The Amur River is the third-largest free-flowing river in the world. No dams. No diversions. It originates in Mongolia and stretches 2,500 miles along the China-Russia border to the Sea of Okhotsk.
Four women sharing a passion for adventure, kayaking, and keeping rivers wild will attempt to take a 70-day journey down this relatively unknown waterway, collecting scientific data, documenting what they find, and bringing awareness to the challenges facing global rivers.
As reported by Canoe & Kayak, the expedition entitled Nobody's River is part of a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant-sponsored initiative. The project name originates from the political tension between China and Russia that has kept the Amur River free flowing.
Americans Becca Dennis, Sabra Purdy, and Amber Valenti, along with Australian photographer Krystle Wright, will begin their journey June 1.
From Canoe & Kayak:
The river itself is primarily flat water, so the four women—all whitewater kayakers—will be exchanging the adrenaline of big drops for the thrill of the unknown. "I feel really lucky to travel on a river like this," says Dennis. "There's no guidebook. It's just going to be us exploring it. Not really knowing what sort of experience we're going to have is exhilarating and a little bit overwhelming at the same time."
According to the Nobody's River website, a fully interactive web-based atlas will be produced from the images, stories, and data collected, and will be used as a tool for environmental education and conservation. A mouse click along the length of the watershed will take the user to that area.
Though the four kayakers hope to paddle as much of the river as possible, bypassing tense border regions by train and bus, their original plan might be altered as a result of a tragedy befalling Dennis' longtime partner, Zach Orman.
Orman died in a paragliding accident in early April, so the upcoming journey will be taken with heavy hearts. From the Nobody's River blog entry of April 24:
We have also spent long hours asking ourselves and each other how to move forward. There are no simple answers. There is no obvious path ahead. And though some things have become more clear, others remain faint forms on a distant horizon.
What we do know is that we are moving forward, slowly, and with shaky legs and beat-up hearts, but forward. It will not be the same journey we had planned. It cannot be, because life has changed and in the process so have we.
Our team of four will now leave June 1 and travel through Mongolia by kayak. Then we will let our hearts lead us from there. We may take the train and ferry to the ocean in Russia or we may still paddle the last 900 kilometers to the ocean. We trust that the path will appear as we move forward if we just keep listening.
We will be paddling much less of the total river length and will be abroad for a shorter period of time now, but we still plan to travel from the headwaters to the ocean, to capture the place in images, film, and scientific data, and to bring those stories home to all of you. We will still write blogs, and our sponsors will still get gorgeous photos and all of the things they were promised. But the story will certainly be more raw, more real, and more deeply human.
Photos and map courtesy of Nobody’s River