Category Archives: Rafting

Rafting trips, whitewater rafting, float trips, rafting.

50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Hey Folks,

December 6, 2010, marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, in Alaska. To commemorate this, and as a tribute to an amazing place, I’ve put together this slide show; 50 photos to mark the 50 years. These are all images from the Refuge, over 19 million acres of wild lands. The refuge is a treasure, home to thousands of creatures and features; the caribou herds, the Brooks Mountains, the broad coastal plain, migratory birds and countless other gifts to this world. A beautiful landscape that warrants our respect, not our exploitation.

I selected the images to present a the diversity of features and creatures that call the Refuge home, and composed and recorded the music to accompany it. I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Arctic lupine and Brooks Range, ANWR, Alaska.

A small bloom of Arctic Lupine in the Brooks Mountain Range catch last light of the summer day. Land of the midnight sun, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, in arctic Alaska where the coastal plain meet the Brooks Mountain Range. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Another photo from the Brooks Range, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Back in September the US F&WS (Fish and Wildlife Service) announced, as part of their Comprehensive Conservation Plan, that “the Service will conduct wilderness reviews for three Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) for potential inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System. These three WSAs encompass almost all refuge lands not currently designated as wilderness”. This is good news. I’ll reiterate my favorite part of the quote: “These three WSAs encompass almost all refuge lands not currently designated as wilderness.

There are numerous steps involved, and, if recommended by the US F&WS, approval is required by the Dept Director, the Secretary of the Interior, and the President. Then, the final decision lies with the US Congress; the actual authority to designate land as ‘wilderness’.

It’s almost comical, really; such a rigorous and formalized process to meander through in order to deem lands “wild”. Implicit in the word wild is ‘free will’ –  yet not quite so wild as to be free of the rigmarole of official procedure, of course.

Anyone who suggests the 19 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge isn’t a wilderness either hasn’t been there or is simply in denial. Perhaps I could say it more clearly this way; if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t qualify for ‘wilderness designation’, then we might as well remove that term from our vocabulary. Surely there is no place more deserving of such designation than the Refuge?

The “wilderness reviews” should be completed by Feb 2011, which will be followed by a released draft, more public comment, more revisions, and hopefully, a final plan and recommendation in May 2012. Apparently wilderness takes careful planning and review; it’s not simply created overnight.

A reminder that Dec 06, 2010, marks the coming anniversary of the establishment of the Refuge; I’m working on a little project for it, and should have it online soon. Stand warned. 🙂



Photographers and icons

Dwarf Fireweed, Brooks Mountain Range, ANWR, Alaska.

Dwarf fireweed (Epilobium latifolium) and the Upper Marsh Fork River of the Brooks mountain range, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Mid summer, this photo was taken about 2:00am. First light of the day. 🙂 Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Recently I’ve read a few articles and posts about photography and and photographers, and particularly landscape photographers; the question of ‘shooting icons’ almost invariably comes up. For those readers here who aren’t quite sure what that is a reference to, it simply points to the regularity with which so many famous landscapes are photographed. Scenes such as Grand Teton from the Snake River Overlook, Yellowstone National Park’s Lower Falls are almost ubiquitous with landscape photography.

It’s an interesting discussion. Those kinds of locations are frequently photographed because not only are they spectacular scenes, but they’re also great to photograph; overlooks and viewpoints seemingly designed with the landscape photographer in mind. This is not true of all spectacular scenes, for a variety of reasons.

The primary reason a scene like this one, of Mount Edith Cavell and Cavell Lake in Canada’s Jasper National Park has been photographed so many more times than, say, the scene at left, is that Edith Cavell is road accessible. All the other discourse about happiness and contentment and art versus stock and following one’s creative muse and shooting your passion is simply talk; it all comes down to the pavement. If it’s off the road, it’s probably not an icon.

The question then concerns itself with the value of our pursuit; and that, like so many such questions, is entirely contextual. For some people, shooting photos that sell well is all that matters. For others, shooting photos that express some personal vision is more important. Continue reading

Arctic Ocean, ANWR, Alaska.

The Beaufort Sea along the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Arctic Ocean sea ocean, after spring breakup, rests on the beach. Melting permafrost in the bluffs signals warming temperatures. Arctic Ocean, Coastal Plain, ANWR, Alaska.

The Beaufort Sea along the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Arctic Ocean sea ocean, after spring breakup, rests on the beach. Melting permafrost in the bluffs signals warming temperatures. Arctic Ocean, Coastal Plain, ANWR, Alaska. Click for a larger photo.

Hey Folks,

Another photo from our recent trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Beaufort Sea. I hiked from our final camp across the coastal plain (well, across part of the plain, not the whole thing) with Steve Weaver hoping to photograph some of the icebergs we’d seen the previous day along the shoreline. Unfortunately, strong southerly winds had blown almost all the ice out to sea, and we were largely thwarted. This patch of ice, however, had been resting on shore, stranded when the tide rolled out, and we made a few images.

Coastlines are such dynamic landscapes, and in the Arctic particularly so. They can change drastically in a day or less, and do so frequently.

This photo was taken around 1:15am .. maybe later. I think Steve and I arrived back at camp around 4:00am, and I went to bed at nearly 5:00am. up at 10:00am-ish to break camp, roll the raft, and wait for a bush plane. We arrived, finally, in Coldfoot, around 5:30pm,(the temp was 90deg F, a start contrast from the Arctic Ocean we’d just left) unpacked the gear from the plane, sorted it and loaded the van, ate dinner, and hit the road, rolling into the Yukon River area stop late at night. Then up early the next morning to drive from there to Anchorage. 36 hours later it was out the door to pick up folks for the next trip to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Summertime can be like that in Alaska.

