Matt Kearns and Adam Swisher are hiking, biking, and paddling the length of the Elk River. They are bringing attention to the need to protect the Monongahela Headwaters — the source of drinking water for West Virginians and the origins of our great paddling rivers, by creating the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. Follow their Elkspedition sojourn here!

Matt Kearns is from Charleston, West Virginia and is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran. Matt likes to bring unique perspective to adventures in the Mountain State, having travelled to all 50 states.

Adam Swisher, from North Potomac, Maryland, is a seasoned whitewater, rock climbing, and skiing instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School.

Together, Matt and Adam have over 1,000 miles of expedition paddling experience, including trips above the Arctic Circle and in the canyons of the desert Southwest.

FREE Elkspedition Homecoming Picnic and Paddle
Be sure to join West Virginia Rivers Coalition May 30, Memorial Day, at Coonskin Park for the FREE Elkspedition Homecoming Picnic. Spend the afternoon with WV Rivers and the Elkspedition team, enjoy free food, games and live music!

Prior to the picnic, paddle a section of the final leg of the Elkspedition with Matt Kearns and Adam Swisher! WV Rivers has teamed up with ACE Adventure to offer 18 people FREE seats on an ACE raft as part of an Elkspedition Homecoming flotilla. Reserve your raft seat here. Be sure to reserve your space soon – they will fill up fast!

Have your own boat? We'll provide shuttle service for private boaters. RSVP here.

The trip is 3.5 miles and is expected to take 1.5 hours. At the end of the trip plan to join us for the FREE Elkspedition Homecoming Picnic. No registration is required for the picnic.

What: Free Picnic and Paddle
Where: Riverside Pavilion in Coonskin Park, Charleston
When: Monday, May 30 Flotilla registration begins at  2:00pm; picnic starts at 4:00pm

Amazing Elkspedition Finale

posted Jun 3, 2016, 9:24 AM by David Lillard

More than 100 people came to Coonskin Park in Big Chimney to welcome Adam Swisher and Matt Kearns at the Elkspedition Homecoming — about 50 brought their own boats to join a flotilla for the final 3 miles. ACE Adventure brought 2 rafts to bring another 20 folks downriver; ACE also shuttled folks from the park to the put-in.

Welcome home Matt and Swish! You've done so much to raise awareness for Birthplace of Rivers and the important connections between our public lands and the water we drink and play in.

Adam Gets His Angler On

posted May 29, 2016, 11:54 AM by David Lillard

It's Sunday, the final full day/night on the beautiful Elk River. Adam Swisher and Matt Kearns took some time to go with the current, cast their lines, and be thankful for the Great Elkspedition that has brought them from the headwaters in Birthplace of Rivers to within a day of a grand homecoming at Coonskin Park on Memorial Day. 

Today Adam played in two smallmouth and one largemouth bass from the emerald waters of the Elk River. They hope to see lots of smiling faces Monday!

People of the Elk

posted May 28, 2016, 1:42 PM by David Lillard   [ updated May 28, 2016, 1:42 PM ]

Matt and Adam report many people out on the water today, Saturday. The break in the rains and summer-like weather is bringing paddlers and anglers emerging from their cabin fever. Matt says they've been treated to sitings of osprey, great blue herons and lots of wildlife in the trees, skies and water.

It seems everywhere they go, people on the water of heard of them: "Hey, you're the Elk River guys," is a common refrain says Matt.

The Elk Rivers guys of the Elkspedition team are getting the word out about Birthplace of Rivers National Monument, too. Welcome Adam and Matt to Coonskin Park Memorial Day for a FREE picnic at 4pm at the Riverside Pavilion. Learn more

Paddling the Wide Deep Elk

posted May 27, 2016, 3:55 PM by David Lillard   [ updated May 27, 2016, 3:57 PM ]

After the challenging whitewater of the Upper Elk, down in Clay County the wide river offers a chance to take in long views and appreciate the subtle majesty of this great river. Here the river hosts fish of pre-historic and rare kinds: the famed muskie trolls the green depths; the rare and endangered diamond darter hides in dark places.

Here the Elk is a long green tunnel where every bend reveals another mountain view. It's where the river is the backyard for communities lining the river's steep valley, where the Elk can take on the character of a lazy, Southern river meandering slowly . . . somewhere. 

For the guys of the Elkspedition team, it's also a little closer to home, a little closer to their Memorial Day finish. A little closer to the Elkspedition Homecoming Picnic at Coonskin Park's Riverside Pavilion. Everyone is invited!

Great Day on the Green Elk River

posted May 26, 2016, 4:15 PM by David Lillard

"Beautiful day to be on the Elk," says Matt Kearns. "We had the river totally to ourselves today. It was great to have such solitude, but the best part of about Elkspedition has been meeting so many West Virginians on and along the river. We can tell that support for designating Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is strong here in the Mountain State.

"The river is an inspiring green today, and still moving fast. We were able to paddle less, chill more, and enjoy the changing landscape of the Mountain State. 

"Hope lots of folks are planning to join us Memorial Day at Coonskin Park at 4pm for the free Elkspedition Homecoming Picnic and Flotilla."

