Did you know that the mighty Colorado River used to reach the ocean but now it doesn’t due to heavy water diversion? It’s something that people have told me but never really thought about it or imagined what that could look like.
Back in 2011 a group of kayakers paddled down the Green and Colorado Rivers from source to sea and filmed the whole thing. They edited the entire 113 day journey into 3.5 minutes and called the short film, Mirror River.
Spoiler alert: it goes trickle > raging river > trickle.
I got news over the weekend that Amy and Dave Freeman finally completed their massive 3-year, 11,700 mile expedition called the North American Odyssey which included traveling by kayak, dogsled and canoe.
Back in April, 2010 they started their afternoon adventure in Bellingham, Washington paddling the entire coastline of British Columbia, then across the Yukon and eventually working their way back to Lake Superior. The last leg of the trip included kayaking to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence then down the eastern seaboard and eventually ended up at the southern tip of Florida.
The expedition was a partnership with their non-profit organization, Wilderness Classroom whose mission is to “increase students' appreciation for the environment while improving core academic skills by introducing students to the wonders of exploration and wilderness travel through live, web-based expeditions and school assemblies.”
We interviewed Amy and Dave last year just before starting the final leg of their trip.
If you are looking for an adventure this summer you should consider joining me on Lake Superior as we circumnavigate the extremely remote, Michipicoten Island (map link).
The Michipicoten Island Expedition (as we've dubbed it) is being organized by Naturally Superior Adventures and is an 8-day sea kayaking adventure for intermediate paddlers looking for a challenge yet still want to be under the care of a guide.
The plan is to take a 60 kilometer boat shuttle from Michipicoten Bay out to the mystic Michipicoten Island. We will then circumnavigate the island, make the 18 km perpendicular crossing from Bonner Head to the mainland, then eastwards along the Superior Highlands shore before finishing back at the NSA base in Michipicoten Bay, a total of about 140 km over the eight days.
Michipicoten has a very interesting cultural history. Once shunned by First Nations peoples as a place of malevolent giants, Michipicoten Island became one of Ontario's most promising sources of copper and an easy access point to Lake Superior's seemingly endless bounty of fish in the early 1900s. Since then, the copper mine and fishing village have been abandoned. All that remains are old mine shafts, ramshackle buildings and flourishing populations of woodland caribou and beaver. Throw in a couple of lighthouses and a few shipwrecks, rugged shoreline and you've got everything all wrapped up in this island expedition.
For those who have always wanted to do a trip on Lake Superior but shied away from a fully pampered guided trip, this is the adventure for you. It's unique in that it's designed as a self-reliant expedition so all members of the group are responsible for their own food & gear. I won't be cooking for you but I'm quite happy to bring you a cup of my famous poor tasting and burnt coffee in the morning. My role in the as leader will be to provide logistical support, local knowledge, a safety net and completely made-up stories of my time living with a pack of wolves.
Because it's a self-reliant trip in a very remote an inaccessible part of Lake Superior participants need to make sure they have a strong level of both kayaking skills and wilderness camping experience.
Michipicoten Island is an amazing place and completely unique to the rest of Lake Superior. I had the opportunity to visit back in 2007 and have wanted to return ever since.
The dates of the trip are Friday, August 2-10th. There is a floating price scale depending on the number of participants so for example, if we have 3 people the price is $1190 but that price drops to $750 if we get six people onboard so make sure you get a buddy to come along. Of course taxes are not included in those prices.
Check Naturally Superior Adventure's website for all the details and feel free to contact me or NSA with any questions you may have.
It's going to be wicked awesome.
Back in 1930 UK explorer, H.G. Watkins (the guy in the photo above) gathered a team together to see if a new air route between Britain and Canada could be established rather then flying across the dangerous ocean. The proposed route was to cross the Arctic via the Faroes,
Along with figuring out the route, the 14-man team had a goal to map the very poorly understood Greenland shoreline as well as gather climate data of the icecap of
All in all the year-long expedition was quite a success and it have some slow times allowing the team to take some kayak lessons from the local people living in
The footage below was captured in the summer of 1930 and shows members of the expedition in the last half.
Two interesting observations from the film; first, it’s clear towards the end of the footage, it’s team members rolling and playing around in the boats so they must have had enough time (and willingness to get wet) to actually learn how to roll. Could these be one of
The second thing I realized that even 82 years later, as soon as a group of kayakers who can roll get together somebody always wants to organize some sort of synchronised rolling demonstration.
