At 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26 at the Requa Boat Launch, the Yurok Tribe will welcome fourteen local indigenous youth who have recently completed intensive whitewater kayaking training to prepare to lead the first descent of the river. Klamath after the highly anticipated withdrawal. of four dams. Representing the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley tribes as well as the Klamath tribes of Oregon, the teenagers are expected to land in Requa just before 1 p.m. Please come out and show your support for the brave young locals!
Maqlaqs Paddle and Ríos to Rivers ran the two-and-a-half-week Paddle Tribal Waters program, which provided participants with the diversity of skills needed to navigate the river safely in a kayak. The renowned World Class Kayak Academy and local kayaking school Otter Bar Lodge taught teenagers all aspects of whitewater sailing, such as how to identify hazards and how to maneuver in large rapids. The group also learned self-rescue techniques, how to read water and much more. During the skill building exercise, the youths also worked on developing river defense skills.
“Tribal people from the headwaters of the Klamath to the coast fought so hard for the removal of the dam because it is the greatest action we can take to restore the river for our young people and generations to come,” said said Joseph L. James, the president of the Yurok tribe. “I can’t wait to see these kids paddling the free-flowing river.”
“As a teenager in the Klamath River Basin, I have heard about the removal of dams almost all my life. I went to my first protest against the roadblocks over 10 years ago and am starting to build a career around protecting my homeland because of this fight. Being part of The Paddle Tribal Waters program has been one of the most inspiring experiences of my life, watching the young people of Klamath Basin enjoy their home rivers and learn to protect them has reminded me of why we fight so hard to these things. We fight so that our future generations can have these opportunities to connect with their homes and their inhabitants, including our past and future generations. Danielle R. Frank, Hoopa/Yurok Youth and Save California Salmon Youth Coordinator
“Padling has given me a way to experience rivers beyond just showing up to fight for the health of rivers or for our traditional food systems. Being able to recreate on my ancestral waterways as well inspires me endlessly,” added Paul Wilson, Ríos to Rivers Chief Storyteller, Co-Founder of Maqlaqs Paddle and Klamath Tribesman.
In previous years, Ríos to Rivers has organized river trips with indigenous young people from North and South America, including teenagers from local tribes. This year, in anticipation of the dam removal, the river defense organization decided to invite tribal youth from the Klamath Basin.
Fourteen local youngsters between the ages of 14 and 18 completed the Paddle Tribal Waters program. Many program participants learned to kayak for the first time. Jackson Kayaks donated 16 fully furnished premium boats for the training. Werner Paddles donated kayak paddles and Northwest River Supplies (NRS) donated life jackets, helmets and other safety gear. Kayaks and equipment will remain in Klamath Basin for more young locals to learn boating skills before the dams are removed.
Filmmakers Paul Wilson and Rush Sturges make a documentary film about the learning process of tribal youth kayaking and preparing to be the first to paddle the river after the dam is removed.
The Federal Regulatory Commission along with PacifiCorp, the State of California, and the State of Oregon are expected to soon approve the removal of the four lower dams on the Klamath River, which include: the JC Boyle Dam in Oregon and Copco 1, Copco 2 and Iron Gate Dam in California. Representing the largest river restoration project in U.S. history, the dam removal will open up more than 300 miles of historic salmon spawning habitat. It will establish a more natural flow regime and other important natural processes. The decommissioning of outdated structures will also significantly reduce concentrations of toxic blue-green algae, making the river safe for recreational activities, such as whitewater kayaking.
Maqlaqs Paddle – Paddle Tribal Waters is run by Maqlaqs Paddle, a kayaking club founded by Ríos to Rivers alumni Paul and Ashia Wilson in 2018. The club was founded to provide community access to Klamath Tribal waters and marshes in southern Oregon. They use donated kayaks to harvest wocus and elk – two of their earliest staple foods. Collected foods are shared both locally and among tribes, which initiates ceremony, revitalization and community gatherings.
Ríos to Rivers – Founded in 2012, Ríos to Rivers exchanges have connected 224 underserved and indigenous students from 20 threatened river basins in seven countries. The programs have included students and community leaders from 14 Indigenous nations. Ríos to Rivers’ mission is to facilitate local educational experiences that inspire and empower the next generation of river stewards.
World Class Kayak Academy – World Class Kayak Academy is a traveling high school for students who want to study while exploring unique rivers and cultures around the world. WCKA provides its kayak training program, coaches who have years of experience teaching teens to kayak, vehicles, kayak trailers and administrative support to make Paddle Tribal Waters possible.
For more information on Otter Bar Lodge: https://otterbar.com/about/