A Wild Chetco Adventure

Summer is a great time for river adventures.  Floating down a Wild and Scenic River in areas where few people ever go is a thrilling endeavor. In 2010, we listed the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in Oregon as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™.

One of our partners on the Chetco listing, wild rivers enthusiast Ann Vileisis, is an American Rivers supporter on the Southwest Oregon coast. She is married to river runner and author Tim Palmer, a long-time American Rivers supporter. Recently Ann went on a wild river paddle along the Chetco River, and she shares her story below:

“Summer vacation was especially meaningful this year. I finally got to explore a remote reach of the Wild and Scenic Chetco River that I’ve been working several years to protect from the threat of increased gold mining.

“The Chetco flows from rugged mountains in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness down to the ocean in southwest Oregon, not far from my home. I knew the river’s roaded, close-to-town reaches, but I’d never had the chance to paddle its difficult-to-access, class 4, wild and scenic reaches.

“Our low-water, mini expedition began with a couple of days heading upstream.  We paddled through brilliant clear pools and dragged our inflatable kayaks up bony rapids to check out a wild reach at the wilderness edge.  Then we floated back downstream through a forest-clad canyon, following the small river through a relentless series of maze-like drops with massive boulders.  The low water and inflatable kayaks made the usually challenging whitewater fun and not-too-hard.

“As a river lover, I’ve paddled my fair share of Wild and Scenic Rivers, but the Chetco is unique.  It has a small canyon and gin-clear water— some of the clearest that I’ve ever seen.  In deep pools, we could see down 40 feet to cobbles at the bottom, and in some places it looked like our boats were floating on sky.  The water was alive as it should be— filled with newts, crayfish, caddisflies, and thousands of little fishes.

“Next winter when the hard rains come and the waters rise, I’ll know where the salmon and steelhead are heading.  I’ll remember the river magic and know deeply— in every water molecule of my body— that the Wild and Scenic Chetco deserves defending.

Thank you Ann for sharing your river adventure with us and for all of your hard work in support of the Chetco River!  It is great to know that we have supporters like you out there fighting for these special places.