Of course not everything on the expedition went smooth. During the winter of 1931, Augustine Courtauld volunteered to live solo at the weather station in the interior of
Freeze Frame has a better description of his adventure then I could ever make up:
Having left his spade outside [the station], Courtauld had struggled with the snow, it had filled both the exit and the openings into the snow house and stores. He had also been troubled by the loss of paraffin from two slightly punctured tins, this resulted in a shortage of fuel and as he also ran out of candles he had to spend some time in the dark. He also ate his meals uncooked so that the limited supply of fuel could be conserved to melt drinking water.
More info and fantastic photos can be found here.
Update: Upon further investigation, I found out that expedition leader, G.H. Watkins went back to Greenland in 1932 on a second expedition which would sadly end in tragedy for him.
During both the 1930 and 1932 trips to Greenland he spent a lot of time with the local people becoming quite proficient at kayaking. In fact he fell in love with the activity and people so much that the expedition was one of the first to make use of indigenous techniques and methods. He and his men were so at hunting seals from a kayak that they planned on not bringing any food for their 1932 expedition but rather live off the land completely. At the time this was completely unheard of especially by citizens of British society who looked down at the people of Greenland as savages.
Sadly the method of travel for the expedition wasn’t to come about as Watkins drowned in his kayak while he was out hunting on his own one day.
G.H. Watkins legacy to polar exploration was a real shift in mindset in how future expeditions are carried out; as well he planted the seeds of respect for the local people. It’s best described on the very fascinating site, Freeze Frame:
This expedition marked a real shift in the way explorers viewed indigenous technologies. Apart from following in Nansen’s footsteps in adopting the sledge and snowshoe designs [Watkins] adapted from Inuit versions during the periods in which he overwintered with them, few explorers had wholeheartedly examined and embraced Inuit survival techniques. Watkins’ final expedition, for which the food source was based entirely upon Inuit hunting methods, marks the start of changing views with regard to the Inuit and their techniques.
If you are an adventurous soul living in the
The Kukri Adventure Scholarship is a brand new program aimed at providing up to £20,000 in funding to help get your trip off the ground. Along with the cash you also get a pile of free gear as well which is fantastic.
Entering into the contest involves first coming up with a fantastic idea then making a short two-minute video to sell the idea to the judges and the public on Facebook.
The cool thing about the scholarship is that your level of expertise or fame isn’t a factor in winning but rather your ability to think up a good adventure, able to carry it out and bring back a good story to tell the world.
Ask ten people who live in Ontario where the best places are to go kayaking and you will probably get ten different answers. The opportunities for sea kayaking in Ontario are virtually endless and deciding where to go can be a bit daunting if you don’t already know the area. To help you get started, check out dealchecker. They can help you find the kayak or canoe holiday (as well as flights to Canada) that you are seeking.
Ontario borders four of the five Great Lakes which is one of the reasons it’s such a fantastic place for sea kayakers looking for adventure. Generally speaking, the two best lakes for sea kayaking are Lake Huron (in particular Georgian Bay) and Lake Superior. Both locations offer hundreds of miles of undeveloped shoreline and crystal clear water.
Georgian Bay is one of the classic Ontario destinations for sea kayakers. It’s an area known as the 30,000 islands and a huge amount of the shoreline is still undeveloped giving you the wilderness experience you are looking for.
The geography of Georgian Bay is very unique. During the last ice age that area of the Canadian Shield was scraped down by the retreating glaciers leaving behind campsites made of solid, smooth bedrock. This makes the area a perfect spot for kayak trips as you are not camping on sand or mud and the shoreline is free of weeds for swimming. Those are all good things in my book.
As far as trip routes to paddle in Georgian Bay, you have lots of options. The jumping off point for most people is at the many marinas just outside of Parry Sound. You can leave from the marina in Snug Harbour, Dillon Cove or Point au Baril for example and from there either paddle north or south along the shoreline. If you are looking for less people, plan your trip to get out to the many off-shore islands along its length. There will be a lot less boat traffic and cottages out there.
Getting to Georgian Bay isn’t that difficult for international travelers as you can fly directly into Toronto and a hire a car from a car for the 2.5h drive north to Parry Sound. From there you can access several outfitters who offer everything from boat/camping gear rentals all the way up to fully guided trips. Talk to White Squall Paddling Centre, Black Feather or Learn to Kayak. Wild Women Expeditions is a unique business that runs woman only trips out of the Georgian Bay area so you should contact them if you are looking for that sort of thing.
When it comes to sea kayak paddling locations in Ontario, the north shore of Lake Superior is the undisputed king and often voted as one of the most beautiful places to paddle in Canada.
