Video: Susitna River First Descent (aka, Kayaking Masters of the Universe)
This is the most incredible video, taken in the 1970’s, of the first descent of the Susitna River in Alaska. I am totally awed by the massive water these guys go through in old school boats and gear of that time – no Gore-Tex, no foam core paddles, no big-water hull shapes. This video has no sound, it’s just plain awesome on its own. (Check out the sequence at 3:38 – amazing.)
According to the YouTube comments on the poster’s channel and also a Canoe and Kayak article, the paddlers included Walt Blackadar, Darwon Stoneman, and Mike Huges, and the film was made by Barney Griffith.
Apparently this run was in part a response to a proposed dam project on the Susitna, which was abandoned in the 1980’s. Ironically, in checking around for this post I saw that there’s now a new proposal for a Susitnu dam, which the Coalition for Susitna Dam Alternatives says has the potential to be “destructive on a massive scale” to salmon runs and caribou habitat – no big surprise. But Governor Parnell appears to be gung-ho, and according to the papers plans are moving forward fast. This would be the 8th tallest dam on earth, but according to that article, would generate only 280 to 300 megawatts of electricity per year.
I also saw that there’s a biography of Walt Blackadar’s life called “Never Turn Back” which is supposed to be really good, I’m going to check it out.