lot of the time it’s just a gravel bar,” Palfy said. “You just back it in until the boat starts to float.”

Palfy’s personal oasis in Northern British Columbia

“My favourite place would be Tuchodi Lakes,” said Palfy. He has been there 30 times. “It’s a weekend getaway for me.” To get there, Palfy drives four and a half hours in his truck to launch in the Muskwa River. Then he travels another 132 kilometres upstream on the river—about four hours in the boat. “The only way to get there is by float plane, jet boat or horse, but that takes four to six days,” he said. The views when he arrives are worth the day-long trek.

Palfy gets out on the river as often as possible, whether it’s camping trips with other members, taking the kids north in August for hunting season or summer trips with the whole family. If they can’t stay overnight with the boat, he tries to get everyone out for day trips close to home.

“I don’t have an excuse,” he said. “If someone says it’s time to go, I don’t have a problem going.”

One tip Palfy has for others packing for their first trip: always bring more fuel. “If there’s one thing that BOAT stands for, it’s Bring On Another Thousand, and that means either dollars or litres,” said Palfy.

Peace Country River Rats upcoming events

River Rats events are fun for the whole family. “We try to get everyone involved,” Palfy said.

In July, they host their annual poker run: “Poker for the adults, and games for the kids.” Lots of games for the kids—Palfy said the kids are their focus. “We try to gear the whole thing around the kids.”

A happy-hour stop along the race include drinks, chips, fries, hamburgers and hot dogs. There is also a dinner, remote control boat races, face painting and a sand pile. The kids love the sand pile the most. “After dinner, the kids get to dig for treasure,” he said. Treasures could be small toys or coins. “For every treasure they find, they get a toonie.”

The River Rats also host an annual race for the racing members in the club: the Taylor Flats 200, in Taylor, British Columbia, on the September long weekend.

Learn more about the River Rats at peacecountryriverrats.ca.


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