Written by: Erin Browning

Photos by: Jamie Trapp

The Sacramento River watershed spans most of Northern California, draining 27,100 square miles of water from the Klamath Mountains, the Coastal Range, the Cascades, and the Sierra Nevada. Three RFC Grant Recipients have just embarked on a Sacramento River Source to Sea expedition as a potential first all-female descent of the entire river. Ari Kosel, Alyssa Winkelman, and Jamie Trapp will be putting on the river in Mt. Shasta, CA, where Ari and Alyssa grew up and first learned to be river guides. Their expedition aims to capture complex elements of the Sacramento River–how it is impacted by fire, drought, and toxic chemicals, and how the river provides water for 25 million people and irrigates 2 million acres of cropland. Jamie Trapp is the expedition videographer and will be creating a short film documenting their adventure and highlighting interviews with stakeholders of the river along the way. 

The Team portages Shasta Dam

Early on Sunday, March 14th, 2021, the trio kicked off the expedition with a triathlon of events: after snowmobiling into Cliff Lake, they transitioned to skis and followed the South Fork of the Sacramento River to Lake Siskiyou, and finally inflated their packrafts and paddled across the lake through high winds and sleet. It snowed for most of the day, and they were happy to be met by a group of local supporters at Box Canyon Dam. On Monday, the team pushed off in their packraft at Sims Flat put-in. They had been hoping to paddle Sims Canyon, class III-IV, but low water levels and snow forecasted with a slippery and treacherous put-in, they decided against it for risk management reasons and are putting in below the Canyon. They plan on completing Sims Canyon at the end of their journey to make the full descent. 

The Team packrafts under a bridge on Shasta Reservoir.

When the team reaches the Sacramento River, they will switch their pack rafts out for sea kayaks, which will let them navigate the wind and tides of the delta more efficiently. Delta Sea Kayak is kindly supporting the expedition by providing the sea kayaks. The delta will pose new challenges for the team, with freighters and ferries and paddling timelines that need to be adapted to tide charts. 

The team is being resupplied several times by friends and family on their 21-day expedition. They hope to meet with and interview dam managers, farmers, NOAA scientists, fishery managers, and tribal members to engage all different types of Sacramento River stakeholders and learn new perspectives. They already had the chance to interview the dam manager at Shasta Lake Dam, and while everyone did not agree on river management strategies, one thing was clear: expedition members and dam staff all care deeply about the health of the Sacramento River. After a year of the pandemic, Ari reflected on how she hasn’t been exposed to people that have different viewpoints from her own, and she is looking forward to hearing a new array of perspectives during their journey. During a time of political polarization and climate crisis, this expedition could not be more fitting as a way to engage in conversation. 

The team interviews local fisherman

Expedition members are raising money for the Cairn Project, a non-profit that gives money to organizations that work to get all types of women outdoors. The trio hopes to inspire other women to dream up expeditions of their own. We proudly support Sacramento Source to Sea and look forward to hearing about the adventure post-take-out. Follow them on social media to hear about their interviews with stakeholders and how the adventure is unfolding.

Additional Resources:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sacsource2sea/

Website: https://sacsourcetosea.com/

Video interview pre-trip with the Siskiyou Land Trust: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPHbnsdKea4&feature=youtu.be

Podcasts with the River Radius. #1 Mile 0 Sacramento River Source to Sea #2 Mile 153 Sacramento Source to Sea

Podcasts with Imagining Community: #1 Sacramento Source to Sea, #2 Sac Source to Sea visits Grub CSA Farm,#3 A Sacramento Source to Sea Conversation with Ali Meders-Knight

Evening camp time