by Jon Bowermaster
It is a quiet, damp morning in southern Chile. The sun is still hidden by the hills that surround the fast-running Bio-Bio River, but the cool is welcome—by noon the temperature will exceed 90 degrees. In a field alongside the river are camped forty-nine Chileans and Americans—lawyers, journalists, businessmen, advocates—engaged in something that is part travel, part environmental activism; it goes by the name of "adventure advocacy." We had journeyed to this spot 5OO miles south of Santiago to see for ourselves the spectacular river and valley that will be lost if six proposed dams are built along the Bio-Bio.
by Jon Bowermaster
The single-engine Otter banks hard in a tight circle over an explosive one hundred-foot waterfall along the Eau Claire River. The pilot, a classically daring French Canadian named Pierre, dangles a burning cigarette out his vent with one hand as he drops the plane ever lower over the sprawling tundra of the Canadian Shield, affording his half-dozen passengers a first-class gaze at a wilderness few people have seen by land or air.
by John G. Mitchell
In August of 1993, Earth River Expeditions took a National Geographic writer and Photographer on a conservation awareness rafting trip down the Great Whale River to meet the Cree Indians and see first hand the destruction the James Bay II hydro project would have on the environment and the native Cree community. The following article appeared in the November issue.
Darkness is about to fall across the valley of the Great Whale River. It is the end of a long August day in the north of Quebec, in a land of black spruce and tan granite, and we have come to see how this river runs while the water is free.
I am traveling with Matthew Mukash. He is a Cree Indian. His people have been living in this country for 5,000 years. Across the purling water one of their tepees stands pasted against the sky, a ghostly pyramid trailing a thin white plume of wood smoke down river. Mukash, who is chief of Whapmagoostui, a Cree village at the mouth of the river, on Hudson Bay, suddenly sweeps his hand in an arc. "All this will be flooded by the dam," he says. "The river has a sacred route to follow, but they will drown it. All of it."
By: James McBeath
The phone rang on an early August afternoon. It was a rather distraught Eric Hertz.
Before we even had a chance for hellos, I heard him says, “They’re going to dam the Magpie!”
Eric and his company, Earth River, have long been running the Magpie with their high-end clientele. Eric has also partnered with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a number of occasions to foster the awareness and legislation to protect of some of the worlds most spectacular whitewater rivers. The Magpie is their latest challenge, and one they seemed to be taking seriously. Indeed, as soon as Eric heard of the dam plans, he ran a Magpie trip with Kennedy and leaders from many Canadian eco-organizations. To the dismay of dam planners, his trip made front-page fodder across Canada.
The mysterious Magpie River was suddenly beginning to catch my attention. Why ?such a fuss? Truth be told, Eric only runs the elite rivers of the world like the Futaleufu, Yangtse and Colca. I didn’t think the Magpie was even on the radar with these… or was it? It had always been a mystery to me that Eric ran such a little-known river – one I never took the opportunity to investigate. But, the rivers Eric had picked up the gauntlet on before were all well-known whitewater gems like the Bio Bio, and Futaleufu, so I decided to trust his judgment.
By: Joseph Carberry
Seventeen years ago at a dusty train station in Temuco, Chile, Eric Hertz squeezed into an open seat across from a young Chilean farmer named Robert Currie. Currie was traveling the country collecting supplies for his farm. Hertz was an American artist-cumraft bum, an aspiring playwright who had traded Manhattan for a drama featuring rubber and oars on a stage moving water. Call it a cosmic coincidence. Two wandering thespians in search of life roles meet on a crowded train and hit it off like an Oscar-bound actor and director. They talked all day, and Currie invited Hertz to stay at his home. “I don’t think he though I would take him up on it,” Hertz recalls. “After traveling around a bit I showed up at his place and stayed with his wife and kids. He wasn’t due home for another week.”Hertz was guiding on the Bio-Bio at the time and offered to take Currie on a trip. It would be the first of many. A year later they formed Earth River Expeditions, now one of the most prolific rafting outfitters in the world, offering trips to South America, Asia, the Unites State and Canada. “It was the smartest thing I ever did,” says Hertz. Earth River guides more than 500 clients a year, but numbers don’t mean much to these two globetrotters. “It’s not just about rapids,” says Currie. “We are blessed to guide several gems and there are very few left in the world. We have a responsibility to protect them.” Currie and Hertz are adamant about protecting the cultural and environmental legacy of the places they work.
by Josh Karzen
Thirty years ago, on a bike trip through Idaho, a 16-year-old boy named Eric Hertz met a river runner who invited him to run the Rogue River in Oregon. Hertz gladly accepted. The trip hooked Hertz on river running for life. He continued to return to Idaho during the summers, working on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. A steady career of river running followed and in 1990 Hertz’ commitment culminated in the creation of Earth River Expeditions. Soon after starting Earth River Expeditions, Hertz brought on Robert Currie, a native Chilean, as his partner. The two made a handshake deal that endures to this day, combining their talents to tackle the daunting challenges of international expeditions.
As a global outfitter, with trips offered on some of the world’s most wild and remote rivers, Earth River Expeditions was a natural pursuit for Hertz. The list of trips offered reads like a whitewater wish list: the Bio Bio (Chile), Upper Yangtze/ Great Bend of the Yangtze (China), Primrose (Yukon), Magpie and Great Whale (Quebec), Talkeetna (Alaska), Colca (Peru), Po Tsangpo (China), and Futaleufu (Chile). The inspiration behind Earth River Expeditions was fueled in large part by a desire to protect rivers of the world. Hertz wanted to facilitate “on the ground conservation.” Early on, Earth River Expeditions established a relationship with the Audubon Society, and created the Earth River Fund. The fund was designed, says Hertz, “to increase awareness of the danger to the world’s rivers”, and monies raised have gone to protect the Great Whale, Bio Bio, and Futaleufu, to name a few. Good intentions notwithstanding, Earth River Expeditions is a commercial outfitter, and thus Hertz needed a business model which lived up to its aspirations. Setting out to commercially run the world’s most remote and wild rivers, Hertz focused on some core themes to guide Earth River Expeditions; experience, safety, and trust. Guided by these principals, Earth River Expeditions has enjoyed steady growth throughout the past ten years. “About 30 percent per year,” says Hertz.
The first year they took only three clients down one river, the Futaleufu. Last year 250 clients, and this year 300 will partake in the Earth River experience.
The key to any successful business is its employees, and Earth River Expeditions is no different. The stakes of the game are raised on rivers like the Colca, so the skill of the players must be raised accordingly. Calm heads, tamed egos, and a team mentality are what Earth River Expeditions looks for in a guide. A quality resume and solid references are standard also, but the quality most sought is a respectful, professional attitude. With this in mind, Earth River Expeditions will train prospective guides first on one of their runs. Over time, as the guide learns the river, Earth River Expeditions will make the call whether the chemistry is right to bring him on as an employee. According to Hertz. “The lowest ego will make for the best guide for Earth River Expeditions.”