Our Story

My name is Dean and I would like to welcome you to the Pathways story and to thank you for visiting our site. It’s been almost half a century since I first paddled the Bowron Lakes (1970) with my old paddling partner Chris. That trip started our lifelong love story with the Bowron. We started guiding in the park in 1973 and, since then, I have guided more than 150 trips and in excess of 2,000 people around the chain.

Chris originally started Pathways Canada Tours, the first commercial canoe expedition guiding company
in the park. He then handed the company off to me and to pursue his number one love, photography. He
has self-published several books of photographs including three on the Bowron Lakes. I was lucky enough to co-author one of those books with Chris and another of our tripping friends Jim Boyde. He also sells his images. You can check out Chris photography at chrisharris.com.

I have since grown Pathways into a small but successful, family-owned, specialized guiding outfit. We concentrate all our trips on the Bowron Lakes and three Yukon rivers (Pelly-Yukon, Big Salmon, and Wind), feeling that it is more important to know a few areas intimately than to spread ourselves too thin.

I came upon my love for the Canadian wilderness and my passion for traveling it by canoe honestly. At age twelve, I went to Powders’ Camp in the Laurentians of Quebec. It was primarily a canoe tripping camp. I hated my first trip. We did long portages with knee deep mud and camped in storms of mosquitoes. Our guide also got us lost for the better part of a day. However, somehow, subsequent trips led me to a love of canoeing as the only way to travel.

After a five year hiatus from canoeing because I was completing my university education in New Brunswick. I married a Maritime girl and we immediately headed for British Columbia in search of real wilderness experiences. We launched into summers of canoeing various white water rivers, the Bowron Lakes, and an extended trip on the Churchill River with our friends Jim and his wife Pam. My favourite trip of all was in 1979. Jim and I and four friends retraced an old explorer’s route. It was a 45 day, 1500+ mile expedition. We started on the Blackstone River (just off the Yukon’s Dempster highway). Then we paddled down the Peel River to Fort McPherson in the North West Territories. From there, we paddled and lined our canoes up the Rat River, over the Richard Mountains (going from the McKenzie drainage to the Yukon drainage system), over Summit Pass and down the Little Bell and Big Bell Rivers, to the Porcupine River and a brief layover in Old Crow. We then paddled the rest of the Porcupine River to where it empties into the Yukon and down the Yukon into Alaska.

For nearly fifty years, all my vacation time was spent canoeing the Canadian wilderness. All my children: Kris, Jordan, and Cheryl were told bedtime stories about our Canadian wilderness and the animals I had met there. While they were still young, I took each child with me to the lakes for a special ‘just Dad and me’ trip. It was a great way to introduce them to wilderness. I also took each one on the Yukon River. They have all experienced the joys and trials of the Canadian wilderness and the solitude and joy that comes from paddling our beautiful country. Kris and Cheryl went on to get all their certifications and to guide Pathways trips. Cheryl and our longtime friend and loyal guiding partner, Melisa, created our diverse menu which is a huge hit with our guests.

We go to great lengths to ensure that Pathways’ guides share our love of the Canadian wilderness and canoeing. We keep the same guides from year to year.

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In 2006, I decided that we needed another full time lead guide. I started interviewing prospects but a young adventurer named Simon put an end to the process. We were looking for a new guide but we got much more: we got a new family member. I remember sitting down with Simon Ankenman in a coffee shop. The other people whom I had been interviewing were more interested in getting experience as a guide whether it be hiking, or rafting etc., than in canoeing specifically. I wasn’t expecting any surprises, but I sure got one. About a minute into the interview, Simon was answering a question and he said something about his love of canoeing. While he was talking, it was as if I was listening to myself speak. I realized that Simon shared my unique love for the canoe and its connection to an outdoor way of life. It was the same love of canoeing that had allowed me to create such a close bond with my longtime tripping partner Jim. I hadn’t seen that in many other people.

“The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten, the open door to water ways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfaction. “– Sigurd F. Olson

If you have read this far and are still with me, there must be something in you that shares our love of adventure and travel in our Canadian wilderness by canoe. I sincerely hope you will contact us to get more information and, ultimately, join us on one of our uniquely Canadian adventures. We would love to share our knowledge and love of the Bowron and the Yukon with you and have you become part of our ongoing Pathways’ story. Even more importantly, we would like to provide you with the vacation of a lifetime and an experience that will create a lifelong friendship with us and let us become part of your story and the stories you will be telling your families and friends.

We hope to see you soon,

Happy canoeing

Dean

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