The Kamchatka Connection


Expedition kayaker and filmmaker Bryan Smith is back from Russia with love…for salmon, first descents and wild places that still remain. We caught up with him at the Outdoor Retailer show to get his take on all things Siberia and salmon after returning from his five-week whitewater kayaking expedition in Siberia.

“We had a long list of objectives and we accomplished almost all of them,” Smith said. “It was the trip of a lifetime and a dream come true.”

Sponsored by National Geographic, Outdoor Research, Costa del Mar, Kokatat and Pyranha Kayaks, Smith was joined on the expedition by five other kayakers on a mission to navigate never-before paddled Class V and raise awareness for the area’s rivers and salmon. The 600-mile long Kamchatka Peninsula is the spawning ground of roughly one-fourth of all Pacific salmon, a species playing an integral role in the livelihood of communities around the world. Yet the area’s wilderness is threatened by everything from poaching to industrial land use designations.

Partnering with scientists and conservation organizations, and funded by the National Geographic Society’s Expedition Council, the Kamchatka Project also collected valuable scientific data for researchers to help protect the region’s river drainages and salmon. Kayaks allowed the adventures an intimate and unobtrusive means of exploring these rivers. In all, they paddled three different rivers, including two source-to-sea first descents and one fishery-oriented waterway.

A film on the expedition will run as part of National Geographic’s Monster Fish series later this year.

“Everything came together perfectly,” Smith said. “We explored a new region, collected hydrological data that would have otherwise been hard to obtain, and were able to explore the area’s current salmon conservation issue. It’s one of the last really true wild places left on earth.”