From Cochrane to the Colorado, the Kayakers of the Escualos Paddle to Learn and Defend

As inspiring as adventuring through spectacular landscapes can be, sometimes seeing the massive impact of human development sharpens our focus on the need to take action.  Rios to Rivers is betting that bringing a group of Cochrane paddlers, “The Escualos,” to the Colorado River will spark a lively dialogue on the real effects of mega-dams and the value of fighting for wild rivers.  Conservacion Patagonica is delighted that these students from the park’s “backyard” will have the chance to paddle this iconic river, understand its current plight, and reflect on what they might do to advocate for their river back home.

Photo: K. Hyman

Rios to Rivers

A group of paddlers founded Rios to Rivers to inspire the protection of rivers through education, river-running and the support of outdoor programs. In March 2013, the group coordinated the visit of eight Colorado high school students to the Aysén region, home of the future Patagonia National Park. There, students spent several days descending the Baker River, along with Chilean students from the Escualos. Now, to complete the kayak exchange, Rios to Rivers is bringing Cochrane students to the Colorado River to paddle the Grand Canyon in August 2013.

Photo: Weston Boyles

The Escualos

The Club Nautico Escualo is a youth kayaking club based in Cochrane, founded and directed by Roberto Haro Contreras, a physical education teacher at the Liceo Austral Lord Cochrane high school. Roberto has worked with CP to connect local youth to the future park.  For years, he’s used kayaking to get young people outside, appreciate their home place, and advocate for its long-term future.


While Chilean Patagonia is home to some of the world’s most wild and beautiful rivers, HidroAysén’s proposal to construct mega-hydroelectric dams would change that dramatically. A 2,000 km transmission line would come along with the dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers, which would severely damage protected areas along its course. While Chile’s Supreme Court approved of HidroAysen’s units, hope remains—the project is currently being reviewed by a special ministerial group.

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