Glamorous Camping & Fishing in the Fraser Valley
Dean Werk is the man behind Fraser Canyon Riverside Domes and Great River Fishing. He discusses his passion for fishing, nature and adventure.
Personally, I have no idea how to fish. My mother was apart of the 60s scoop. She was born with a variety of health complications and was taken to Coqualeetza Indian Hospital. It was there that an amazing nurse by the name of Dorothy Kennett took her in, and raised her as her own. I am here today because of that decision. However, that meant that my mother and I grew up away from our Indigenous culture and missed out on experiences on the river.
Through this podcast I have interviewed individuals with a deep understanding and connection to the Fraser River, and the fish that swim through it. I have learned about what it means to be from the Stó:lō territory, the cultural significance of salmon ceremonies, and the complex ecosystems that exist along the river. Yet, I have not sat down with a fishing expert. According to a Daily Hive article, the Fraser River was ranked the second best fishing spot in all of Canada.1 Stó꞉lō means river, and many people know the Stó꞉lō as people of the river.2 It was high time for me to sit down with a fishing expert, but if you know me then you know that wasn’t all I was looking for. My goal was to sit down with someone who cared about the fish, the ecosystems, and reconnecting people to nature. I found Dean Werk, the owner of Great River Fishing & Fraser Canyon Riverside Domes who checked all those boxes and then some!
We can’t talk about fishing practices without talking about Elder Eddie Gardner. I sat down with Eddie on June 26, 2021 at the Great Blue Heron Reserve on one of the warmest days of the summer. He has dedicated over a decade of his life to trying to save Wild Salmon populations through the Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance. Eddie is fighting to have fish farms shut down, because the fish they produce are often unhealthy, and can harm Wild Salmon. He also works to promote Indigenous culture by hosting sweat lodges, and works as an Elder-in-Residence at the University of the Fraser Valley to promote not only Indigenous traditions but also share the Halq’eméylem language which is considered endangered. You can listen to our full conversation on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube and all other podcast platforms.
Dean and I also talk about the importance of knowing where your food comes from, and I would be remiss if I don’t throwback to an amazing conversation I had with the owner of the Town Butcher, Bill Turnbull. Bill cared about knowing where his meat and fish came from way before it was popular. He started the Town Butcher right around the 2008 recession, and with a chuckle he said it was the perfect time to start a business. He works hard to maintain good relationships with all the farmers he works with and to ensure the animals are well tended to until the end. His meat is locally raised, grass-fed, and contains no antibiotics. Listen or watch the interview on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all other platforms.
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Dean Werk is passionate about preserving and promoting the experiences the Fraser River can provide us. You can hear it in his voice. Dean and I talk about how disheartening it is that people are becoming disconnected from the great outdoors. As our cities grow, so too does the distance from wildlife, pristine forests, and nature. Many people don’t know how to fish, let alone recall all the different types of fishing. Many are missing out on the beauty of the night stars, the smell of a warm campfire, and the cozy conversations that follow.
When talking about his business Great River Fishing, Dean talks about how this isn’t just about catching fish - it is about providing an experience. He wants his guests to learn about the history of the river, the Indigenous people who have lived there since time immemorial, the different types of life that rely on the river, and the importance of conservation. Dean takes care of the river, he picks up garbage, alerts authorities when there are problems and monitors the ecosystems that exist along the water. He sits on the Board of Director for the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, and the Technical and Community working groups for the Recovery of White Sturgeon. He cares deeply about preserving the river for both the sake of the majestic wildlife that call the river home and for future generations.
During a global pandemic, Dean Werk also decided to start a new business: Fraser Canyon Riverside Domes. Dean wanted to share his love of the outdoors and bring a unique experience to the market. These domes create a glamorous camping (glamping) experience for visitors. You can stargaze from the comfort of your dome, BBQ your favourite cuisine, relax in a Cedar wood burning hot tub and reconnect with nature. With so many feeling anxious, busy, overwhelmed, and lost, this local destination allows visitors to slow down and return to a simpler time while not missing out on luxury.
Dean also values his team and his family. He chose not to downsize during the pandemic, and to expand his business during uncertain times. He admits that he is detail-oriented, but it is because he wants to make sure guest experiences are filled with lasting memories.
Dean Werk was generous with his time and incredibly supportive of the Bigger Than Me Podcast. When we began arranging this interview, I could tell he was genuinely excited to participate and to share his love for the work he does. I love sitting down with individuals to hear their story, but Dean’s passion was moving. He cares about preserving the river and sharing what people can do to help protect it.
You can listen to the full interview on YouTube, Apple Podcast, Spotify and all other podcast platforms. Learn more about Great River Fishing by visiting their website, Facebook Page, and Instagram page. You can also connect with Fraser Canyon Riverside Domes on their website, and Instagram. Support conservation efforts by joining the Fraser Valley Salmon Society or Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance.