Kootenai / Columbia; ID-BC-WA-OR

by Jeremy Brock

Last time I was up at the Idaho place, outside Bonners Ferry, I sat in the front yard1 and contemplated Deep Creek, which a ‘wet spring’ had turned into a de facto river. I started thinking, an activity which takes me to amusing places frequently and crazy places sometimes. In this instance, my thoughts ran along these lines:

Hmmm. This hooks up with the Kootenai River in Bonners Ferry, a few miles north of here. The Kootenai flows north into British Columbia (where the spelling of its name changes subtly), into the south end of Kootenay Lake, and back out the west side of that lake. It goes west for a while, then turns back south through BC and crosses the border into Washington. At some point it becomes the Columbia River. That meanders down through eastern Washington and eventually turns west again to run along the Washington-Oregon border all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Ya know, it’s theoretically possible to drop a boat into the water right here in my front yard and eventually step out of it somewhere near Astoria, Oregon. Boy, wouldn’t that be something to tell the kiddies about?

Yeah, and I bet the kiddies would roll their eyes at the thought that some geezer expected them to believe such an obvious crock.

Nevertheless, I haven’t ruled it out.

Even if I can pull this off, though, it’ll take a good couple of years of planning, logistics, training, and financing. Especially financing. There are likely to be at least two other people involved, and might be three.

I lean towards conventional canoes for this. Although I’ve never done more than a four- or five-day trip in one, I’m comfortable with them; also, a touring or tripping canoe will carry quite a load, and be more stable when doing so than when unloaded.

A few others have recommended sea kayaks (real, enclosed, Eskimo-style ones), and the Hobie Mirage sit-on-tops have been mentioned more than once. I’m pretty skeptical of the former; just for starters, they would introduce yet another learning curve. Sit-on-top kayaks, especially the Mirages, are great here in the tropics, but something with a bit more freeboard might be better for Pacific Northwest rivers.

Yes, I’m soliciting opinions on small craft here, informed or otherwise. Thoughts on any other implications of this idea are also welcome.

Local knowledge is extremely valuable too, so here’s a question for anyone who’s familiar with any of the country along that Kootenai/Kootenay/Columbia route: What parts of the trip would be particularly hairy?



(1) Admittedly off-topic technicality: I think it will have to have a permanent house on it before it really qualifies as a yard.