|  Your source for news and events in the Columbia Valley

 Posted in    |  on November 1st, 2013  |  by

Paddlers make like Columbia River salmon

JOURNEY’S END — Four American paddlers have completed a nearly 2,000-kilometre long paddling journey up the Columbia River when they arrived in Canal Flats on Monday, October 28th. Photo by Sylvie Hoobanoff

JOURNEY’S END — Four American paddlers have completed a nearly 2,000-kilometre long paddling journey up the Columbia River when they arrived in Canal Flats on Monday, October 28th. Photo by Sylvie Hoobanoff

By Dan Walton
Pioneer Staff

After nearly three months travelling upstream, a group of American paddlers have spanned nearly 2,000 kilometres along a route that was once a favourite spawning environment for salmon.
Members of the Voyagers of Rediscovery embarked on the journey on Friday, August 2nd from Astoria, Oregon, with Canal Flats — the headwaters of the Columbia River — serving as their final destination. The project is part of an environmental educational program, and the team has been sharing their experiences at schools throughout their trip.
“We are travelling for fish passage; in the grand scheme, we would like to see fish ladders installed on the dams which don’t have any, which is the Chief Joseph and the Grand Cooley Dam,” said paddler Jay Callahan, adding that the river has endorsed their journey. “We’ve had good weather where its normally poor and the wind at our backs when we needed it most.”
Before their arrival in Canal Flats, the crew made one last stop in Windermere at the Lakeshore Resort Campground on Saturday, October 27th, where they were warmly welcomed by the Ktunaxa First Nation.
Their trip is symbolic of the spawning route that was very important before the completion of the Grand Cooley Dam in northeast Washington, which drastically reduced the Columbia Valley’s salmon fishery.
The crew arrived in two watercraft: a raft and a canoe, which was modelled after a previous traveller of the Columbia River, explorer David Thompson.
“He improvised and built basically birchbark canoes,” Mr. Callahan said.
“Then he got into the middle of the Columbia, where there was no birch, so he split out cedar planks and made big cedar canoes for transporting furs and stuff.”
And that’s what the Voyagers of Rediscovery did – after crafting a birchbark canoe from their start near the Pacific Ocean, they left several canoes with schools along the way, and re-crafted a new one from cedar wood in Kettle Falls, Washington.
And because the tree was over 300-years-old, salmon would have coexisted and exchanged nutrients in its ecosystem for the majority of its lifespan.
“The tree literally has the spirit of the salmon in it,” said another member of the voyage, John Zinser.
While it would be easier to paddle from the source of the water into the ocean, the team decided to paddle against the current to mimic the journey of the salmon, Mr. Kinser said.
He believes that many of the residents along the Columbia River are disconnected from the importance of the habitat, as some people they’ve met along the way were unaware that the Columbia River connects to the ocean.
The group reached Canal Flats on Monday, October 28th, and have months worth of speaking engagements booked at schools along the river.

Dan Walton
Email: dan@columbiavalleypioneer.com
More from

Before joining The Pioneer early in 2013, Dan was employed at a Saskatchewan newspaper. While the views of the sky are an appealing feature of the Prairies, the scenery can't compare to the mountains found only in British Columbia, where Dan looks forward to hiking, biking, rock climbing and downhill skiing, and writing the occasional opinionated column, while keeping his mind open to opposing viewpoints. Any and all feedback is welcome!

One Response to Paddlers make like Columbia River salmon

  1. Ross MacDonald says:

    Dan, thank you for the article. What these paddlers have achieved is truly remarkable. 2000 km upstream from the ocean to the Columbia’s source. Wow!

    A couple of errors did get into your article.
    The ‘raft’ that they arrived at the shores of Lake Windermere was in fact a Voyageur styled canoe owned by the Ktunaxa Nation. Voyageur canoes were used in the fur trade era along the river highways of Canada from Montreal to the east side of the Rockies.

    The Voyages of Rediscovery paddlers built and paddled wooden dug out canoes on the lower sections of the Columbia River before building their David Thompson replica cedar strip canoe at Kettle Falls.

    Ross MacDonald, Past Co-Chair David Thompson Bicentennial Recognition. (2007-2011)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note: All comments are moderated during regular working hours, your comment will appear once it has been approved. We reserve the right to publish any online comment in the regular newspaper in a section called "Words from the Web". Questions? Call the office at 250-341-6299.