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Rafting the great expedition rivers of North America

July 18

A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure. It offers a necessity of life that must be rationed among those who have power over it.
— Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in New Jersey v. New York, 283 U.S. 336, 342 (1931)

Wilderness rivers have always been special to me. We started taking multiday wilderness river trips when our sons were young, as a way of getting away from it all and enjoying concentrated special time with them. Our first multiday river trip was about 1990: a raft trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho. I was hooked. Wilderness river raft trips are among the best ways to spend a vacation.

I set a goal of rafting the seven greatest expedition rivers of North American before I turn 60. Five down: the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, the Chilko/Chilcotin/Fraser Rivers in British Columbia, the Tatshenshini/Lower Alsek Rivers in the Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska, and the Firth River in the Canadian Arctic. With this post is a picture from our Firth River trip two years ago.

In a few days, we will raft and camp along the Nahanni River for 12 days in the Northwest Territories, with ample time for hiking. The Nahanni River is often called the Grand Canyon of Canada, due to its deep gorge.
I hope to complete the seventh river next year, which is the Upper Alsek in the Yukon.

We always go with guides on these rivers, which are relatively safe, if you are with someone who knows how to navigate through the trouble spots. Of course, no computers or Internet on the river, so it’s a great way to disconnect completely. No posts for 12 days.

What makes river rafting so special? Wilderness advocate Bob Marshall said it best:

Swift or smooth, broad as the Hudson or narrow enough to scrape your gunwales, every river is a world of its own, unique in pattern and personality. Each mile on a river will take you further from home than a hundred miles on a road.

Off to the river!

(See also Jane Bahls’ Arctic Adventures blog).

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