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Canoeist returns to Butte after paddling to the ocean

Robert Lester
Posted at 4:43 PM, Jul 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-17 10:38:49-04

A Butte man finished his epic canoe trip to the Pacific Ocean which began in the Mining City at Silver-Bow Creek.

With well-wishers cheering from the bank in mid-May, Robert Lester and his cousin Braxton Mitchell shoved off on the first of 52 days of paddling and walking to the Pacific Ocean.

Lester said on the first day he couldn’t even comprehend the whole scope of the trip.

"It was more so just getting through that first day, getting through this area where it’s a little shallower, it’s a little faster, and where we couldn’t ride in the canoe as much and where we had to walk it kinda through the water and make sure we got through our first day," said Lester.

The pair got into a rhythm and paddled and portaged their way along the Clark Fork River to the Pen Oreille River going into Canada for a bit before connecting to the Columbia River and on to the Pacific Ocean in the 1300-mile tip.

"No day of the trip was as hard as I thought it was going to be but it was quite the grind and it was just quite the distance, you know?" said Robert Lester as he reflected on his journey on the bank of Silver Bow Creek.

The canoeists ended up walking about 175 miles of the trip to avoid rapids, beat the wind, and cross 40 dams. While the pair expected this much, many might ask why even take such a difficult journey.

"A few reasons: Butte’s my home, this is where I grew up and it’s pretty cool to think that these same waterways-this water right here goes all the way to the Pacific Ocean. And, secondly, we have a rich, rich history in Butte, and that rich history has left some scars on our environment and Butte has given a lot to this country throughout its history, so the people of Butte now deserve clean water, clean rivers, clean places to recreate," said Lester.

One lesson Robert has taken from his experience...

"It’s the work that we put in that really made it worth it once we got there," said Lester.

In a social media video, Lester stands in the surf 52 days after leaving Butte and beams as he introduces viewers to the ocean.

"It’s my pleasure to introduce to you: The Pacific Ocean," said Lester before diving into the waves.

"It was a really, really, unique, amazing moment for me to be wading out into that ocean to go swim after putting in 52 days of work to get there," said Lester.