The one thing to keep in mind is that paddling along Lake Superior is not for the faint of heart. With cold water and big waves due to high winds, you need to plan a trip on Lake Superior like you were planning a trip on any ocean. You should have fair bit of experience kayaking and camping if you are planning your own expedition. That being said, there are lots of excellent locations that beginner can visit when accompanied with a proper guide to help out.
At the East end of the lake international travelers can fly into Thunder Bay and use that location as the start for adventure with many excellent trips along the north shore. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park or Slate Islands are both excellent places to go with a guide.
Another very nice place to paddle that is also logistically easy to get to is Lake Superior Provincial Park along west shore between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie. Lake Superior Provincial Park offers a coastline that is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) long which is a very nice 5-7 day paddle. Just remember that the shoreline has several sections of large cliffs or inaccessible shoreline so make sure that you stay off the water when the wind is blowing as it can get very rough very quickly. June and July are the calmest months so plan your trip during that time.
There are several outfitters on Lake Superior who can help you with logistics including gear/boat hire, vehicle shuttles, or guided trips. Contact Naturally Superior Adventures, Superior Outfitters, Caribou Expeditions or Wildwaters for more information.
As you can see, Canada offers an unbelievable number of paddling opportunities and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. British Columbia, Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia all offer amazing destinations as well. If you are interested in a canoeing holiday there are so many rivers in the interior of Canada that you can’t even count them all on one hand.
Top photo credit: DSCN0339 ep | Eric.Parker Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic / CC BY-NC 2.0
Bottom photo credit: Lake Superior Provincial Park | Andrea Schafferhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en_CA / CC BY 2.0
Mad River Canoe is partnering with Dave Cornthwaite, a British adventurer, who is on a mission to complete 25 journeys, 1,000 miles each, by non-motorized means. The total distance of the 25 journeys is equivalent to the length of the circumference of the Earth around the equator. For Dave Cornthwaite’s next Expedition1000 adventure, Swim1000 Missouri, Cornthwaite will swim 1,000 miles on the Missouri River in 50 days starting in Chamberlain, S.D., on August 10, and ending in St. Louis, Mo., in late September 2012.
Mad River Canoe will supply Cornthwaite and his team with a Legend 16 canoe to haul gear and provide a stable platform for filming the expedition. Cheri McKenzie, Chief Marketing Officer for Confluence Watersports, said this: “Mad River Canoe is excited to be supporting Swim1000 and Dave Cornthwaite’s team. The expedition reflects the spirit of exploration that Mad River Canoe embodies, and we are honored that Dave and his team chose to incorporate the MRC tradition into this inspiring wilderness adventure.”
In addition to the canoe and film crew, Cornthwaite will be accompanied by a team of six stand-up paddle boarders and a small carbon fiber raft that he will use to tow and push his personal gear. The team hopes to complete 20 miles a day for 50 days.
All proceeds from the Swim1000 segment will go to CoppaFeel!, a charity that raises money for breast cancer education. By the time the Expedition1000 team is finished with all 25 expeditions, they hope to raise £1,000,000 through donations for charities, including CoppaFeel! To date, the team has raised £500,000 through private donations.
To learn more about Mad River Canoe and the Legend 16, visit www.madrivercanoe.com.
About Mad River Canoe:
Some say that a mischievous rabbit founded Mad River Canoe (read about it here). We’re not saying for sure, but when Jim Henry built the first Mad River Malecite in 1971, he was inspired by the Micmac Indian legend of a rabbit whose confidence was a powerful asset when backed up with innate abilities. Confidence, aptitude, innovation and results guided the beginning of Mad River Canoe and they persist in the brand and its boats today. For nearly 40 years, Mad River has devoted itself to the craft of building a better canoe, not for the glory, but for the results. Until you can get on the water to feel the confidence of a Mad River Canoe yourself, check us out online at www.madrivercanoe.com.
If you have ever wondered what it’s like to kayak or row across the ocean here is a clip that give you a very good example of what to expect.
This is a short film about Bhavik’s several attempts to row across the Atlantic from Spain to Antigua without a motor or sail. The total distance was 6393km and took over 100 days to complete.
Who knew it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns out there in the middle of the ocean?
Bhavik’s website: bhavik.com
I’m really shaken up. This morning I got this email from my good friend and teaching partner-in-crime, Bonnie Perry:
Is the paddler who died just the other day [on Lake Superior] the same fellow from Madison who was in our Paddle Canada Level 2/3 and BCU 3 star [last August]?
