Photos, Story, Video by Todd Wells

This year’s second annual Samana Fest saw an international tribe of paddlers gather in the Antioquia region of Colombia to celebrate the beauty and power of the free-flowing Samana River.


Plans to dam the Samana have attracted a growing group of international whitewater enthusiasts to visit Colombia and paddle the spectacular river before it is transformed into a stagnant reservoir. The culmination of this migration is now being celebrated every January through the Samana Fest, an event organized by Expedition Colombia. This year the Samana Fest attracted over 40 participants from around the globe.


On the first evening, participants of Samana Fest learned about the hydroelectric project which will drown the Samana River, destroy a prosperous jungle ecosystem and displace its thousands of human inhabitants (including farmers, fishermen, and resident gold miners) before heading to the river to experience it first-hand.


Jim Wells describes the experience of a full day of remote whitewater paddling through steep jungle terrain, stopping to interact with locals and capped off with a candlelit lagoon ceremony under a full moon.


“Folks from all over the world gathered for this incredible trip,” Wells says. “People that care and want to experience these remote rivers — some of the last untouched places on the planet. Because they are the ones that are gonna try to make change in the world, and see if they can’t effect change, protecting and preserving watersheds and river.


“Water is life on our planet,” Wells added. “So here’s a group of people that are dedicate to that.”



— Watch another film from Colombia’s Antioquia region.

— See more from Wells’ production company Mountain Mind Collective.

— Check out C&K’s Most Threatened Paddling Classics.