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Whitewater Devils: Adventure on Wild Waters

By Jack Boudreau

Review By Anthony Dalton

November 4, 2013

BC Studies no. 173 Spring 2012  | p. 160


With Whitewater Devils, retired forestry worker Jack Boudreau has written his eighth book of adventurous tales. Set mostly in British Columbia, Whitewater Devils – while not his best work – is an interesting complement to Boudreau’s previous books, many of which have become regional best-sellers. The title, however, is misleading, as is the sub-title (Adventure on Wild Waters), and the two photographs on the book’s cover perpetuate the misconception about the contents.

Of the nine essays, only three have more than a passing reference to white water. The other six essays focus on wildlife encounters by wildlife photographers, wilderness reminiscences from an eclectic collection of characters, and the stark realism of a dangerous life as a deep-water diver from Prince George. The tenth chapter is a collection of poems reflecting life in the interior of British Columbia, combined with a few mildly humorous anecdotes.

Whether discussing the habits of grizzly bears or wolves in the wild, or recounting the outdoor experiences of the redoubtable wilderness adventurer Betty Frank (55), Boudreau knows how to set a scene. For example, in Chapter 6, Oddities of Nature, he writes, “Now came the dirty part. Anyone who has ever trailed a wounded adult grizzly knows what we had to contend with. We followed the bear’s blood trail and soon noticed that it headed into the thickest brush around…” (140). He concludes that anecdote by expressing a real concern for the welfare of the unlucky bear.

Boudreau launches his readers into the white water of the book’s title with his memories of barrel races on the Fraser River near Prince George, canoe races on the Nechako and Stuart rivers, and others. He takes a good look at the centennial cross-Canada canoe race of 1967, and in a chapter called “Wild Water,” he follows the adventures of a young Victoria couple as they embark on their own arduous trans-Canada canoe voyage. He continues with brief look at jet-boating and kayaking on British Columbia’s wildest rivers.  

Jack Boudreau is a fine historian, with an obvious passion for tales from his home province. He is also a better than average story-teller. There is a sense that many of the tales in this work would have been better told around a campfire, perhaps beside a white water river in the forest. Despite that, Whitewater Devils achieves dual roles in educating and entertaining its readers at the same time. 

Whitewater Devils: Adventure on Wild Waters
Halfmoon Bay, BC: Caitlin Press, 2010 . 216 pp. $22.95