Young Chilean kayakers to paddle Grand Canyon

Eight young kayakers from the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia landed in Denver, Colorado, on July 31 to begin a nearly month-long exploration of energy, environment, dams and water in the western United States. The students are members of Club Nautico Escualo, a community kayaking club from the remote Patagonian town of Cochrane, and are traveling with their two coaches, Roberto Haro and Claudia Altamirano.

Los Escualos are in the U.S. as part of a kayaking exchange program organized by" target="_blank">Rios to Rivers, a Colorado-based nonprofit that is working to educate young people about the impact of dams on rivers, and to give students the information necessary to form their own conclusions and become knowledgeable spokespeople for the world's rivers and the people who depend on them. The group's executive director Weston Boyles is also making a documentary about the US-Chile exchange program to raise awareness about proposed dams in Patagonia and to highlight the power of cultural exchange as an educational tool.

Los Escualos have grown up paddling the Baker River, Chile's most voluminous river, and have a deep connection with this waterway currently threatened by the large-scale HidroAysen dam project. Similarly, in the 1960s, a major dam project was once proposed for the Colorado River inside the Grand Canyon, even though the Grand Canyon had been declared a national park in 1919. 

Rios" target="_blank">">Rios to Rivers: Young Chilean kayakers to run the Grand Canyon this August, 2013 from Weston" target="_blank">">Weston Boyles / Rios to Rivers

The Chilean kayakers will stay with host families in Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley, visit the Rocky Mountain Institute for energy studies, participate in hands-on stream studies with the Roaring Fork conservancy, and learn about new technologies at Solar Energy International before traveling south for a twelve-day kayaking trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. They will be joined by seven students and two coaches from the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS). The students will see first-hand the impact of mega dams on a river ecosystem, learn about the history of dam building in the United States, and discover the relative costs and benefits associated with large-scale dam construction.

This is the second half of Rios to Rivers' pilot exchange program. In March and April 2013, Rios to Rivers led the same CRMS students through a three-week program in Chile. Students met politicians, developers, engineers, and energy experts on both sides of the dam debate, and spent five days paddling the Baker with the Escualos.

Rios to Rivers is seeking financial support to cover the costs of bringing the Escualos kayaking club to the United States, and hope to raise at least $12,000 by August 5. To make a donation through their current crowd funding campaign, go to:" target="_blank">
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