In 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate 100 years of serving as the steward, and primary caregiver, of our 407 National Parks. To help celebrate, we are going to embark on some outrageous wooden boat adventures through several of our best-known National Parks. Not all of our parks have waterways to explore, so we narrowed it down a bit and will be exploring at least 12 parks in the next 18 months on rivers and lakes connected to those parks that either flow through or start their journey to the ocean in National Parks – including the Snake, Yellowstone, Colorado, Rogue , and Merced rivers, featuring classic parks like Yellowstone, Tetons, Rocky Mountain, and Grand Canyon.

To work the “kinks” out, we’re going to start this tour with a trip down the Deschutes River in central Oregon – which is one of our Wild & Scenic Rivers, but not connected to a National Park. It’s on the way to Yellowstone from Portland and it’s a perfect opportunity for a shake-down trip to make we have all the right gear for this initiative.

The “rig” is a 1983 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40.

1983 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser1983 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser

The boat is a McKenzie style open hull drift boat, or “dory”, that I built in 2006 out of Mahogany and Alaskan Yellow Cedar. It has run some of the most treacherous rivers in the Pacific Northwest and has the scars to prove it. This style of boat is common to the rivers of the northwest where big water requires a boat that’s nimble and responsive, and an oarsman that knows how to row it and maintain it.

“Obsession” in Jenny Lake – Teton National Park “Obsession” in Jenny Lake – Teton National Park

Over the course of the next several months, we’ll be camping, hiking, fly fishing, biking and, of course, river running through some of the prettiest water in North America, and we’ll be showcasing a lot of cool gear – both new and old-school as we go.

Deschutes River – Central OregonDeschutes River – Central Oregon

Whether sleeping out under the stars on a Therm-a-Rest cot or cooking meals with the MSR cookware – we’re going to put a lot of gear through a lot of trials and adventures.

Yellowstone National Park – wild mushrooms & fresh fishYellowstone National Park – wild mushrooms & fresh fish

It should be a lot of fun and a great challenge. I hope you can come along for the ride as we re-discover some of America’s great National Parks through the unique lens of the wooden boat experience.

Scouting a rapid in Grand Canyon National Park – pic by Izzy CollettScouting a rapid in Grand Canyon National Park – pic by Izzy Collett