Whitewater Wednesday-Volume 16. Voyagers without Trace.  Retracing history on the Colorado.

In Volume 16 of Werner Paddle's White Water Wednesday, we look at the "Voyagers without Traces" expedition.

Where does the history of modern paddling begin? For us, 1945, when our founder, Werner Furrer took kayak lessons in a Klepper.  But go back a little further. 1939. Three young friends have a wild idea: be the first to paddle the Green and Colorado rivers. They load up in Paris, and head for the center of the American West.

They pack with them all the gear of a modern river party: kayaks, paddles, spare paddles, dry bags, PFDs, and even American football helmets. And of course a camera to document their trip. A movie camera. Loaded with color film.

They record their journey, creating what is most likely the very first adventure film shot in color. But the story is lost, and the film reels go unseen for decades, until filmmaker Ian McCluskey chances upon a small historic marker.

Inspired to discover the fate of the “voyagers without trace,” Ian decides to follow the path of the French trio down the rivers, from Wyoming to Arizona. The first step: learn to kayak. He signs up for lessons and forms his own trio of explorers, including Werner Team paddler Paul Kuthe, and Kate Ross Kuthe of Portland, Oregon.

Seventy-five years after the pioneering first descent, this modern trio launches in Green River, Wyoming, and paddles five major canyons, including Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument, and Cataract, in Canyonlands National Park.

We were stoked to jump at the chance to join this adventure. We supplied Ian, Paul, and Kate with six of the best paddles our family knows how to craft--light enough for the endurance of weeks on the river, and strong enough for the whitewater. Here are just some of the pictures from the adventure.

(The first to paddle the Green and Colorado: (L to R) Antoine de Seynes, Genevieve de Colmont, Bernard de Colmont. Genevieve is 21, and becomes the first woman to paddle her own kayak down these rivers.)

(Team Werner’s Paul Kuthe, his wife Kate Ross Kuthe, and filmmaker Ian McCluskey form a "modern trio" to go in search of “the voyagers without trace.”)

(Kate Kuthe pauses as she portages the Flaming Gorge dam. Seventy-five years after the first kayak descent, the modern trio find “a river of change.”)

(Expeditioner and member of Team Werner Paddles, Paul Kuthe in the waters of the Colorado.)

(Paul looks back at his kayak student, Les Voyageurs Sans Trace director Ian McCluskey.)

(Film director Ian McCluskey learns to kayak in order to follow the path of the French Trio. Cataract Canyon.)


For more whitewater action from the film, visit www.frenchkayakfilm.com. To join the adventure, check out their kickstarter