Sensing a closing window of opportunity for a dream expedition, intrepid adventurer Leon McCarron sent a hasty email to RailRiders Adventure Clothing at the beginning of November in search of gear and sponsorship for a last-minute adventure. The Rio Santa Cruz, a crystal blue ribbon that winds its way through the plains that stretch from the Atlantic coast of Patagonia to the Andean Mountains in the west, is one of the few remaining large rivers in the area that remains uninterrupted sea to source. Starting in 2015, this will change, as construction on the Jorge Ceperni and the Nestor Kirchner hydroelectric dams will begin, flooding a large chunk of the river valley and making such an upriver trip virtually impossible and inauthentic. For Leon, this was an opportunity to be the last in a long line of famous names to travel the winding waters, and in it a unique opportunity to see the land in a different light.
Following in the footsteps of the first recorded attempt up the river, in 1834 by Charles Darwin and Captain Robert Fitz Roy (and meandering through an alleged hiding place of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Leon will start at the rivers mouth at the Atlantic, working his way west towards Lake Argentino, Patagonia, and the glaciers the compose the river’s source. Unlike Darwin and Fitz Roy, who ran out of rations and were forced to turn around after about 140 miles, Leon plans to make it the from start to finish.
Leon quickly assembled a crew, including old friend Tom Allen and Argentinian native and horsemen Jose Argento. The three of them planned to travel by horseback along the river’s edge, past where Darwin and Fitz Roy failed and into the legendary mountains of Patagonia. With them they will be taking sketches from the original trip, cameras, notebooks, and inquisitive brains.
Along the way, the trio will attempt to uncover both the history of the region and its current existence. Not only is this a legendary expedition that may never be completed again; it is also an opportunity to look into the people, plants, and animals that inhabit the Santa Cruz plain and how their lives will be effected by the incoming Dams. Will it bring industry, modernization, and progress? Or will it bring ecological destruction and wipe out an ancient way of life? One thing is for sure: the Rio Santa Cruz will never be the same again, and that makes it worth seeing one last time.
Leon’s Gear for the Santa Cruz Expedition: