Canoeists at the International Canoe-In on July 28, 1974.  46 canoes and 20 kayaks successfully negotiated the river, despite Seattle City Light’s testimony that the Skagit River was un-navigable.

Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, 1970’s
“I covered the then Minister of Land and Water Resources, Bob Williams, on a canoe trip down the river, which a Seattle City Light consultant had said cannot be canoed.”

Norm Pearson, Executive Assistant to the British Columbian Minister of Lands, Water and Forest Resources under New Democratic Party leadership from 1972 to 1976
“Let’s see, it was the 1974 the ROSS Committee decided to have the International Canoe-in in the Skagit Valley, and we decided that that was an appropriate opportunity to up the ante a little bit and actually create a Park in the area. So at the canoe-in event, Robert Williams who was then the Minister of Lands, Forests, and Water Resources,[and] Radford – and he was the Minister of Recreation and Conservation by then – went to the Skagit and actually declared the park, announced the formation of the park – the Skagit Valley Park.”

“…My involvement was doing my best to stay out of the canoe. But Williams did go down the Skagit in the canoe. Tom Perry had already described quite fully that situation. I even had frog men to make sure nobody drowned on the route. It was an exciting event. There were a vast number of people that came to the event, people that had never been to the Skagit before and were only peripherally interested. But it seemed to have the right flavor and so it was quite an event. And it made a lot of people aware of the rather dramatic scenery and environmental qualities that were there in the Skagit: this curious blend of the Okanagan, this dry belt stuff combined with the coastal vegetation, all the rhododendrons. It was quite amazing.”

Tony Eberts, The Vancouver Province Outdoors Editor, Environmental Columnist 1979-1994
“It was back when the dispute was at it’s height, a bunch of the ROSS Committee and canoe clubs and so on got together and they had a Canoe-In at the river in which dozens of canoes went down all the way from the Twenty-six Mile Bridge where the access road meets the river, all the way down to Ross Lake. And I think it was just coincidentally a couple of days later the Seattle City Light quoted some local expert as saying that the Skagit River is impossible to canoe. It couldn’t be claimed to be a recreational river in that regard because you couldn’t canoe it anyway.”

Tom Perry, served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in the British Columbia Legislature (1989 – 1996), as Minister of Advanced Education, Training & Technology (1991 – 1993), and was recognized with the Roderick Haig Brown Award for his efforts to preserve the Skagit Valley; Rivers Canada board member.
“…while I had canoed the Skagit River many times, and in the summer of 1974 one of the strategies we took was to organize a protest disguised as a fun event – it really was a fun event – called the First Annual Skagit Valley International Canoe-In. It happened to be a very late spring, and high water year. Water conditions were unusually dangerous in late July 1974, but we put together a team of frogmen with scuba diving gear on the log jams, expert canoeists from the canoeing clubs, portage banners slung across the river indicating where people had to take out. Parks branch people were absolutely freaked out by this, but we managed to get people down safely, miraculously, and by the skin of our teeth.

And hold this large demonstration in there, and tie it in with the British Columbia government officially declaring the Skagit a recreation area. In B.C. the Provincial Park has a very high conservation status, and a Recreation Area does not. In a Recreation Area it could be legal to construct a dam, but not in a Provincial Park. We wanted our NDP government to declare the Skagit a Provincial Park, and to hell with the Americans. They, for whatever their own legal reasons, decided to declare the Skagit a Recreation Area, so we staged this large demonstration on July 28, 1974, where we held a large party, unveiled a sign, a government sign, creating the Recreation Area. The Cabinet Ministers were there and we took them all down the river by canoe, along with a lot of media.”

“…A few days later the recreation expert consultants for the City of Seattle, who were being paid millions of dollars, testified before the Federal Power Commission that it was impossible to canoe the Skagit River. And as the guy who organized the canoe-in and rescued multiple people out of the whirlpools, I didn’t have status to say whether it was safe or not safe. I could have testified on both sides of that question at that point, but I didn’t have expert status, because I didn’t have a degree in recreation, unlike the consultants who said it was impossible.
I had done it. And I even got a canoe with a Viking sail down the river. A square Viking sail pretty much obscures your view from the stern. I managed to get the darn thing with striped sail and tassels flying from the mast down the whole Skagit River without accident.”