Returning Upstream: Teaching Kayaking at the Source


devonkayaktalkTeam NRS paddler Devon Barker-Hicks returns to Stanley, Idaho, the source of many memories and her favorite river, to share her Dare to Kayak program with local students.


Sharing my Dare to Kayak program is an amazing, rewarding way to connect with lots of young students in Idaho. This year brought me back to where my school teaching career began—Stanley, Idaho. I began student teaching in Stanley the fall of 1993. Jerry Hughes, of Hughes River Expeditions, graciously offered his warehouse as my accommodations for the semester. The warehouse turned out to be a beautiful cabin overlooking Valley Creek. So I taught and explored paddling opportunities in the headwaters of the Salmon River, a few hundred miles upstream from my home in Riggins.

A view of the Sawtooth Mountains from Stanley International Airport.

Teaching anything in Stanley is a little more challenging than in most places. With an elevation of 6,250 feet, it’s cold a lot of the time, but the students are troopers. I’ve been able to come back a few times over the years in an effort to give back to the Stanley School. I must say, that school had a huge influence on my teaching. I learned that if you can accomplish it in Stanley, you could pull it off elsewhere, easily.

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A few years had passed since I last shared Dare to Kayak in Stanley, so I was excited to put on another clinic for the local students. We had a small window, a few days before Thanksgiving Break, to do some kayaking. We got lucky with the weather; the sun was shining and it wasn’t too cold. Rocky Mountain ranch offered its hot springs pool for paddling, and Riverwear outfitted all the students in wetsuits. I loaded my Wave Sport kayaks, Werner paddles and NRS PFDs and layers and headed upstream. Everything came together for a perfect day in the classroom and a perfect field trip!

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Learning to wet exit is a blast, right? Well, when you are in a hot springs, it becomes a popular task to practiced over and over. As the Stanley students became more and more comfortable being under water, we were able to work on all our paddle strokes. Everyone was using the draw stroke to pull toward their neighbor and executing beautiful forward strokes as they raced to the other end of the pool. Warm water splashed over the sides and into the headwaters of the Salmon River. I enjoyed knowing that it would later flow past my home many miles downstream, bringing with it found memories of paddling and teaching.

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Thank you to everyone who supports my paddling, and huge thanks to Riverwear for loaning us all the kids NRS wetsuits and washing them after!

Paddle in Peace,
Devon Barker-Hicks