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Montana canoeists start 1,200-mile journey to Pacific Ocean

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Posted at 11:50 AM, May 16, 2023

BUTTE - A journey of over 1,200 miles begins with a single stroke of a paddle, and two canoeists will be doing plenty of paddling as they travel from Butte all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

“Excited, we’re really excited to get going, we’ve got quite the journey coming up,” said Robert Lester.

A journey through the Columbia River Watershed that’s likely to take Robert Lester and his cousin Braxton Mitchell 40 to 60 days to complete.

It’s a journey this Butte adventurer has wanted to take since he was a child.

“I originally had wanted to canoe to the opposite coast, the long way, and I figured I better do the short way first,” said Lester.

The trip started Friday at Silver Bow Creek on Butte’s west end and goes along the Clark Fork River to the Pend Oreille River, going a little bit into Canada before connecting with the Columbia River and taking it all the way to the Washington coast.

“The most strenuous part is going to be along a lot of the dams and some of the harder sections of the river, we’re actually going to have to carry the canoe around those sections,” said Lester.

Family of the canoeists are confident they will be able to handle the long journey.

“He can handle it, he’s researched everything for months and months and planned the route and every aspect of it and safety and I’m not worried at all,” said Lester’s mother Rebecca Tamietti.

Braxton’s grandfather John Mitchell added, “I mean, there’s always a danger with stuff like this, but they’re both young and strong, they should do fine.”

Lester is doing this to bring attention to the Columbia River Watershed and the importance of preserving it.

“Talk about what the entire future of the watershed could look like. A lot of people don’t know that what we put in here behind us ends up all the way in the Pacific Ocean,” he said.

He hopes to touch that ocean two months from now.

“You prepare ahead of time as best you can — it’s always better, you know, prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” said Lester.