On the Columbia River Water Trail

Starting Sunday, Ecotrust's Instagram feed will feature a photo journal following a Lower Columbia River paddle trip.

By Charlotte Austin

Starting this weekend, I’ll be one of five kayakers paddling the Columbia River Water Trail (CRWT), a 146-mile journey between the Bonneville Dam and the Pacific Ocean. (A water trail is a stretch of river or shoreline that has been designated, mapped, and intended for use by travelers hoping to appreciate natural and cultural resources. It’s a lot like a hiking trail, but in the water.) Over 8 days, our team — which includes a writer (me!), a photographer, and an environmental scientist — will camp on uninhabited islands, explore urban waterways, and trace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.

And you can follow it all on Ecotrust’s Instagram feed, which we’ll be taking over for the duration of the trip.

Why paddle the river? Because kayaking is fun. Because we’re adventurers. And, most of all, because we believe in the power of telling stories. Our tools are words and photos and elbow grease, and we’re hoping that our adventures on the river will remind the world to protect something precious. We think it’s important to explore our own backyard, and we believe that local urban exploration is one of the most powerful conservation tools available. If people know what’s nearby, they’ll protect it: it’s as simple as that.

So we will put our kayaks in the water bright and early on Sunday morning, just west of the Bonneville Dam. Over the course of the week, we’ll paddle through the Columbia River Gorge toward Portland and Vancouver, then turn northwest as we make our way through the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. If all goes according to plan, we’ll pass Astoria to end at Fort Clatsop, which was the winter encampment for the Corps of Discovery from December 1805 to March 1806. We’re hoping to see eagles and trout and marmots and maybe a whale. And we’re looking to understand a little more of the human history that’s woven through this rich estuary.

We’re excited about our Ecotrust Instagram takeover, and photos will be posted several times a day. As you see our snapshots, I invite you to live vicariously through your screen. Comment with an encouraging phrase. Heckle us. Come with us on the journey. And as you do, remember the words of David Brower: “There are many ways to salvation, and one of them is to follow a river.”

Charlotte Austin is a writer, editor, and mountain guide based in Seattle.