Braden Fandrich was just four years old when his father, Kumsheen Rafting Resort founder Bernie Fandrich, put him in a whitewater raft for the very first time.
It was prophetic, in a way. Braden would literally follow his father’s footsteps into the adventure tourism industry, as did his mother Lorna so many years before. So would his brother Andrew and, for a while, his sister Meghan.
What’s more, Andrew and Braden’s wives have worked at the resort, and their toddlers have now also made their way on to a whitewater raft.
Did Bernie know he was building a lifelong, three-generational business when he started Kumsheen with one raft and one van, beside the Thompson River, way back in 1973?
“Well, I knew I was doing something special,” Bernie recalls. “The river was magnificent – it still is – and I knew if I could make a living at it, I’d want be on the Thompson for the rest of my life.”
Since those modest beginnings 46 seasons ago, Kumsheen has grown into a powerhouse in the rafting industry, fuelled by the beauty of the Thompson River’s legendary whitewater rapids on a swirling, azure river, and built on a dedication to safety and customer service.
More than 276,000 people have visited the resort, located just outside picturesque Lytton, B.C., and more than 600 people have worked at the resort. Combined, they hail from across the province, across the nation and from many countries around the world. Hundreds of people visit their website each day at kumsheen.com.
Working at Kumsheen gives people a sense of pride and accomplishment, says Braden Fandrich. “People who spend their time here are blown away by how nice the operation is in all aspects; in the experience they have in the water, in the staff that they have interactions with, the whole thing.”
Braden, 37, and Andrew, 34, learned the rafting business from the ground up, gaining first-hand, expert knowledge on long Fandrich family outings running B.C.’s rivers.
Bernie is still involved with Kumsheen as a consultant, while Lorna can be found nearly every day working at the resort’s lodge.
Andrew Fandrich, when he’s not on the river, looks after much of the operations, with dozens of trips and hundreds of rafters to deal with each week.
His take on the family business?
“There’s a great deal of pride in doing this work,” Andrew says, echoing his brother and carrying on that family legacy.
“Learning from Bernie and Lorna over the years has been pretty natural. Having my parents teach us this whole time has been a pretty great experience as well.”
And so, when it comes to the adventure tourism industry, it’s no exaggeration to say that whitewater runs in the veins of all the Lytton-based Fandrich clan. The question is, will the grandchildren carry on the family business?
“Of course,” says Andrew of his son Callum, who’s only nine months old. “I mean, I don’t know, but yeah!”
Braden is a bit more definitive when it comes to his son Theo’s future role at Kumsheen.
“Oh yeah,” Braden jokes. “He’s going to take over the place some day.”
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