From Butte to Pacific, cousin paddlers preach river rehab

Joshua Murdock

Braxton Mitchell had never gone canoeing before last Friday, May 12, when he and his cousin hopped into a custom canoe and pushed off into the ankle-deep Silver Bow Creek near Butte. 

Their destination? The Pacific Ocean.

Mitchell, an 18-year-old from Utah, and his cousin, Butte native Robert Lester, passed through Missoula this week as they travel the Clark Fork River on their way to the Columbia River and then the ocean. They’re camping along the way. Lester, a 25-year-old professional skier and climber, is experienced in multi-day river trips. They pushed off from just below Brennan’s Wave near Caras Park at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday — their sixth day of paddling. They hope the trip, estimated to last 40–60 days, will raise awareness of various river impairments along the way, such as toxic contamination and derelict dams.

Robert Lester and Braxton Mitchell are canoeing 1,200 miles from Butte, Montana to the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for environmental concerns in the Columbia River Watershed as well as the Smurfit-Stone cleanup efforts in Missoula County.

Their focus in Missoula was the sprawling array of toxic sludge at the former Smurfit-Stone cardboard container factory near Frenchtown. The factory

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