Thursday, March 27, 2014


One of the best aspects of kayaking is the ability to explore places that are remote and otherwise inaccessible. I always appreciate that I am able to experience a river, stream, or waterfall that only miniscule fraction the rest of humanity will ever see. The ability to explore these areas is part of what makes kayaking so fun, but beyond that, it can also provide kayakers with a unique opportunity to help scientists better understand our world.

That’s where Adventurers and Scientists forConservation (ASC) comes in. ASC is a really cool program that teams up outdoor sports enthusiasts with researchers, allowing scientists to solicit sample collection from very remote areas. I signed up the CCC to be a part of ASC, and they teamed us up with Dr. Loren Bahls, who studies diatoms. Diatoms are unicellular aquatic microbes with cellwalls make of glass- silicon dioxide. Diatoms are ubiquitous in pretty much all water environments, and make up the main bulk of the base of the food pyramid: they are estimated to account for 40% of all plant production worldwide, and as photosynthesizers they play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Diatoms are good water quality indicators and identifying diatoms in various waters tells us a lot about that specific habitat. Currently, it’s estimated that only 12% of the global diatom species have been named and described; of the diatoms identified in the US, most have been found in lower elevation, polluted waters. So, armed with sampling bags and paddles, the CCC headed off to Washington to try to find some new diatom species in some pristine NW kayaking runs.
First up, we headed to the Upper Upper Cispus. After getting warmed up on the put-in waterfall, we took our first sample just below the Adam’s Creek confluence.

Sampling Crew (photo by Joe Kemper)
After that we pretty much concentrated on kayaking. Lucas Glick and Michael both had great lines on Island (I had a great line on the portage around island), and at one point I was laughing out loud after landing a massive boof on one of the bigger boulder garden rapids.
Lucas Reitman blasting through the hole at the bottom of the gorge of no return
But, before we knew it, we were at the lip of Behemoth. Behemoth is definitely one of the most intimidating waterfalls I’ve run, but there’s not really another option (technically the portage is possible, but even experienced and frequent portagers like myself find it intimidating). In the end we all had good lines off the monster, although some were more stylish than others. And, while I was waiting for the boys to make it down, I took some more Diatom samples!!

Diatom Sample, shown with Behemoth for scale

Joe, showing off his EG lean

The final boulder gardens were delightful. And near the end of the run, we hiked up a side canyon and found an extra bonus waterfall (and some more diatoms)!

Michael and I hunting diatoms

Myself, being very excited about diatom collection (photo by Lucas Rietmann)
The next day the adrenal glands were shot, so we went for a mellow BZ Corner to Columbia run. We got another 4 diatom samples along this stretch.
Jacob nailing a sweeet sampling line

Chillin' in the cave, catching diatoms

Collecting samples on these kayaking runs introduced me to a new perspective. Especially in the flat water stretches, I spent more time searching the gorge walls for seeps, side-streams, and small waterfalls coming into the river. I’ve always appreciated the scenery that I get to see when I’m down in these remote gorges and canyons, but focusing on these things made me realize how much I miss when I’m just concentrating on the whitewater. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing to do some sampling, especially on some of these exploratory creeks that Jacob has lined up…

I highly recommend that any adventure-type folks check out ASC, they have projects all over the world that are looking for people to do very simple sampling or keeping records of wildlife that they see.

And now back to your regularly scheduled kayaking with a video of the UUCispus by Lucas Rietmann:

Upper Upper Cispus from Lucas Rietmann on Vimeo.

     ~Anna Herring

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