Canoeing the Hood River, an adventure to the vanishing Arctic, Wenatchee River Institute Red Barn Event
In July 2019, Wenatchee Valley residents Gordon Congdon, Paul Hessburg, Gary Womeldorff, and Andy Dappen spent 23 days canoeing the Hood River, a river flowing northeasterly from the lakes of Nunavut in northern Canada to the Arctic Sound. On Wed., Feb. 12, 7-8:30pm, come hear tales of their trip in WRI’s Red Barn, 347 Division St. in Leavenworth.
The combination of abundant wildlife, challenging whitewater, extreme remoteness, and rugged landscape make Hood River one of the premier northern rivers to canoe. Yet, the many portages around un-runnable rapids and waterfalls makes it a physically demanding trip; only a few groups paddle it each year.
“The four of us who took the trip are in our mid-60s, and we worried if we didn’t do this river soon we wouldn’t be doing it all,” said Dappen. “We felt it important to run the river sooner rather than later, partly because we were still fit enough for all the portaging, and partly because the Arctic is changing so fast,” he concluded.
By the mid-1980s, the Bathurst caribou herd was composed of over 472,000 animals migrating north through this watershed during summer to feed on nutrient-rich foliage and lichens near the Arctic Sound. In late summer, the herd again travels through the watershed, returning to the more sheltered wintering grounds of the boreal forest to the south. A variety of environmental challenges connected to climate change has seen the herd numbers crash, and by 2018 the herd had diminished to a mere 8,200 animals.
“When a keystone species like the caribou crashes, everything dependent on it implodes along with it, from beetles, birds, beers and wolves to vegetation. The Arctic we experienced was not really the Arctic of old, what we experienced was really only a romanticized concept of the Arctic,” lamented Dappen.
Congdon prefers to canoe through wild, remote places, where the chances are good to see large carnivores, such as wolves and grizzly bear. Says Congdon, “I love the Arctic. The tundra landscape explodes with life during the 6-week summer season. The sun never sets so you can paddle during the day and hike long into the evening.”
While the area is referred to as barren lands because of its far north location and temperatures cold enough to prevent forest growth, at ground level the canoers enjoyed taking in the sights of dwarf trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, sedges, mosses, fungus, and lichen carpeting every available square inch of ground. “The land is anything but barren, it is lush with both flora and the fauna,” explains Dappen.
Part discussion, part slideshow set to ballad poetry written by Hessburg during the journey, this presentation captures the essence and magnitude of the adventure, while also addressing the scope and importance of what is being lost in the vanishing Arctic.
And while the group would certainly enjoy padding the Hood again, considering limitations of time and funds, they are keen to set their sights on new rivers to paddle and adventures to be had.
Doors open at 6:30pm for community social and no-host refreshments, presentation begins at 7:00pm. While this a free event, donations are appreciated and will help WRI continue to bring enriching programs like this to the greater Wenatchee Valley community. Please contact Rebecca Ryan with questions, (509)548-1818 x2, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Event link: https://wenatcheeriverinstitute.org/event-calendar.html/event/2020/02/12/red-barn-event-canoeing-the-hood-river-an-adventure-to-the-vanishing-arctic/272232