Pro kayakers are always chasing first descents, but for an unforgettable multiday river trip, kayaker/conservationist Trip Jennings recommends the opposite—a last descent. China-based Last Descents River Expeditions offers guided trips on iconic rivers high in the Himalayan foothills that are slated to have dams built on them. “You get to experience rivers just as amazing as the Colorado in the Grand Canyon for what could be the very last time anyone ever paddles them,” says Jennings. “Which is kind of sad but also really cool.”
Marketing Director Travis Winn, who went to college with Jennings and moved to China right after graduation, aims to make the rafting experience go both ways. He invites influential Chinese officials and decision-makers to run the river alongside the tourists in order to share visitors’ enthusiasm and to get a sense of the value of their country’s waterways beyond just hydropower. “He’s not going to stop all of the dams, but he will certainly influence river management in China going forward, and he’s giving an incredible gift to this region,” says Jennings.
Kayaker Trip Jennings has claimed first descents of rivers in North America, South America, and Asia, and shared a world record for kayaking over a 101-foot waterfall in Oregon. But one of his greatest achievements was leading a first-of-its-kind expedition to Papua New Guinea in 2007 to complete a source-to-sea first descent of the 45-mile class V Pandi River, and to develop sustainable tourism practices to protect it. He continues to make films about sensitive conservation topics. Read his Adventurers of the Year profile.
Trip Jennings' Gear Pick: Knife
"I always bring a knife, one that’s small, low profile, and light. I don’t like having a big knife on my belt or even in my bag. I travel as fast and light as possible with versatile gear that will get me in and out of the wilderness safely, and in this case, while spreading peanut butter and cutting tomatoes with the best of them," says Jennings. "If I go on a boating-oriented expedition, the NRS Co-Pilot Knife is always on my lifejacket. If it’s more land oriented, the NRS Wingman Knife is always in my pocket.”