Camera adventure

Source to Port: Journalists Chronicling Chehalis River Adventure From Pe Ell to Hoquiam

By Isabel Vander Stoep / [email protected]

Shrouded in early May mist and Oregon ash, the Black River Tuesday morning engulfed our shadows as we paddled downstream.

The horns of Canada geese and the trills of red-winged blackbirds have erased the sounds that remind us of civilization.

But the peaceful darkness turns to a shade of muddy green where the river meets its main stem.

As we approached the confluence of the Chehalis and Black rivers, the sound of a spinning chainsaw was the first sign of a challenge ahead.

As I watched Chronicle photographer Jared Wenzelburger descend the Chehalis River with a half-broken kayak paddle, I thought to myself, “Somewhere in here there’s a joke about being in a creek without a paddle.”

His paddle broke moments after he tried to take a picture of a bald eagle sitting on the river bank about 40 yards from us, but the camera lens was waterlogged.

Although scratches were among the least of the day’s concerns, the bump on my knee after falling from my kayak onto the concrete boat ramp was about the size of the cherry I had bet on our amateur mistakes. Without an additional paddle, without a waterproof camera, without a pump for an overturned kayak and almost without experience with river kayaking, I learned a lot – even if some of it was the hard way.

Lee First, an environmental activist through a non-profit organization called Waterkeeper Alliance, has paddled most of Chehalis’s main stem three times, sailed many of its tributaries, and completed about 50 day trips. day on the river. On Tuesday, she guided us from the Oakville boat launch on the Black River to the Oakville boat launch on the Chehalis in her canoe alongside river geomorphologist Paul Bakke. There will be a story about these two people later.

Several people directed me to Lee when I told them about the plan.

Around May 20, Wenzelburger and I plan to tackle the main stem of the Chehalis by kayak, starting from Pe Ell.

We aim to interview as many people as possible along the way, spotlighting the people and projects of the river. In addition to traditional stories, we will also share our views through first-person accounts. Everything will be released as we travel downstream, with newsroom staff meeting with us each day to collect content and deliver supplies.

The Chronicle calls this journey “Source to Port”, although some say the actual source of the Chehalis begins in Wahkiakum County in the Willapa Hills. It’s a bit of a misnomer, but all the other ideas were too. “Pe Ell to the Pacific” wasn’t quite right, as we weren’t planning on kayaking beyond Grays Harbor. Willapas in Wishkah? You get it.

Our trip comes about 13 years after The Chronicle completed a similar undertaking, with former photojournalist Brandon Swanson and Chronicle editor Eric Schwartz starring as 2009 adventurers traveling from Rainbow Falls State Park at Grays Harbor.

This time around the plan is to take about 10 days paddling downstream from Pe Ell to Grays Harbor. That should give us plenty of time to get out and smell the cow manure. Lee says the trip takes him about six days of serious all-day paddling.

We will camp at beaches and riverside campgrounds. When we arrive in Centralia, we can even go out for a night in our own beds. The plan is subject to change in the event of injury, weather conditions or other unforeseen challenges.

You can also experience the journey beyond the pages of The Chronicle. In addition to daily river logs, pre-written stories focusing on a variety of river issues, and stories from people we meet on our travels through the state’s second-largest river basin, we’ll provide frequent updates on The Chronicle’s social media channels. Find photos, videos and more on Twitter (@chronline), Instagram (@chronicle_photos) and Facebook (@thecentralichronicle).

We would like your help. If you have story ideas, tips, materials, maps, tools, or anything else you’d like to share, please email me at [email protected]