Every February, as summer begins to warm the Southern Hemisphere, kayakers, rafters, and river lovers trek to the Futaleufú Valley in Chile. Paddlers battle for style, finesse, and speed. Locals mingle and share their culture with tourists. All leave with a new appreciation for free-flowing rivers.
Among the mountainous regions of Northern Patagonia, lies one of the most well-known ‘big water’ rivers in the world. The riverbed, consisting of massive rock and the steep gradient, creates the level of whitewater one would expect when staring up at the Chilean Andes. Turbulent hydraulics and mile-long rapids made of sapphire water create an experience thrill-seekers from throughout the world crave. Every year the Southern Hemisphere rotates its way a little closer to the sun, and it seems that the violent flow of the river pays homage to the wild geography of the Futaleufú Valley. Along with the sunshine, paddlers embark on their own pilgrimage to play amongst it.
With no on-the-water experience, professional photographers, Joe and Ben, attempt an overnight, open-water, sea-kayaking trip. Cameras in tow, the two learn what it takes to accomplish a paddling and photography trip around Washington’s San Juan Islands.
This past fall I had coffee with a stranger. His name was Ben Matthews, and like me, he spent his time traipsing through Wyoming and the west capturing life with his lens. A couple hours later, jittery with too much caffeine and potential adventures brewing, Ben and I had not only hit it off, we were planning a trip together. As if planning a trip with a complete stranger wasn’t crazy enough, we both agreed on the main stipulation for the trip: we had to get outside our comfort zones. Both of us were professional photographers without much on-the-water experience. The rest is history.
Photo: Joe Haeberle
In August 2015, seven children under the age of ten and their moms traveled across the globe from their hometowns in China to raft world class whitewater and experience the love we have for our rivers right here in Idaho.
NRS sat down with co-owner of Last Descents River Expeditions, Travis Winn; filmmaker, Will Stauffer-Norris; and Travis’s longtime friend and collaborator, Adam Elliott, to discuss starting a rafting company in China, the fate of China’s last remaining free-flowing rivers, and the making of the film, Salween Spring.
Watch the full film, here.
Salween River | Even though the Salween is roadside for most of its length in Yunnan Province, sheer cliffs make parts feel surprisingly remote.
An American outfitter in China and the Tao of fighting a losing battle.
A film by Will Stauffer-Norris & Last Descents River Expeditions premiering at 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado. Continue reading
Presented by American Rivers:
The America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is one of the best-known and longest-lived annual reports in the environmental movement. Each year since 1984, grassroots river conservationists have teamed up with American Rivers to use the report to save their local rivers, consistently scoring policy successes that benefit these rivers and the communities through which they flow.
Nate Wilson is determined to experience the remote landscape of the Upper North Fork of the Rough and Ready Creek, an eligible Wild and Scenic River candidate threatened by a nickel strip mine proposal. IKs and packrafts in tow, he and two friends attempt a first descent, for the second time.
A year ago, a few friends and I emerged from a cleft in the mountains outside of O’Brien, Oregon. Our attempt at paddling the upper reaches of Rough and Ready Creek had devolved into a spirit-crushing couple of days of hauling loaded kayaks through thick brush and over deadfall, with the creek always tauntingly in view—2,000 feet below. By our second night out, we had exhausted our water supply, and with that came the kind of soul searching that accompanies using stash beers meant for celebrations to rehydrate powdered chili and the next morning’s oatmeal. Was it not for the privilege of spending a few days in a beautifully remote place, I’m not sure we would have been tempted to return.