Rafting the Skeena - Summer expeditions 2011

Strategists, activists and conservationalists get a water-level experience on the Skeena River


During August 2011, the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition (SWCC) invited two groups of conservation leaders, philanthropists, program staff of funding organizations, strategists and activists to raft down the Skeena river with us.

The idea behind these trips was to provide a unique opportunity for these individuals to personally connect with the ecosystem, and the SWCC crew while bouncing down the river they are so passionate about saving.

Along with this water-level experience, these expeditions allowed SWCC staff, local volunteers and the visitors to collectively explore the challenges and opportunities to create lasting strategic and financial plans to safeguard this magnificent ecosystem while exploring the Skeena!

A dynamic SWCC crew, including Skeena Swimmer, made for lots of laughs and awesome food

As the groups of 10 guests, rafted down the river together they shared stories, ideas and lots of laughs.  They were guided by the wise Brian Huntington, looked after by the awesome safety kayaker Karen Tam Wu, entertained by the ever effervescent Shannon McPhail, and charmed by the oarsmen Matt Louis and Jimmy Allen.

Swimming beside the raft was, of course, everyone’s favourite heroine Ali Howard. This wonder woman would, after a full day of swimming,  set up her kitchen beside the river and cook sensational gourmet meals.

The groups travelled approximately 140 km of the Skeena, through Gitxsan Territories including Gwininitxw, following the same path Ali swam in her epic 2009 Spirit of the Skeena Swim.

Like all good river adventures, there were lots of excitement; Shannon pouring buckets of water over people while they were enjoying a spot of fishing, Bowser – the dog and expedition mascot – taking an unexpected dip, and lots and lots of adrenalin pumping white water!

Trip highlights include getting a chance to see and touch the ancient petroglyphs just above the Kuldo river confluence, seeing a grizzly running across a meadow from the air, Shannon’s stories and pranks and of course alfresco dining, courtesy of Ali Howard.

In the evenings, the visitors and SWCC crew spent hours around the campfire, telling stories and strategizing and about how to protect the watershed while surrounded by its rugged beauty.

The best laid plans are made around the camp fire, and beside the river you're trying to protect

““The relationship building and collaboration ideas that came out of this trip is nothing that could have ever been replicated in a board room,” says Julia Hall of Skeena Wild. “It was this very simple concept that reinvigorated me to do my work. It confirmed to me that I have no choice but to continue to fight for the Skeena. It was pretty spectacular to watch all of us in our element...out in the beautiful systems that we have devoted our lives to protecting.”

What struck Shannon was that the trips gave the visitors an opportunity to really understand the importance of the river, to the people who live in the watershed. "It was amazing to see how shocked people were to know that we drink straight out of the river, unfiltered and untreated.  Sometimes it's easy to forget that most of the world can't do that,” says Shannon.

Scott Bosse from Confluence says for him the trip was extremely valuable. “Seeing the place and meeting the staff of SWCC was priceless. What an amazingly beautiful and pristine place the Skeena watershed is, and what an inspiring group of people at SWCC,” while Brian Huntington says: “Floating the Skeena day after day over such a huge distance will change your life!”

Each trip ended with a evening of fine dining at the beautiful Bearclaw Lodge where other community collaborators come to Kispiox to share a delicious meal and a vision for the Skeena with the visitors and the expedition crew.

SWCC sincerely thanks the visitors for coming to the watershed. We were delighted by the sense adventure and sincerity of the groups we took down the Skeena. SWCC also thanks the Stork Nest Inn, Bear Claw Lodge, Don Messier for all the fresh veggies, and of course our SWCC staff and volunteers for making these trips possible.