The 2016 Bird Ecology BWCA Tour

RedBreastedGrosbeakWe had an excellent crew and witnessed 57 species of birds during our four-day adventure. Owing to the early spring, the season was more advanced than the birding seminars in earlier years. Leaves were emerging, as were black flies, but birds were still visible and bugs? never more than a friendly nuisance. Showers for the most part held back until we were snug in our sleeping bags.

A Black-throated Blue Warbler, and once again, Barred Owls right in our camp were just two of the highlights. We saw a lot of evidence of Moose this year, but alas, none of the big brutes showed themselves. There were great moments with Merlins, Bald Eagles, and Gnat  Catchers.

If you are like I was a decade ago, you might visit the BWCA in … Continue reading


One spot left on 2016 Noatak Expedition.

Lower half, 200 miles. This is the stretch of the river with grizzlies (a dozen last year) Musk Oxen (a couple dozen last year) salmon (incredible fishing last year) we pass through 2 canyons and you finish on the Arctic Ocean.

Gotta fill this spot and soon, forget the list price, first reasonable offer will be accepted. Amazing opportunity!

Summertime Fun in Canoe Country

I am up in the Boundary Waters working on this blog post and the predicted high temperature, despite early May on the calendar, is mid-eighties! It reminds that the peak canoeing season coincides with the heat of the summer. So how do you beat the heat?

The First rule is: reframe the situation. Instead of focusing on avoiding being sweaty and hot, embrace the warmth. I lived in the Arctic for nine years, where for ten months it was cold. I promised myself never to complain about a half-dozen hot summer days. That is also good advice in the BWCAW, where for nine months it is cold. However, I must confess that my promise was tested on a singular July day on Lake Insula. I was camping with my daughter and the afternoon was sweltering. We had traveled early in the day to avoid the worst of the heat. Our … Continue reading

Dates Set for 2017 Rio Grande Lower Canyon Expeditions

In 2016 four Rio Grande Uncommon Seminars Crews experienced terrific journeys down the Rio Grande’s Lower Canyons. The weather was absolutely spectacular. Cobalt blue skies warm days cool (a few cold) nights. Great campfires. stargazing the zodiacal cloud for some groups, a brilliant full moon for another. A gamut of wildlife, including some of the best views ever of desert bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, javelinas, wild burros and of course the corriente. Some good birds including a Black Hawk and an amazing kettle of over 90 Turkey Vultures. The water was low all season which was contrary to the El Nino forecast, but we always had enough water. The low water did provide some new lining opportunities. We lined the big drop at Hot Springs rapids for the first time. I think many of the paddlers learned how fun technical lining can be and that opened a new dimension … Continue reading

Copper Canyon, Mexico

CopperCanyon040816-2After completing four consecutive and very successful expeditions through the Rio Grande’s Lower Canyons, I decided to venture even further south in quest of more wild rivers and canyon walls. For decades, I have had my heart set on experiencing Mexico’s Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre). Allegedly it is deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon and four times bigger in size. Reading Edward Abbey’s chronicles by the light of a campfire on the Rio Grande and listening to Larry Rice’s stories further piqued my interest. Plus, with the Nahanni, Grand, and RG Lower Canyons under my belt I thought this would complete the big four of North American canyons. There was also a strong commercial interest. Could I lead guided canoe trips in March down the … Continue reading

Four Crews Experience Success in 2016 on the Rio Grande

BlogPost033116_6With the completion of the 4th Rio Grande Expedition, my 2016 Lower Canyon season has come to an end. The last trip was my biggest (total crew of 10), latest (March 11-18), the lowest water level (44 cfs at Rio Grande Village). My conclusions: I enjoyed the big crew size, maybe partially because they were already an established group that had done kayak outings together in the past and they were bonded and confident wilderness campers and all that made my job easy. I enjoyed the longer days and the heat (and daily swimming) of mid-March and the greening of the desert. But, mid-March is Spring Break time in Texas. In 14 previous Lower Canyon expeditions I had not seen another canoe party. This time we passed a … Continue reading

My 13th Rio Grande Voyage

Returned from 2016 Expedition #3 down the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande. We had superb weather for this journey — calm, cloudless days with highs around 90 and warm starry nights. Arctic paddling legend, Mel Baughman was part of this week’s crew, and it was great to paddle together and swap stories. Sally, Paul and Mike also shared amazing stories of Tanzania. The only glitch was water levels. It was the lowest water I have ever seen on the Rio Grande. So much for El Nino “big water year”. Low flow (44cfs at RG Village) made all the rapids technical and also made for some scratchy dragging in some of the braided sections. But we did have some excitement lining Hot Springs rapid over the main drop for the first time ever, and some challenges when almost the entire river got swallowed by the cane. Wildlife was not abundant … Continue reading

Back from Expedition #2 down the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande

BackFromExpedition2-CanoeDid not see the wildlife we viewed on the first voyage, but the full moon lit up canyon walls in an ethereal way, superb. And, we had a lightening storm with thunder echoing through the canyon. And, we made it to the top of El Burro, a 1500 foot vertical ascent of the canyon wall on an old gold mine burro trail. And, we had another great crew that powered their way down the canyon with measured grace. They ate a lot. Finished the expedition with only a half dozen tea bags and a tablespoon of oatmeal left in the tucker barrel. Looking forward to Group #3 with one thought in my mind….ADVENTURE.

In between, Terlingua Texas is always fun…dusty cowboys, wild cowgirls and searing heat.

But I … Continue reading

That Dog Sammy

Back in Terlingua in front of a fire of Mesquite, I was just looking for an empty chair in the circle. I am beat up from a week on the Rio Grande, dusty, over a layer of grime. A bearded old cowboy is sitting in a rickety tin chair and next to him his sidekick, a half-pint Yorkie mixed-blood dog, curled up in another tin chair. An old strip of bridle leather connects cowboy to Yorkie. Tied around the dog’s neck is is a penlight glowing luminescent green and highlighting the overbite of the Yorkie.

“Do you think you could move your dog so I could have a seat?”

“My dog? You mean Sammy, my blind, mute, dumb old Yorkie? Let me tell you about him. Five times in the jaws of coyotes, a couple of those coyotes I shot through their heads right over the top of him, once … Continue reading

Getting on the River Feb 8

Starting February 8 I will be leading four consecutive expeditions down the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande on the Texas/Mexico border. During my time on the river I will be off the grid and unable to send or receive text messages or phone calls. In between trips, about every eight days or so, I will be back in Terlingua, TX prepping for the next journey and able to check my messages and respond. Please forgive any delays in correspondance. You can track my progress on

Weather looks perfect for the first run, water is a little bit low but canoeable for sure. Looks like I have another great crew including two vets of past trips with me. Excited to get on the river! Happy Trails Rob