Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A 2011 Update

Four big topics dominate the news for ICO Rafting this 2011 season: an upcoming ICO Rafting Benefit at the South- and Middle-fork of the American Rivers, the challenge of this year's high flow, an ICO volunteer's visit to the White House, and an exciting new environmental-education project we've taken on in partnership with the Bay Chapter Water Committee.

2011 ICO Rafting Benefit: September 17 – 18th

Since a majority of our income comes from donations, our continued success depends on fundraisers such as the upcoming Inner City Outings Rafting Benefit.

ICO, in partnership with All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting, will be staging a weekend filled white water rafting adventure. On Saturday (9/17), guests have the opportunity to raft and explore the South Fork of the American River, a class III river rich with history and exciting whitewater. Those opting for a Middle Fork of the American River trip (9/18) will tackle more challenging class IV rapids, including the infamous 'Tunnel Chute', all while exploring a rugged wilderness canyon etched by the earliest days of gold mining. Since we are an all volunteer organization, all proceeds will directly support ICO Rafting's outreach activities. Additionally, the funds from this benefit is will help ICO reach deeper into under-served communities hit hard by tough economic times and hopefully contribute to building a new generation of supporters for the environment and the Sierra Club.

High-water year

With an above-normal snow pack in the Sierra and so much of the snow having come late in the season, streamflows throughout California are extremely high this year. This is very exciting to boaters--but it requires extra precautions, including sometimes the basic precaution of not going at all. As one unfortunate casualty, we did not hold our normal spring Basic Training for new volunteer guides due to conditions precluding safe boating for trainees on the South Fork of the American River. Instead we re-dedicated that time to high-water training, including extra scouting of the rivers we run, and to extra training on special techniques, including swiftwater rescues.

Arturo visits the White House

Former participant--and now ICO volunteer leader-- Arturo Cervantes was invited to the White House this spring to hear remarks by President Obama on the America's Great Outdoors initiative concerning management of conservation and recreation on the nation's public lands. After participating in ICO Rafting trips, Arturo's newly discovered passion for the outdoors became a path for a positive life change, and in becoming a volunteer has dedicated himself to providing these transformative experiences for other at-risk youth.

Project LifeRaft

Project LifeRaft grew from a casual conversation at a Wilderness First Aid class between an ICO volunteer and a member of the Bay Chapter Water Committee. The outcome was a pilot program of activities for ICO rafting guides to engage participants in learning about stream and streamside ecosystems, about the importance of rivers, and about ways to protect them. Central topics include:

  • Where does the river come from, and where does it end up?
  • Who/what lives in this watershed?
  • What “services” does the river provide to the natural environment and to humans?
  • Which factors affect flow levels?
  • What are the effects of dams and water withdrawals?

A special training session was held in late April to share the collected and adapted activities with participating trip leaders and guides. Special visitors Chris Shutes, Cindy Charles, and David Nesmith provided expert background on the critical issues affecting our rivers. There was something new for everyone, even for those who had been following river issues for years. Throughout the season we have been focused on making the topics, as well as the methods, relevant to today's teens, and connecting their outdoor adventure with their daily lives in some way.