National Geographic Adventure

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Mar 12
Kayaking Over an 80-Foot Waterfall, McKenzie River, Oregon

Photograph by Tim Kemple. See more in our Extreme Photo of the Week gallery.
"This is the moment when I hold my position and close my eyes as I anticipate the impact," says extreme kayaker Erik Boomer of dropping over 80-foot Sahalie Falls on the frigid McKenzie River near Portland, Oregon. “All the work is done at this point; it is just time to enjoy the feeling of free fall.”
Boomer, who paddles over 20 to 40 waterfalls a year, is a true expert. But that doesn’t mean he can just go with the flow. “Waterfalls like this always have x factors that you have to deal with,” notes Boomer. “It is impossible to anticipate exactly what the water will do as you approach the lip. Waves, boils, and eddy lines are constantly surging, so you have to be prepared to react to the water the whole time.”
In 2011, Boomer and his expedition partner Jon Turk pulled off the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, a feat which made them two of our 2012 Adventurers of the Year.
Getting the Shot
"They say that Sahalie Falls is 100 feet tall. The pure drop after the first dip is about 80 feet. It’s an impressive sight by itself, never mind seeing somebody kayak off it," says photographer Tim Kemple. A recent snowstorm left the landscape highlighting vibrant blue and green hues. “The water was bright blue, the moss was electric green, and the snow juxtaposes everything perfectly,” says Kemple. The group waited for clouds to arrive, ensuring Kemple was photographing in even light.
To locate the best spot to photograph Boomer, Kemple knew he needed to head upstream and away from a classic tourist lookout for the falls. Kemple spent over an hour breaking trail through three feet of fresh snow. “By the time I was there, Boomer, who had simply paddled across the rapids, was ready to drop,” recalls Kemple. “What really blew me away was how easily and confidently Boomer paddled. He hit the bottom of the falls, popped out, and paddled to the take out. Like it was no big deal,” says Kemple.
To get this shot Kemple set up three separate Canon cameras with remote triggers. He fired a fourth camera, which got this shot, while teetering on the edge of the cliff.See more photos and read an interview with the athlete and photographer on our blog. 

Kayaking Over an 80-Foot Waterfall, McKenzie River, Oregon

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    sahalie falls is so gorgeous. and shocking! the first time I saw it we were walking through a little path in the snow to...
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    This is incredible. I hiked past Sahalie Falls in the winter and the trail was a solid block of ice. I was only able to...
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