I’ve been out to the Beaufort Sea here a number of times, now every time I’ve been so fortunate as to have an absolutely glorious final evening. The wind wasn’t bad at all, the bugs had quieted down, and the expansive vastness of the place really moves me. It’s a fantastic experience, to see such a harsh and rugged environment also be so sensitively fragile; the quiet tundra, the shorebirds, a whisper of air and the glowing rays of the sun, low on the horizon. After the trek back to camp I simply couldn’t go to bed, but sat for nearly 45 minutes by my tent, just watching, listening and enjoying the grace of the Arctic coastal plain. It’s a phenomenal place.

The bluffs on the left of the frame, like Castles Made of Sand, slowly slip into the sea – eventually.



Designating Wilderness: your choice.

Coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (aerial photo).

Coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (aerial photo).

Hey Folks,

Last night I attended  public comment hearing for the preliminary stages of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). In short, this comment period allows the public to offer information and thoughts on some of the issues they feel might need to be addressed, and oftentimes their thoughts as to how those issues should be addressed. The CCP will be a document that “outlines and guides long-term management” of the Refuge. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are the land management agency responsible for managing the Refuge. If you would like to add your input at this stage, here is Comment Form for the Refuge. Before you do, it’s worth browsing the FWS ANWR webpage for some useful ideas on how this works (they’re not looking for reasons why the coastal plain might or might not be opened to drilling – that decision is to be the work of Congress, not the simple folks of the FWS).

One of the critical topics up for discussion is the designation of  “wilderness” in the Refuge. Currently, nearly half (41%) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 19.3 million acres is designated wilderness. The remaining 10 million acres are not currently designated “wilderness”. The FWS are presently proposing to study these areas and determine whether or not they qualify as wilderness; the ‘Wilderness Review‘ section of the CCP. A recommendation could then be made to Congress to designate these areas wilderness. Such a designation would render the Refuge off-limits to oil and gas extraction.

The arguments were the same tired commentaries we’ve heard countless times now; Continue reading

Brooks Mountains Range, ANWR, Alaska.

Canning River, Brooks Mountain Range, ANWR, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s another image from the summer just gone by. This one was from near our campsite on the Canning River, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). We’d had a nice day paddling, enjoying some sunny weather, found a sweet spot to camp, and then I wandered around into the evening looking for a composition that caught my eye. The unnamed mountain across the river is a ridge leading up to Mt. Salisbury. This is one of my favorite areas in the region, right at the edge of the coastal plain and the Brooks Mountains. Typically these kinds of terrains are interesting; Continue reading

Pacific Loon, Section 1002, ANWR, Alaska.

Pacific Loon, Section 1002, ANWR, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a Pacific Loon image I got late one evening near the Canning River, on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska. This photo took me quite a while, and a lot of walking, to swing. I think it was nearly 2am when I clicked the shutter here. I’d been over near this pond earlier, but not able to get close. I ended up walking around for a long time, finding a few other birds to photograph, and then cam back by the loon pond. This loon and its mate were getting more and more comfortable with this strange tripod-toting creature wandering around, and finally came close enough for me to manage a few photos. I wish the light was a little brighter, and the wind not present, as the rippled effect on the water isn’t as nice as a calmer surface, but one takes what one can in the arctic. At least the wind kept the bugs at bay.

Section 1002, the coastal plain, of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the area hotly debated over with the proposals to drill for oil. I think the wildlife that live there, will be much better off if drilling and gas extraction aren’t allowed; I think we’ll be better off for it, too.



Rock Jumping, Futaleufu River, Chile

Rafters take a  quick break for a rock jumping session on the Futaleufu River, Patagonia, Chile.

Hey Folks,

Sometimes we’d run a full river trip down the Futaleufu instead of the more common “Bridge to Bridge” section, which is the standard day-trip, about 12km of solid whitewater. On the full river section, we’d usually make it an overnighter, and enjoy the flatwater runs between the various sections of whitewater. Halfway along the trip is this killer place to go rock jumping. A nice sunny day, a deep, flat pool of water and a high ledge made for great fun for everyone. You’ll notice Gabby in the orange Jackson kayak just downstream, in position in case anyone got hurt jumping and needed some assistance. As always, safety first.



Cataraft flip in Mundaca, Futaleufu River, Chile.

A cataraft flips over in the massive Class IV rapid, Mundaca, on the Futaleufu River, Patagonia, Chile.

Hey Folks,

So, I’ll wrap up my Mundaca Series here. This is a safety boat, a cataraft, that runs the river ahead of the whitewater rafts, and gets set to pick up folks who might fall out of the rafts. Of course, that’s the plan, but if the cataraft flips, then the safety is shot. Generally, using a series of hand signals and keeping a watchful eye out, something like this will be communicated back upstream to let the guides of the rafts know they have no safety. In which case, they generally wait until the cataraft is either flipped back over, or they’ll continue on down the river, but run a more cautious line. I shouldn’t say there’s no safety – on a river like the Futaleufu, each whitewater rafting trip Continue reading

More Mundaca fun, Futaleufu River, Chile.

Whitewater Rafting, Mundaca, Futaleufu River, Patagonia, Chile.

Merry Xmas Folks!

Here’s a similar shot to the one I posted of KC going vertical in Mundaca. The guide is Manu, from Switzerland. Manu was the king of going big on the Futaleufu in 2007. Nobody had the number of big hits that Manu did. And he cooks up a helluva storm too! It’s awesome being around people who get so excited about what they do – Manu’s eyes lit up everytime we got to Cara del Indio, a little beach right before we’d hit Mundaca. The excitement builds, and everyone just knows he’s going big. – right down the center. Awesome stuff. And, because it’s Xmas, I’ll post a couple of shots to show you what happens after your raft hits this rapid, IF it doesn’t flip over: Continue reading