At the end of the Road - Wells Gray
by Kim CameronVenture down any country road and you’re bound to find something unexpected. Take the Clearwater Valley Road in Wells Gray Park for example – if you drive its full 68-kilometre length, you’ll find an unexpected oasis in the form of a café – cum art gallery sitting right there, on the shores of Clearwater Lake.
Gord Jones is the proprietor of the Osprey Café and Clearwater Lake Tours, a guiding, water-taxi, canoe and kayak rental outfitter. His wife, Doris, is the resident artist and his son Ray guides visitors up and down Clearwater and Azure Lakes on their Duffy electric boat tours. With so many different interests, catching up or keeping up with the Jones’ is no easy feat. Keeping the business all in the family is what helps keep them together.
“We all work as a team,” says Jones. “It helps keep our family cohesive. We all work long hours, but because we do it together, nobody feels left out. As a family business, it’s a priority for everyone that the business does well and that our customers are satisfied.”
For Jones, having a family-run business is key, but having a family run, environmentally sustainable business is equally as important. Clearwater Lake Tours, ever respectful of the environmentally sensitive eco system they operate in, do everything they can to reduce their footprint in the Park.
“Sustainability is one of our biggest priorities at Clearwater Lake,” notes Jones. “Without safe and efficient practices we will not be able to preserve the experience for future generations.”
Power to the Osprey Café and art gallery is provided by solar and micro hydro installations. They operate some of their boat tours using a Duffy electric boat, and they’ve altered other cruises to reduce their fuel consumption.
“Bringing an awareness of sustainability to visitors is a necessity,” says Jones who notes, “we compost everything we can, we recycle, and we only throw away what absolutely cannot be used again.”
While there are challenges running an environmentally sustainable business deep in the wilds of Wells Gray, there are plenty of rewards too. Jones is quick to remember one experience in particular.
“Our overnight motorboat and canoe tours take us into the wilderness that is Wells Gray. We pass the last road, deep in the Park and leave all civilization behind. We took a group up Huntley Col, a mountain on the very edge of Azure Lake, to view Grizzly bears in their natural habitat, in an alpine meadow on the precipice of an avalanche chute.”
It’s those once-in-a-lifetime moments that Jones says is the best thing about what he does.
“Sharing the knowledge and appreciation for this area with new visitors who have never been, or who possibly just heard of Wells Gray Park; it’s great to be the provider of adventures and new explorations.”
“Drive straight up the Clearwater Valley Road for 68 kilometres until you reach Clearwater Lake and the Osprey Café,” he says. “The most efficient way to enjoy the Park is to start at the end – coincidentally, where we are located!”
If you have only one day, Jones recommends spending it canoeing, fishing or cruising Clearwater and Azure Lakes before backtracking to explore the Park’s waterfalls, trails and other attractions. If you have more than a day, then plan on camping – either at Clearwater Lake camp, or a more remote location – Clearwater Lake Tours’ water taxi will ferry you and your canoe right to your campsite.
When asked what separates Wells Gray from any other mountain park experience Jones commented that it was the very wildness of this place that sets it apart. When you reach the end of the Clearwater Valley Road, you really are at the end of the road.
“The natural experience of Wells Gray Park leads you to believe you have actually stepped outside the box of modern society and technology and into the great unknown.”
Gord Jones and his family own Clearwater Lake Toursin Wells Gray Park. Join them for a guided boat tour, canoe, kayak and fishing equipment rentals, water-taxi service or guided camping trips into the wilds of Wells Gray.
Kim Cameron is a freelance writer who shares stories of the people, places and unique experiences found throughout British Columbia.