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WL-WV kids tackle aquatic activities

CREST camp offers whitewater rafting, kayaking, snorkeling

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Rosemont Ridge sixth-grader Nolan Price triumphantly approaches the eNRG dock on his paddle board Aug. 24.Summer is winding down and kids are beginning to turn their attention to the inevitability of the coming school year. Settling in is the harsh realization that the leaves will soon change colors and days spent wandering West Linn parks looking for Pokemon will soon be replaced with an all-together different search for the correct answers in bulky textbooks.

Despite the fast-approaching school bell which will signal the start of classes Sept. 6, a handful of West Linn-Wilsonville middle school students spent the past week, their second-to-last week of freedom, maximizing their summer vacation by taking part in CREST’s (Center for Research in Environmental Sciences and Technologies) Adventure Camp. Kids ranging from sixth to eighth grade from all three WL-WV middle schools spent Aug. 22-26 snorkeling in the winding Molalla River, bouldering at The Circuit in Tigard, paddleboarding on the Willamette River and even whitewater rafting along the Clackamas River. All in all, it was an action-packed week, more than living up to the title of Adventure Camp.

Before kids could get out on the water, however, they first had to learn to work as a team to ensure safety and success while adventuring, as well as form bonds with peers they might not have known before camp began.

“The first day is always team building so that they get to know each other, because they come from different schools and are different grades,” says CREST Director Bob Carlson. “Plus, they’re going to work in teams all week in water sports and all that so we want them to have some familiarity with one another. We do some team-building activities and get-to-know-you activities and then go from there.”

Rock climbing, or more specifically bouldering, followed team building Monday afternoon — much to the enjoyment of campers.

Carlson started Adventure Camp for CREST more than a decade ago and have since implemented bouldering to get kids in an active and engaged mindset.

“Rock climbing was pretty fun on the first day of camp,” said Zachary Sunderland, an incoming seventh-grader at Athey Creek Middle School. “Most of us didn’t know each other before this so it was pretty fun.”

After Monday's events Adventure Camp turned its focus to water activities, including snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing and even whitewater rafting. Tuesday was snorkeling in the Molalla River, one of the highlights for many campers.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - CREST campers kayaked and paddleboarded all the way to the Willamette Falls.

“It was very cold,” said Nolan Price, an incoming sixth-grader at Rosemont Ridge Middle School, “but I liked snorkeling because I like to swim, and we saw some trout and other cool things in the water too.”

“Snorkeling was my favorite. I liked swimming with the fish and getting to look at them,” Sunderland added.

Campers followed snorkeling with a creek hike to learn about some of the natural organisms surrounding the river while learning about the importance of keeping their local environments clean and healthy. Carlson says the goal of Adventure Camp is to combine recreation with learning, making campers more conscious of their environment while having fun in the process.

“The creek walk and those sorts of activities are kind of the chance to look for critters under rocks and talk about the importance of having these clean rivers that feed into the Willamette and other bodies of water,” Carlson says. “We’re really truly doing fun, adventurous stuff with the kids. Getting them outside, getting them motivated, getting some exercise and learning some lifelong skills so that they can do water sports in the future.”

Wednesday was kayaking and paddleboarding at eNRG Kayaking on the Willamette River. Kids got the chance to do both while traveling all the way down to Willamette Falls and back. There they saw sea lions, as well as some more critters in the water. Kids got a chance to go canoeing the following day, traveling all the way from Clackamette Park to Mary S. Young park and back, where they saw more animals in the form of a blue heron rookery.

But the first four days of exploring were nothing compared to Adventure Camp’s culminating activity — whitewater rafting on the Clackamas River. Carlson says it’s always the most fun part of camp, even if it can be the most nerve-racking for him and his staff.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Paddle boarders and kayakers make their way down the Willamette River Wednesday, Aug. 24.

“It’s a lot of work to organize the water sports because you have to be on alert,” he says. “It’s fun to go whitewater rafting, but when you’re in charge of 25 kids it … has an element of stress, but it’s worth it. It’s definitely worth it.”

Carlson says the goal of Adventure Camp is to get kids active while introducing them to activities that could turn into larger parts of their lives down the road. Participating in water sports and in potentially intimidating activities like whitewater rafting and bouldering builds confidence. They’re also opportunities kids might not have in their everyday lives, and are valuable life lessons to have down the road.

“I think this age group, middle school, these things build confidence for them and I think that’s a really important part of this camp. And trust, trusting each other and trusting themselves. Those skills are very important down the road,” Carlson says.

Kids will embark on another adventure, though admittedly one that’s a little less exciting, when school does start in a few days’ time. Thanks to CREST they’ll be returning with a little more bounce to their step, and if nothing else some fun memories from summer camp.

Contact Andrew Kilstrom at 503-636-1281 ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..