AN EXPLORATION OF RIVERS AND LANDSCAPES

Source to Sea Project

The Source to Sea Project seeks to travel North America’s four largest Pacific-draining rivers from source to sea. The project combines elements of exploration, environmental awareness, and physical endurance while navigating the lifeblood of the continent. From mountain headwaters to sprawling deltas, traveling a river from source to sea provides a unique perspective on the interconnectedness of our world.

Source to Sea Map

SOURCE TO SEA

The Big 4 Rivers

Yukon River

  • Length: 1,980 miles
  • Basin Size: 321,000 square miles
  • Discharge: 227,000 cubic feet per second

Although the Yukon River begins just 30 air miles from ocean water, it flows for nearly 2,000 miles before emptying into the Bering Sea. The river opened the North to gold seekers in the late 1800’s. Today, is a liquid highway flowing through deep wilderness. I plan to ski across glaciers to locate the source of the river before descending its length.

Fraser River

  • Length: 800 miles
  • Basin Size: 85,000 square miles
  • Discharge: 125,000 cubic feet per second

The Fraser River is undammed along its entire main stem, and rapids punctuate its course. Simon Fraser first canoed the river in 1806. Two centuries passed before I paddled all 800 miles of the Fraser, in 2006.

Columbia River

  • Length: 1,243 miles
  • Basin Size: 258,000 square miles
  • Discharge: 265,000 cubic feet per second

The Columbia River is the most hydroelectrically developed river in the world. Having guided for several years on its longest undammed tributary, the Salmon, I chose this as my launch point before continuing through 8 dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. The journey ended by crossing the Columbia River Bar—”Graveyard of the Pacific.”

Colorado River

  • Length: 1,450 miles
  • Basin Size: 243,000 square miles
  • Discharge: 22,000 cubic feet per second

The Colorado River is the last scheduled descent of the Source to Sea Project. Cutting a spectacular course through desert canyons, including Grand Canyon, the Colorado is diverted so thoroughly in its lower reaches that it no longer flows to salt water in the Sea of Cortez.

SOURCE TO SEA

Smaller Rivers

Bogachiel – Quilayute River

  • Length: 52 miles
  • Basin Size: 154 square miles
  • Discharge: 1,059 cubic feet per second

The Bogachiel River drains the western slope of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. It’s upper reaches are very rarely visited by humans. The valley of the Bogachiel holds the world’s biggest Pacific silver firs (Abies amabilis). I traveled the length of the Bogachiel in 2011, and got to measure the 2 largest silver firs in the world!

Hoh River

  • Length: 58 miles
  • Basin Size: 299 square miles
  • Discharge: 2,538 cubic feet per second

The Hoh River Valley hosts one of  the world’s most well-traveled big-tree trails. Bigleaf maples, Sitka spruces, Douglas firs, and Western red cedars grow to massive proportions here, where annual rainfall is over 130 inches. I used this trail to complete a summit-to-sea with Bret Simmons and Vance Hunt. We climbed Mt Olympus before returning to the river valley and paddling to the ocean. The upper-most 7 miles of the Hoh contains gorge-bound class V-VI whitewater. This was more fun than we wanted, so I’ve yet to reach the true source of the Hoh.

Queets River

  • Length: 53 miles
  • Basin Size: 204 square miles
  • Discharge: 4,350 cubic feet per second

The Queets River drains the south side of Mt. Olympus, tumbling over mythical Service Falls before making a run through wild rainforest valleys en route to the Pacific. I launched on the remote upper Queets just below the Service Falls gorge on this almost-source-to-sea descent on the Olympic Peninsula.

Ipewik River

  • Length: 85 miles
  • Basin Size: 922 square miles
  • Discharge: 600 cubic feet per second (estimated)

The Ipewik is the northwestern-most river in North America. The river is frozen between late October and mid-May. In 2013, I descended the river with John Govi soon after ice break-up. We paddled the upper Kukpowruk  River and hiked cross country to reach the Ipewik. The traverse ended at the village of Tikigaq (aka Pt. Hope) on the shores of the Chukchi Sea.

Klamath River

  • Length: 257 miles
  • Basin Size: 15,689 square miles
  • Discharge: 16,780 cubic feet per second

The Klamath begins as a series of crystalline springs emanating from the east side of the Cascade Range. It is heavily dammed and used for irrigation in its upper reaches, before running south and west through the Klamath River Mountains, improving in water quality along the way. I chose to launch on the Klamath at Spring Creek, an unbelievably huge and pure spring above Klamath Lake. Several dams that had to be portaged in 2008 are now being removed in a massive river and fish restoration effort.