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700 Mile Kayak Journey to Raise Funds and Awareness for a Healthy Chesapeake Bay

A campaign by Conor Phelan

700 Mile Kayak Journey to Raise Funds and Awareness for a Healthy Chesapeake Bay

This summer (June – August 2016) we will be kayaking 700 miles in the protected natural landscapes of Alaska to raise funds and awareness for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Our purpose is to shine a light on the importance of conservation and to raise funds for the Chesapeake Conservancy and the critical work they do to ensure a healthy Chesapeake Bay.

Your contribution to this campaign is 100% tax-deductible and all of the proceeds from this campaign will help to protect vital watersheds, forests and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay region for generations to come.

Please join us by clicking “Contribute Now” and share this with your friends!

We greatly appreciate your support.

- Conor & Kyle


On the remote, rainswept western coast of Chichagof Island, Alaska, rises a mountain with a name that hits home with me in a literal sense. I may not share my last name with Freeburn Mountain, but four generations ago it took its title from my great-great-grandfather, William (“Bill”) Freeburn. A gold mine superintendent and key leader of the now abandoned town of Chichagof, Bill Freeburn led the Chichagof Company’s mining efforts at this isolated outpost for several years in the early 1900s. My great-grandfather, Henry Baumann, joined Bill Freeburn at the Chichagof mine for a few years where he met and married Bill Freeburn’s daughter Louise. Henry Baumann took many photographs of the mine, town, and surrounding landscapes - photos that I have cherished all my life.

Photo of my great-grandparents, Henry and Louise Baumann (c1913), in the mountains above Chichagof, Alaska

Ever since I learned about my family history in this remote region of Alaska, Freeburn Mountain has captivated me, and I put it on my “bucket list” to one day explore the region and the rugged natural landscapes where my ancestors lived and worked.

Until now, I have not had the time or resources saved up to access the West Chichagof –Yakobi Wilderness Area and Freeburn Mountain, but my planned departure as an employee of the Chesapeake Conservancy in Annapolis, MD to attend graduate school in the fall of 2016 offers a perfect gift of time to complete this “bucket list” item!

Kyle Smith, a fellow friend, colleague, outdoorsman and adventurer will also be joining me as he will also be moving on to graduate school in the fall of 2016.

Photo of Kyle Smith on a backpacking trip

Photo of me, Conor Phelan, also on a backpacking trip


To maximize the amount of available daylight, our voyage is planned to span the summer months. The approximately 700 mile route (see map below) is estimated to take two months of paddling including a number of “buffer days” set aside for storms and other unforeseen delays. With a start date set for June 2, 2016, we expect to complete our final paddle strokes in early August, 2016.

Our trip will start in Ketchikan, Alaska and head north towards Juneau to take full advantage of the warming temperatures over the course of the summer. Along the way we will resupply food and cooking fuel at a few small towns. A good portion of the trip will follow the famous Inside Passage boating route; however, much of the paddle will veer towards the more remote and exposed waterways further west in order to access Freeburn Mountain.

This is the 700 mile route we will be kayaking from Ketchikan, Alaska to Juneau, Alaska

Photo of Elfin Cove off the Northwest Corner of Chichagof Island, Alaska where we will be paddling


Over 400 years ago Captain John Smith plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay searching for passage to the Pacific Ocean. In his journals he wrote extensively of the abundant wildlife, and spectacular natural state of the Chesapeake Region. Fish swam so thick he bragged of trying to scoop them out of the water with frying pans, and oysters formed reefs so massive he had to maneuver his boat around them for fear of running aground. The water was so clear that Captain Smith remarked he could see to the bottom at depths of dozens of feet.

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“Heaven and Earth never agreed better to frame a place for Man’s habitation” - Captain John Smith, 1608

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As employees of the Chesapeake Conservancy, Kyle and I are deeply committed to helping return the Bay to the pristine and abundant landscape that John Smith would have recognized. This year, the Chesapeake Conservancy is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The Chesapeake Conservancy was first established as the primary partner organization to help manage and promote the John Smith Chesapeake Trail.

Over the past several years the Conservancy has grown its capacity throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a major player in the conservation community. The Conservancy has played a role in the protection of thousands of acres of land, the allocation of millions of dollars towards Bay restoration programs, and is providing cutting edge geospatial data and technological solutions to our partners and stakeholders.

With the support of our great local donors we have made significant progress towards our watersheds, public access and land conservation goals. Among our many accomplishments are the following: we helped secure federal funding to protect 2,100 acres through the Rivers of the Chesapeake LWCF Collaborative, connected over a million viewers to live osprey and falcon nest webcams, and provided critical support for the establishment of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and Monument.


As Kyle and I guide our kayaks through the islands the Southeast Alaska we will see all manners of marine and terrestrial wildlife; we will cast a fishing line into picturesque turquoise waters; and, we will sit by a fire in the evening watching the sun go down over an almost completely pristine landscape. These are all experiences that Captain John Smith would have had during his explorations of the Chesapeake Bay.

There are still idyllic landscapes throughout the Chesapeake Bay and the great rivers that feed it.

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As Kyle and I conduct our trip we hope to shine a light on the value of conserving and restoring natural and wild places while we still can. Making the right choices now can help to halt the uphill battle we face throughout the Bay and in countless other places due to past decisions.

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We have work to do to return the Bay to the pristine condition that Captain John Smith experienced, but as an employee of the Chesapeake Conservancy I can attest first hand that this is an organization that makes exceptional use of every contribution it receives to support a healthier Chesapeake Bay watershed. A watershed where fish and wildlife can thrive and vital natural landscapes can be conserved forever if we make the right choices and take action now.

We greatly appreciate your support!


We want to thank our generous sponsors for their support, including Buff USA, SOG, Arcade Belts, NalgeneJustin's and Seals Sprayskirts for the gear. We love it!


Is my contribution tax-deductible?  Yes. Your contribution is 100% tax-deductible. All proceeds go to the Chesapeake Conservancy a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Chesapeake Conservancy will send tax-deductible donation receipts to all contributors following this campaign.

How can I make a contribution?  Click "Contribute Now" to make a contribution.

Do you have a website?  Yes. You can check us out here

Who should I contact if I have questions?  Please contact Conor Phelan at