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Exploring Wells Gray Park — once again

Wells Gray Tours owner Roland Neave has published a seventh edition of Exploring Wells Gray Park

Wells Gray Tours owner Roland Neave has published a seventh edition of Exploring Wells Gray Park.

“It’s amazing how much has changed in Wells Gray Park in just seven years,” Neave said.

First published in 1974, the book is the complete roads and trails guide to Canada’s famed waterfalls park, which is also one of the largest provincial parks in B.C.

In the introduction to the first edition of the book in 1974, Neave pointed out that Helmcken Falls is the epitome of the park.

While that holds true today, Neave said in this latest edition, readers will find there are many more attractions and experiences in Wells Gray than only Helmcken Falls.

For example, hikers can enjoy a great view from the volcanic cone of Pyramid Mountain, the colourful flowers of the Trophy Mountain alpine meadows and the misty spray of water blowing off Dawson Falls.

Neave spent most of last summer and fall re-hiking most of the trails in the park.

The book has been completely revised and expanded, now with more than 400 pages of information and colour photos of roads and trails.

In the introduction to the book, Neave explains he first came to know the park as a boy:

“It was Helmcken Falls which first drew me to Wells Gray Park. I had read of the Park’s natural wonders even before my family moved from the prairies to Kamloops in late 1965. I soon persuaded my parents to take me there. It didn’t matter that it was January; I innocently assumed that no snow in Kamloops meant no snow in Wells Gray. We reached frozen Dawson Falls after plodding for five kilometres through deep snow without the benefit of skis or snowshoes. I finally experienced the thrill of my first sight of Helmcken Falls in May 1966 and have returned countless times since. In 1987, I was drawn to this magnificent waterfall as a fitting spot to propose marriage to my wife, Anne.”

The Neaves’ commitment and passion for the park have been evident over the years. He said he felt compelled to preserve a piece of the vanishing wildness of the Clearwater Valley by purchasing 190 hectares (470 acres) between 1989 and 1995 — acquiring the historic Trophies Lodge and constructing two rental log cabins.

In 2014, the Neave family donated 65 hectares (160 acres) to Thompson Rivers University to become a living laboratory for future generations of students, now named the Neave Family Wetlands.

The university opened a new building in 2021 at its Wells Gray Education and Research Centre. Supported by many donors, the project was spearheaded by professor emeritus Tom Dickinson.

The centre offers courses with research conducted in the fields of biology, geology, geography, tourism, Indigenous food security and natural history interpretation.

Neave said he sees education of Wells Gray Provincial Park to be very important, noting it is chronically underfunded by the provincial government.

Since 2001, he said, the entire BC Parks system has suffered from staff cutbacks and far less money than needed for trail maintenance of signage.

Neave said all proceeds from the seventh edition of Exploring Wells Gray Park are being donated back to the park for various projects, which include a new upper stairway to be installed at Moul Falls, providing funding for a naturalist program to provide afternoon walks on several trails and evening talks at the Clearwater Lake campground, five-days a week (Wednesdays to Sundays) from mid-June to late August and funding a trail crew to clear fallen brush on park trails.

Neave said crews will start work on lower elevation trails before tackling higher elevation trails, such as the Trophy Mountain meadows.

“Many of them were in deplorable shape,” Neave said.

Exploring Wells Gray Park is available at Chapters bookstore, True Outdoors, London Drugs, Surplus Herbies and Save-On Foods. Copies can also can be purchased at the Wells Gray Tours office in downtown Kamloops at 250 Lansdowne St.

In Clearwater, the book can be purchased at the Visitor Info Centre, Wells Gray Outfitters and Greffard’s & Greenscapes Ltd.