Elkspedition Reaches Halfway at Cafe Cimino

posted May 25, 2016, 4:07 PM by David Lillard   [ updated Jul 20, 2016, 8:56 AM by Kathleen Tyner ]

by Matt Kearns

The Elkspedition made it to Sutton May 24, the psychological if not literal halfway point of our journey. Ahead of us is 100 miles down the Elk River Water Trail in our trusty blue canoe. Behind us is 17 miles of hiking, 40 miles of biking, 25 miles of paddling, and one canoe flip.

The hiking down Laurel Run was difficult and slow over mossy rocks, through stinging nettle and thick spruce stands. Along the abandoned and overgrown railroad tracks below Slatyfork it had an other-worldly feel. The biking was efficient and beautiful along winding country roads, leaving plenty of time to fish. I caught three brook trout and a smallmouth bass.  

More about the flip: From the time we went to bed on the 21st to the time we woke up on the 22nd the Elk River below Webster Springs rose over a foot owing to the torrential storm that blew through. A gauge over 6 feet would probably have been perfect for a decked over kayak but it proved a little too much for our open canoe. We slopped water over the gunnels constantly, despite making the mellowest lines on the river. 

A little below Webster Springs we found Sewer Plant Rapid. Each wave around the bend was slightly larger than its predecessor and we took on water with each pitch and roll. By the time we arrived at the biggest wave we were already half full and too heavy to make the move out of the deep hole in the rapid. We swamped and then flipped. 

All of our gear was secured to the boat and we were dressed for a swim. Adam and I have practiced self rescue for times like these and kicked into action, swimming to shore with our paddles and a line to the canoe, working hard to keep the boat and ourselves from getting pinned on any rocks. We got to shore wet and tired, but little worse for the wear. 

Our decision to bike past the remaining rapids below Webster Springs was based primarily on keeping the Elkspedition on schedule. The big waves were going to make what we thought would be a straightforward day in intermediate whitewater excruciatingly slow as we would have to line or portage past all the biggest rapids, actions further slowed down and complicated by the heavy vegetation along shore. Looking at the river later on from the road above, on bikes, confirmed our decision. 

We biked down to the bridge on CR 7, below the hardest rapids, and launched the canoe for the second time. Even here we still had to line around one wave as big or bigger than Sewer Plant rapid. The Elk River is serious whitewater. 

The paddling mellowed out completely in the backwaters of Sutton Lake. The weather did not. We had to pull off the water to wait out another downpour — visibility in the rain was no more than a dozen yards. 

Thankfully, things dried out for our final push across the lake. We were surprised to find our cruising speed was just a shade under 4mph, a proud accomplishment for a canoe on flat water. We made the long portage around Sutton Dam in two trips, arriving in Sutton in time for the wonderful hospitality of Cafe Cimino. 

The generosity and support along the way has been amazing. My father dropped us off at trip's start. Gil and Mary at the Elk River Inn hosted local Birthplace of Rivers supporters for an evening at their bar. Friendly landowners let us camp on their farms. A random fisherman have us part of his catch. My father and mother helped us swap bikes for a canoe. Keith and Paula put us up in Webster Springs and then came thru with a shuttle and loaner bikes at a moment when the entire trip was in jeopardy. Melody at Cafe Cimino provided an evening of food and fun. Folks have hiked and biked part of our journey with us. 

Along the way we've been doing our best to share our story and talk to people about the Elk River's origins in Pocahontas County. We're thrilled when we find out that someone has read or heard about our journey: "You're the two guys coming down the Elk" is a great conversation starter. 

With 100 miles and 6 days yet to go we're excited to be entering the final stretch of the Elk River to the Kanawha while continuing to connect with people along the way and reminding them of the river's start high in the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. And do a little fishing along the way. See you in Charleston!


Stops along the Way: Elk River Inn

posted May 23, 2016, 6:09 PM by David Lillard

Matt Kearns and Adam Swisher at Elk River Inn after completing the backpacking portion of Elkspedition. 

Thanks to Gil and Mary Willis for the hospitality!

Off They Go!

posted May 23, 2016, 5:58 PM by David Lillard

The ‪#‎Elkspedition‬ team is in the water! They've hiked; they've biked. Now after a night in Webster Springs , M

att Kearns and Adam Swisher are putting in for the first time on their journey along the Elk from the headwaters in Birthplace of Rivers National Monument to Charleston. Matt reports that gauge is perfect at 6 feet. 

Welcome Matt and Swish to Charleston May 30 at the Elkspedition Homecoming Picnic and Flotilla. Free picnic hosted by West Virginia Rivers Coalition with food by Rollin' Smoke, and a free float sponsored by ACE Adventure Resort

Big Day on the Water

posted May 23, 2016, 5:54 PM by David Lillard   [ updated May 23, 2016, 5:54 PM ]

Big water day for ‪#‎Elkspedition‬. Adam and Matt's canoe flipped downstream of Webster Springs Sunday morning, 5/22. After months of dry water, it's raging today. The boys paddled the 10 miles from the CR 7 Bridge to Sutton Lake backwaters in just 2 hours! It was a much different scene only yesterday when they were able to chat with anglers along the river. 

See y'all at Coonskin Park May 30 for the Elkspedition Homecoming Picnic and Flotilla -- it's free!

Elkspedition Team Featured on WV Outdoors

posted May 23, 2016, 5:48 PM by David Lillard   [ updated May 23, 2016, 5:50 PM ]

Awesome story by WV Metro News' Chris Lawrence on 
‪#‎Elkspedition‬ from headwaters of the Elk in Birthplace of Rivers National Monument to Charleston.

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