I clicked through to Dave Olson’s always entertaining blog, The Lake is the Boss where I confirmed what I had been fearing; that Robert (Bob) Weitzel was a student on the advanced kayaking course that Bonnie, Erik Ogaard and I taught at Naturally Superior Adventures last August (2011).
The news hit me like a sack of bricks. This wasn’t some yahoo paddler out in a short, fat recreational kayak in jeans; this guy knew what he was doing. He was prepared.
I have been reading regular drowning and accident reports in the press since this site went online six years ago and I have probably read what seems like 200+. I feel bad for people but it has never really hit me like this one did as I taught him some of the skills to get out there.
It’s not that I have survivor’s guilt or that I’m second guessing our teaching by asking myself, “Did we do everything we could for him?” In this case I believe we did. The course went really well and we worked through all the required skills for the certification.
But still, I’m shaken by the news in two different ways.
Firstly, Bob was a good paddler. I remember when he first came on the course he was in a very twitchy Greenlander Pro. That’s a crazy boat that only 3 people in the world can paddle with confidence so it’s no wonder he looked nervous on that first day. Once we got him in a different boat Bob’s confidence increased and his skills quickly developed over the week which was great to see.
All day today I have been asking myself, “If it could happen to Bob, could it happen to me?” Of course it could. As we move up the ladder of paddling competence, we sometimes feel that we are more invincible. The problem is, as we get better, to keep things interesting, we push the envelop and go out in bigger conditions or take different risks. There is nothing wrong with that of course. Paddling (and life) would get boring but we need to remember that risk management is just as important to you today as it was on the first day of your paddling career.
In Bob’s case we will likely never know exactly what happened. We do know the reported weather conditions which were roughly 30mph wind, 42F water and waves around 2-4'. The conditions were up there for sure but he had also good skills. It’s impossible to say what was going though his head when he was standing on the beach that morning deciding to go out or not.
The other part that has had me shaken today is the realization that as an instructor, it’s critical to make sure that you teach the skills to the highest possible standard. You owe it to them to teach the paddling skills for their level but even more importantly show them how to critically evaluate their skills as well as the conditions they can paddle in.
If you have a student on your course that just isn’t getting it (but maybe just enough to pass the certification), you owe it to tell them that they passed but they still have a long way to go before going out in slightly rougher water. Your students don’t know what they don’t know and it’s our job to show them the way as well as set proper expectations for when they are on their own.
I just feel terrible for Bob and his family and I want to express my deepest sympathies for their loss. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
PS - Bryan over at Paddling Light also wrote a very good article on risks in the outdoors that you also need to read. It's very good.
The fate of the early sea otter and Aleut populations are intrinsically linked. Before contact with Europeans it is estimated that there were 25,000 Aleuts, today there are about 2,000. Similarly the sea otter population is believed to have undergone a decline exceeding 50% over the past 30 years.
Kokatat ambassador Keirron Tastagh, and his long-term student and paddling partner George Shaw have embarked on a 1,500 mile expedition through the Aleutian Islands to investigate the current status of the sea otter population in the area.
“Our expedition is inspired by the Aleutians rich culture and kayaking heritage,” said Tastagh. “The journey will not only paint a picture of the current sea otter population, but will also provide a better understanding of ‘The Aleut Story’.”
Working with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Tastagh and Shaw will be recording the presence or absence of sea otters in bays, and noting killer whale position as well as taking photographs for identification for marine biologists’ live projects. Killer whale attacks are suspected to be leading cause for the decline of the Northern Sea Otter in the Aleutians, which is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Setting out from Unalaska, Tastagh and Shaw, who both train and live on the Isle of Man, UK, will paddle unsupported. They will carry all their kit and freeze dried meals on-board and will supplement their diet with fresh fish. Along the way they will encounter challenges such as katabatic winds, large tidal ranges, open crossings, sea fog, landing zones and the unpredictable and stormy Bering Sea.
Tastagh and Shaw plan to “explore as far as necessary to reach the conclusions we require” which could be as far as the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula.
Kokatat has supplied both paddlers with various gear for their Expedition Kit:
For more information on this and other Kokatat sponsored expeditions visit kokatat.com/expeditions.
About Kokatat Watersports Wear:
Celebrating over 40 years of innovation, Kokatat is an independently operated, US manufacturer of technical apparel and accessories for water sports. Handcrafted in Arcata, California, Kokatat employees are focused on building the finest functional product for people who work and play on water. Our gear is designed for paddlers, by paddlers, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience on the water all year long and in all weather conditions. Into the water with Kokatat! Please visit www.kokatat.com and follow Kokatat on Facebook and Twitter “@kokatat”.