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Idahoan Kayaks 900 Miles to Support Salmon

by Jennifer Gelband
New West, August 9, 2006

Swimming with the Fishes

Bill Erickson will float 900 miles from Redfish Lake, Idaho, to the Pacific Ocean during a 40-day trip to raise awareness for salmon and steelhead preservation efforts. Idahoan Bill Erickson is going where no man has gone before. Truth is I can't verify that fact, but he is definitely going somewhere no man regularly goes: on a 900-mile kayaking trip from the Salmon River near Stanley to the Pacific Ocean.

Erickson is kayaking the route of Idaho's wild salmon through the Salmon, Snake and Columbia Rivers to highlight the decline of wild salmon in the Pacific and to draw attention to the problems caused by dams. "I'm making the journey downstream in a kayak and will be facing the same obstacles that sockeye encounter as young fish while heading to the ocean," Erickson says. "The largest of these obstacles, and the biggest killer of all salmon, are the four dams on the lower Snake River."

I spoke to Erickson before he set sail. Today he is four days into his trip that will end in Astoria, Ore., on September 27.

For the last seven years Erickson has been a professional river guide, so he knows what he's doing. And because he spends so much of his time on the river, he's aware of the rivers' issues - like dams and salmon recovery, particularly Snake River Sockeye, about which he tells me that only six sockeye made the swim back to Idaho's Redfish Lake in 2005.

These current salmon numbers, he says, aren't sustainable, and that's why he's making this trip: to earn money for salmon and river support, to get commitment from Idaho's politicians and to educate the public on the critical issue of extinction. "I can only hope to raise people's awareness and educate folks who have no idea what's going on here," he says. And, specifically, he's pushing for more water for the river and removal of the four lower Snake River dams.

Erickson started to research salmon issues three years ago and hatched the plan for the kayak trip. He's been crafting plans for the last year and a half with a few non-profit organizations on his side that are helping to make the trip possible and will ultimately benefit from his plan.

Outdoor companies that support the salmon issues have donated the gear for the trip, which includes kayaks, tents, clothes, and supplies. When he finishes the trip, all of the gear, estimated to be worth about $10,000, will be auctioned off and donated to Idaho Rivers United, Save the Wild Salmon, and the other non-profits involved.

If you see Erickson maneuvering through nearby rivers, stop and wave and give a nod if you support his agenda - he'll appreciate it and he'll probably be excited to see other people. Other kayakers will join Erickson temporarily for a stretch just south of Lewiston and another stretch just south of Portland, but he will be kayaking solo for 85 percent of the journey.

Jennifer Gelband
Idahoan Kayaks 900 Miles to Support Salmon
New West, August 8, 2006

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