Stettler native Diana (Dennis) Vandervelden and her husband, Arie Vandervelden, love canoeing in the badlands. They love it so much that Arie decided to write a definitive guide to canoeing pretty much anywhere on Alberta’s Prairie rivers.
In an email interview with the Stettler Independent, the Vanderveldens — now living in the Netherlands — discuss their favourite trips, a scary situation, and how Arie decided to propose to Diana.
SI: Diana, did you grow up in Stettler?
Diana: I was and born and raised in Stettler. I left to attend the University of Alberta after high school.
My first experience with canoeing was at Bar Harbour Camp at Buffalo Lake. I think I was probably 9 or 10 at the time. It was fun, but I think we spent more time getting each other wet than paddling.
I did do more canoeing years later in high school on a three-day trip down the Red Deer River. I was more serious on that trip, as we had to paddle so many clicks down the river to the next camping spot.
Growing up in Stettler instilled in me a love of wide-open spaces and the Prairie country. I have travelled the world, but I can honestly say that going out canoeing on the Red Deer River is one of my favourite things to do!
SI: How long have you been in the Netherlands?
Arie: We have been here for a year now, getting some experience working abroad. So we missed the big flood of 2013!
We’re back to the planning stage, looking at maps, air photos, and trip reports. We’re currently planning our next canoe runs! We hope to be back in a year or two.
SI: How did the two of you meet?
Arie: We met at a party. A friend of ours had rented a swimming pool. There were no canoes involved!
SI: How long have you two been canoeing together?
Arie: Shortly after we met we went on our first canoe run together. We had an incredible time. The season was coming to an end, and we couldn’t wait for the next season to begin!
Diana: Shortly after Arie and I met in 2006, we went on our first canoe trip together. Arie re-introduced me to canoeing after a long absence. I had forgotten how beautiful it is out on the river and the sense of connecting to nature. It is such a wonderful feeling! It certainly wooed me, as a year later we were engaged.
SI: What was the best canoe trip you went on?
Arie: We got engaged while camping along the Red Deer River, on the first day of a four-day trip. It was very romantic! We also spent part of our honeymoon canoeing on the Red Deer (River).
SI: What were you planning to do if Diana said no when you proposed?
Arie: I thought my odds were pretty good that she would say yes!
SI: What was your favourite moment on one of your trips?
Arie: A nice, hot summer day, no wind, and perfect reflections of the badlands in the water. Just floating along, watching the scenery go by. It doesn’t get much better than that.
SI: What was your least favourite?
Arie: While researching the book, we pushed through the mid-summer mosquito season. A few times, we got eaten alive. Avoiding mosquitoes is a key to an enjoyable trip. Our book has lots more tips to increase your chances of an enjoyable trip.
SI: Can you think of any time when you were unprepared for a situation you faced?
Arie: For the most part, Prairie canoeing is easy and relaxing. However, we have encountered some wicked prairie storms. We got caught in the storm of Aug. 1, 2009, while camping on a sandbar in the middle of the river in a remote area. The same storm … caused the stage collapse at (the) Big Valley (Jamboree). It was absolutely terrifying! We relate the story in the book (Page 26).
SI: Arie, what made you want to write this book?
Arie: I’ve been thinking of doing this for years. There are plenty of guidebooks for the mountains, but very few for the Prairies. This is undeserved because the Prairie river valleys are absolutely beautiful. If more people appreciate the recreational opportunities and superb scenery, then there’s a better chance that the next generation will be able to enjoy them as much as we do.
For more information about “Prairie Paddling,” readers can visit http://badlandspublishing.com. Books are available for sale at the Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Community Development office in Stettler. See a review of the book in this week’s Stettler Independent and online.