Young Chilean kayakers come to the U.S. to see first-hand the impacts of large dams

BakerNef confluence.jpg

I wrote almost two years ago about a remarkable short film about young kayakers in the Chilean Patagonia town of Cochrane, whose experiences riding on the Baker River would be forever changed if the proposed massive hydroelectric plant called HidroAysén is built. Since then, filmmaker Weston Boyles and his team have created a remarkable exchange program called Ríos to Rivers, first bringing young U.S. kayakers to Patagonia and now the Chilean kayakers to the U.S. Ten of the young Chileans are currently en route to visit the Colorado River, with the aim of learning about impacts dams have had on this country’s environment and people. This cultural and environmental exchange highlights in a very human way how important it is to protect our planet’s wild rivers, from the Rockies to the Andes.  

In March of this year, eight U.S. kayakers traveled to the Patagonia region of Aysén to learn about the HidroAysén project. They met with the CEO of HidroAysén, energy experts, and local communities before meeting the Chilean kayakers and paddling the Baker River – one of Chile’s most powerful and wild waterways that starts in the glacial-fed lakes of the Andes and runs to the Pacific fjords.

                                  site of one of HidroAysen's five planned dams

Now, as the kayakers from the U.S. and Chile reunite to paddle together once more, they will be attracting some great attention. In addition to their coaches from Cochrane the kayakers will be accompanied by Chilean Senator Antonio Horvath –a longtime steward of Patagonia’s rivers and opponent of HidroAysén. They will be in Aspen Colorado this week (info here) discussing their experiences with Colorado State Senator Gail Schwartz, renowned energy expert Amory Lovins, and photographer Judy Hill Lovins.

Please check out the Ríos to Rivers website and video to learn more about this excellent exchange and to follow the exciting –and educational—adventures of these young environmental stewards.