Christopher finished swimming the Columbia River in July 2003, but the dream of a clean, free flowing river lives on. See glimpses of Christopher's follow-on efforts below.
The following letter was sent to the editor of the Portland Oregonian newspaper on March 7, 2007.
It was never published:
Celilo Swain, Age 3
As I read Eric
Mortenson’s March 4 piece on Celilo Falls, I remembered my swim of the Columbia
River’s entire 1,243-mile length, back in 2002-2003.
Call me crazy, but as I
slogged through the fake lake that covers Celilo, I could still feel the Falls.
I knew that when we
closed the gates on the Dalles Dam in 1957, we buried one of the world’s great
waterfalls, as well as one of the largest fisheries on the planet. In just six
hours, the waves of “progress” closed over 10,000 years of history, and over
the hearts of fourteen salmon-based cultures.
As I swam, I knew in my
heart that this was all wrong. Ever since that day, I have believed that we
should permanently restore Celilo Falls.
Eleven days after I
finished swimming the Columbia River, my second daughter was born.
We named her Celilo.
free her river.
The following letter was sent to the editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper on March 8. 2007.
It was never published:
When I read Joseph
Frazier’s 3/3/07 AP story about the burial of Celilo Falls beneath the
backwaters of the Dalles Dam on the Columbia River, one sentence stood out:
“The Dalles Dam can generate enough electricity to serve a city the size of
Seattle, and there is no talk of removing it.”
I swam the entire 1,243
mile length of the Columbia River in 2002-2003. I sweated and bled into the
Great River of the West for 165 days. As I stroked through the fake lake above
Celilo, I could still feel the Falls, hidden beneath a blanket of stagnant
Ever since that day, I
have believed that we should permanently restore Celilo Falls.
Naysayers maintain that
the river is too valuable as a highway for barge traffic, and as a source of
cheap electrical power. I would argue that freight could travel just as easily
by rail on the tracks that parallel the river. And that the Celilo area—just
east of The Dalles, Oregon--demonstrates stunning potential for solar and wind
power: arguably a more sensible investment than spending millions each year to
keep the Dalles Dam operational.
Why not let the river be
Copyright Christopher Swain, 2001-2010. All Rights Reserved.