Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Great Salmon Run

A few summers ago I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the entire summer working as a whitewater guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon.  It was not my first time on the river, as the Middle Fork had been my first wilderness multi-day river trip just prior to my 18th birthday.  When the opportunity to spend an entire summer on the Middle Fork came about I took it without hesitation. One visit to the Middle Fork left me yearning to return to it’s awe-inspiring clutches.  

Me rowing Tanae down the Middle Fork in 2006
There are very few places on this planet that can compare to the wildness of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, through which the Middle Fork of the Salmon River flows.  The natural and pristine immaculately preserved, throughout most of the river there is hardly noticeable traces of mankind's heavy hand.  Without fail, at the end of our six day trips down the river our guests would express their experience with phrases like “trip of a lifetime” or “time of my life”.  I would thank them with a smile, knowing inside that it was my life and I would be able to repeat the voyage in just over a days time.  When I finished work for that summer I teared up as I drove home knowing I wouldn’t be back for a season.  I knew I would still be able to go back, at some point.  Humans are not the only frequent visitors to the Middle Fork as it serves as the return route for salmon.  It’s headwaters are spawning grounds that are thousands of years old.  Yet, unlike myself there are many things that threaten the ability of Wild Salmon to return to the Middle Fork, including many hydroelectric projects on the Lower Snake River, into which the Middle Fork eventually flows.  

Ty "the ace" Draney is as good of company one can find for this kind of trip
For a couple of years now I have tried, unsuccessfully, to win the lottery for a permit to float the Middle Fork of the Salmon.  It has been quite depressing every year to be turned down, knowing that my return to paradise is delayed.  Wild Salmon are in the same situation, trying to return, but inhibited by obstacles outside of their control.  During a run with a friend a little over a year ago an idea was hatched, to “run” the Middle Fork.  Not to run it in a fifteen foot raft but to run the trail that follows the river for over seventy miles.  After a year a planning and logistics the stars have aligned for Ty Draney and I to “run” the Middle Fork.  There have been obstacles along the way but we will not be deterred, in the same way we hope to draw more awareness to the issues facing Wild Salmon so that they to may “run” freely in the Middle Fork and it’s headwaters once again. 

Sweet Logo Save Our Salmon Designed for the Run

We have partnered with Save Our Wild Salmon to help raise awareness for what they do.  Please visit their website at this link: http://bit.ly/sos_greatsalmonrun2011   

We are planning on carrying a spot messenger so you can follow along here:  http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0G1xIJHOXiHO2q8H0RqWYUrYVdiYfb89J  

This is probably the first time I have set out to run where there is a higher cause then my somewhat selfish pursuits.  Hopefully it will just be the beginning.  Special thanks in advance to Patagonia for really stepping up to make this happen, also thanks to Ultraspire and First Endurance without these companies quality products this type of adventure would not be nearly as comfortable or really even possible.  


  1. Hats off to you both - have a great trip, be safe and enjoy!

  2. Nice run guys! I've been watching you the entire time via the Spot Connect. I'm super glad that you made it out okay, I was worried there for a little bit.

  3. Luke Nelson!

    I am proud of you. It's your old classmate (and former Save Our Wild Salmon employee) Linnae Nelson. Thanks for raising awareness with your run.

    Sincerely, LRN