The Outside Blog

Adventure : Nature

Young Kayakers Paddle to Save Chile's Endangered Rivers


Chilean Patagonia is home to some of the wildest and most stunning rivers in the world. The largest, the Rio Baker, is renowned for its clear, turquoise water and Class V rapids and has become a magnet for expedition kayakers from around the world. But perhaps no one knows it better than a group of young, local kayakers who are lucky to have the Baker in their backyard. For the past 13 years, the Club Náutico Escualo has been teaching kids ages four to 18 to surf, roll and run the Áysen region’s most pristine rivers. Many of these children are first-generation kayakers, the sons and daughters of ranchers and farmers in the remote village of Cochrane.


Now these young paddlers have become the rivers’ most ardent, persuasive advocates. The Spanish electric company Endesa is proposing to build five hydroelectric dams on the Rio Baker and Pascua, as well as the Futeleufu, and transport power 1,200 miles away via high-tension transport lines, turning wild rivers into lakes and forever changing the landscape and way of life in the Áysen region. Not surprisingly, according to the National Resources Defense Council, 74 percent of Chileans oppose the project.


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Western Australia Approves Plan Allowing Killing of Great White Sharks

Shutterstock_89941513Great white shark. Photo: David Stephens/Shutterstock

On Thursday, the government of Western Australia released a plan that will allow the killing of great white sharks that venture too close to people in the water. The government said it approved the measure because great white sharks killed five people off the region's coast within the last year.

"We will always put the lives and safety of beachgoers ahead of the shark," Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett told reporters. "This is, after all, a fish—let's keep it in perspective."

The government set aside $2 million (Australian) for tracking and hunting measures out of a $6.85 million plan meant to reduce shark attacks. Previous government hunts of the protected fish occurred only after a shark attack.

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Seeing Forests for the (Burnt) Trees: Wildfire and Watersheds

Hayman_Restoration-6Vail volunteers work the soil with the National Forest Foundation. Photo: Peter M. Fredin

Quick, name the three national parks closest to your home. Not so hard, right? Now name the three closest national forests. I was only able to name a couple of the 15 in my home state of California before having to look at a map.

I’m not alone, says Bill Possiel, president of the National Forest Foundation. “We think of national parks as these iconic landscapes. You could do a survey and find that a majority of Americans know the National Park System and many have visited national parks, but that is not the case with the National Forest System. But we’re trying to change that.”

The National Forest Foundation is an independent, non-profit partner of the U.S. Forest Service and this summer it launched a public awareness campaign aimed at getting more outdoor enthusiasts involved in the care of national forests and grasslands near their homes. According to the group, two-thirds of Americans live within 100 miles of a national forest or grassland.

Top on the NFF’s list of projects aimed at improving forest health is watershed remediation within areas hit by severe wildfires.

So what do forest fires have to do with the nation’s headwaters?

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Get Inside a School of Spawning Salmon

Russ Ricketts' money shot. Watch more river snorkeling videos here.

We all want to capture a money shot, whether that is literally a photograph, or a video, or a perfectly baked apple pie or a novel or a painting. Sometimes everything just comes together and diligence is rewarded.

It took Russ Ricketts, who wrote this guest post on river snorkeling for Adventure Ethics, about two years to land this video of a school of Chinook Salmon on its journey up the Wenatchee River, looking for natal streams to spawn. I asked him for the backstory.

Where were you? Was it a place you’ve shot before?
The footage was shot in the Wenatchee River, right behind my house in Leavenworth, Washington. This hole is famous for fish, and it's heavily fished because of that reason. I only swim when there's no fishermen. Otherwise it's just disrespectful.

How did you go about making the camera housing?
Nothing special, just a GoPro camera with the dive housing that corrects the fish-eye view. The real difference is the rubber-coated five-pound chunk of lead I attach the camera to. The currents are strong down there and a camera will just get blown off the rock you place it on. No footage then!

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Reindeer Are Scared of Snowkiting Hordes—Skiers, Not So Much

Shutterstock_31436419A reindeer running in Norway. Photo: Shutterstock

Here's something that might not surprise: Scientists have used a model to predict that if a formation of 241 snowkiters were to fly across the Norwegian tundra at six miles per hour toward a herd of reindeer, the animals would be so stressed out that they would stop feeding entirely and try to escape.

Scientists modeled such a response after a series of observations. In the winter of 2006-07, they recorded the flight response times of reindeer in Norefjell-Reinsjøfjell, Norway, as the animals were approached directly by snowkiters and skiers. The reindeer ran further away when the intruder had a kite. The snowkiters could move over large areas. The skiers kept to trails. The scientists modeled the effect of the skiers on the herd and found them to be less disruptive than the snowkiters. A group of 105 skiers would reduce reindeer feeding time by up to 7.5 percent. Once the number of skiers increased beyond that, the scientists said the reindeer would just move away from the ski trails and return to normal feeding.

The scientists did not return emails for comment or a full text of their work, but a follow-up article on the study in the BBC said that the response was logical for a number of reasons: snowkiters cover more area than skiers, they move faster than skiers, and the athletes' kites are more visible for a greater distance.

Whether snowkiting ever reaches a level of popularity where 241 athletes would gather to fly at a herd of reindeer remains to be seen. But, apparently, in Norway, the sport has gained enough traction that scientists felt it was necessary to recommend more study and management of snowkiters in reindeer habitat.

—Joe Spring

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