Outdoors blog

Canoeing salmon advocates near source of Columbia River

Sea2Source Episode 5: Kettle Falls to Kinbasket Lake BC from Voyages of Rediscovery on Vimeo.

The “Sea to the Source” canoe expedition that left Astoria, Ore., on Aug. 2 in hand-made crafts is on track to reach the end of its voyage Monday at Canal Flats, the source of the Columbia River in British Columbia.

An expedition of canoeists and Native American students is leading an upstream effort the length of the Columbia to advocate construction of a fish ladder to reintroduce chinook salmon runs in the Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam.

  • See photos of the latest leg of the journey upstream from Kettle Falls.

The crew consists of five river guides who oversee a river-based environmental education program called Voyages of Rediscovery. They have enlisted the muscle power of Indian Tribes, youths and other supporters to build new boats and power them along the way.

Donna-Gay Ward of Northport, Wash., paddled more that 300 miles with "the Guys" to the U.S.-Canada border. By Oct. 12, she said the paddlers were in Revelstoke, British Columbia, making a food buy and were down to four men paddling the new canoe they had built while at Kettle Falls. "They have been getting up around 4:30 a.m. and hitting the water at first light and paddling all day," she said. "The day they phoned they had done about 75 km!"

Here is the latest update, received today from expedition member Adam Wicks-Arshack: 

What an incredible RIVER!  Last week we paddled away from Revelstoke and into the most remote and serene sections of the Columbia River.  In just a few days we made it to Mica Dam and were treated to a nights stay in a house and an all you can eat buffet at the cafeteria (I am pretty sure they will now have to raise the BC Hydro rates after our food binge).  What great hosts as have been everyone that we have met along the Great River of the West.  Leaving Mica dam was a little eerie, you could really feel the power of the river and the power of what we humans have done to the river.  For the past 500km we had been warned about the Kinabasket Lake about the winds in particular and how fierce they can be.  It was a thrill to paddle past Boat Encampment, the Canoe River, Wood River and finally turning south around the big bend of the Columbia River.

Fortunately we were able to cover a lot of territory in short time and sailed about 65km in one day.  We really felt as though the river graced us and allowed us safe passage and this was for a reason.  The river wants salmon and wants to get healthy again.

Wicks-Arshack says the paddlers have been resupplied, helped  and cheered on by people along the way who "share incredible stories and their deep relationships to the river and the salmon."

They all seek to let salmon regain their relationship with the entire river from sea to source, he said.

"It is clear we need more education along the river," he said. "There is a great disconnect between the upper and lower basin.  Many people in Canada are unaware of where the river meets the ocean and people on the lower river in the USA are oblivious to where the headwaters are and the sacrifices the First Nation, Canadian people, and the land have made for flood control and hydro power."

  • In Spokane:  Expedition members plan to participate in the Roundtable discussion on the Columbia River Treaty Perspectives  at the annual Lake Roosevelt Forum, Nov. 19-20 at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

"There is a lot of work to do.  Even though this trip is coming to an end, for us, this is just the beginning lets start figuring out how we can get a diverse group of young people connected to the river.... Respect for the river comes with a love for the river and you can only love something you know." 

He envisions an international water trail -- perhaps The Columbia River Water Trail from Source to Sea -- that "would constantly remind Columbia River citizens that everyone lives downstream."




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Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column.









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