Paddling the Snake River
By Elizabeth C. Terhaar
On October 3, my coworkers Brett, Dennis, and I joined 300 kayaktivists advocating for dam removal on the Snake River with a peaceful “Free the Snake” protest and flotilla staged near Lower Granite Dam. It was an inspiring day. The road trip started with a 4:30am departure from Hood River, and five hours later we were welcomed on the Snake River by a fleet of colorful boats and characters. There were fishermen, boaters, orca lovers, tribal members, and other river advocates rallying on the river in support of removing the four lower Snake River dams for salmon, for people, for orcas.
The float kicked off with air horns and waves of boats hitting the water at Waiwai Park, just outside of Pullman. It was quite the sight to see decorated kayaks, a three-person canoe with a dog taking the place of a paddler, wooden drift boats dragging inflated plastic orcas, musicians piled into boats singing on the water, and fishermen trolling in case a salmon was interested in his fly. It was a flat day on the river with the sun beaming down full of excitement.
Over the course of the paddle, I met people from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and California who shared what brought them out and their hopes for the river. Upon arrival at the Lower Granite Dam, it was a joyful welcome with people drumming on the sides of their boats, whistling, and paddles up in protest shouting, “Free the Snake!” Activists pulled out hand-painted signs with images of salmon and Free the Snake messages.
Enjoying the enthusiasm from the day, taking in the scenery, and seeing the brotherhood and sisterhood on the Snake River, I tried to imagine: What if this river were free flowing? What would it look like?
During one of those quiet thoughts on the paddle back, there was a splash and the flip of tail, as if a salmon was reading my mind.