Follow the experiences of a whitewater kayaker and an Alaskan bush pilot during a whitewater expedition in Southern Alaska, as similarities in their respective passions emerge in pursuit of exploring three unrun rivers.
Run, paddle, run. Take on two 5K trail runs broken up by a 2K flatwater paddle around Sadler Island.
After decades of work, American Whitewater succeeded in opening access to Yosemite National Park for paddlers. The park hosts a number of rivers ranging from Class I floats to multi-day Class V+ epics, including the Merced River above Nevada Falls. On June 1st, 2015, South African professional paddler Steve Fisher took the first steps in paddlers’ collective dream to paddle this long forbidden fruit. With him was Pat Keller, the southeastern expedition and waterfall guru. Both paddlers have made careers out of charging into the hardest, most remote whitewater expeditions they can find and completing them with style and grace. I joined them with a film crew to document the trip.
We approached the river from Tuolomne Pass, hiking 17 miles through alpine meadows, past icy cold lakes, and into the headwaters of the river. At the end of the first day, after hiking with a loaded boat on his back for nine miles up and over a 10,000 ft pass, Keller was still keen to explore. We scrambled up to a rocky point overlooking the Merced River valley, staring in awe at the massive snow covered peaks surrounding us. In the distance, I could just make out the trail the crew would be hiking the following day. I knew I needed a shot of that from this vantage point. The following day we completed our hike, arriving at camp thoroughly exhausted, but eager to see what the river had in store for us.
An early start on day three got the team into the action right away. The Merced River is truly a gem with crystal clear water, massive slides, a handful of stout boulder gardens, and truly unbelievable scenery. With heavy rains on the afternoon of the second day, tension reached a pinnacle as we waited to see what the river would do. The window for approachable flows is quite narrow, even just a little more water than what we had could make the holes at the bottom of some of the bigger rapids absolutely monstrous, and too little water would easily result in a portage fest around boulder fields. The river actually continued to drop, leaving just enough water for Fisher and Keller to complete the epic first descent of this amazing river. All that was left was a seven mile hike to the valley floor around the nearly 600 foot Nevada Falls and the 300 + foot Vernal Falls.
A series of morning races offers competitors multiple ways to test their skills in water with open water swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, flatwater kayaking, raft race, or boatercross. Competitive or Recreational divisions available for each discipline.
Open Water Swim – 1.25 Miles
Competitive Kayak – 4 Miles
Recreational Kayak – 2.5 Miles
Competitive Stand-Up Paddleboard – 4 Miles
Recreational Stand-Up Paddleboard- 2.5 Miles
There are few places left in the world which are truly wild. Where vast expanses of unexplored land lay wild, still occupied and ruled by the flora and fauna that call it home. When we think of these sorts of lands, these far-off corners of our uber-connected modern world, our minds typically drift to mythical mountain ranges, remote desert oasis, deep gorges, and canyons tucked away in the world’s largest mountains. You don’t usually think of anywhere in eastern North America.
But if you start driving north, up through the United States and into Canada…up past Quebec City and take a ferry to a far corner of the continent where paved roads are still just beginning to make an appearance. If you keep driving, you will eventually reach the end of the road. At this stage, you would be in Labrador.
The region’s vast wilderness and plentiful caribou, deer, and small game populations, along with an abundance of coastal wildlife such as seal, whale, walrus, and fish were the perfect environment for the indigenous peoples of the Innu and Inuit. Basque whalers were next to follow, and started the influx of western cultures. Moravian missionaries began to set up communities along the inhospitable coastline of the region, establishing the region enough for British fishermen to arrive.
Today, the region’s natural resources are still the main draw for the few workers of the region (in 2015, Labrador’s unemployment rate was over double the Canadian average). From the iron-ore mines of the interior, to the rapidly expanding production of hydroelectric power harnessed from the Churchill River, it would seem that the fruits of nature are the only thing keeping Labrador’s economic heartbeat alive.
Those same natural resources that some see in the name of economic benefit are also what prompted a group of five kayakers to make the drive north to this wildly untouched wilderness, in search of unexplored rivers.