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Nature (Season 30) – "River of No Return"
Air date: 04/18/2012

Nature goes on an adventure of a lifetime in

River of No Return, Wednesday, April 18, 2012 on PBS 

This intimate portrait of an eco-paradise is seen through the eyes of a pair of adventurers confronting their own struggles.  Visit pbs.org/nature for more info.

Deep in the untamed heart of Idaho lies the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness, part of the largest roadless area left in the lower 48 States.  Named in honor of Idaho Senator Frank Church, and for the rugged Salmon River that flows through it, the vast 2.5 million-acre wilderness is larger than Yellowstone, yet most people have never even heard of it.  Defined by deep canyons, and mountain forests, it is a perfect habitat for abundant animal life, including wolves that are being restored to the area after an absence of 50 years.  This is the place where a young couple, Isaac and Bjornen Babcock, choose to spend a year-long honeymoon.  But what begins as a romantic adventure becomes something of much greater consequence for both of them – a story that will change their lives.

Nature’s River of No Return, premieres Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After broadcast, the series will stream online at pbs.org/nature.

Celebrating its 30th season, Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations and operator of NJTV.  For nearly 50 years,WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentaries and other programs for the New York community.

Working with the Nez Perce Tribe in Central Idaho, wolf biologist Isaac Babcock was part of the wolf reintroduction program organized in the area.  His 13-year experience with the wolves there led to his desire to share the raw beauty of the untamed wilderness and the wolves with his new wife, Bjornen.  It was unquestionably a wild idea for a honeymoon.

Once occupied by miners and homesteaders, the River of No Return Wilderness was reclaimed by nature after it was designated a federally-protected wilderness in 1980.  Otters and elk, deer and coyotes, blue birds, bighorn sheep and the newly-restored wolves thrive here.  Nine packs of wolves roam freely through the wilderness, each pack dependent on family cooperatively raising young and hunting together to survive.  Isaac and Bjornen spend days waiting and watching for their chance to observe the wolves and are rewarded by glimpses of parents and their pups, by deer intently and gracefully avoiding wolves in a golden meadow, and by a young wolf curious to know more about these two human interlopers, coming within 30 feet before circling and passing by.

For all the species in the wilderness, survival depends on cooperation and safety in numbers.  A lost young buck or a solitary ram injured while fighting for a mate can become easy prey for the wolves.  Any carcass abandoned by the wolves would feed the coyotes and other scavengers.

One injured and isolated elk defies the odds as Isaac and Bjornen look on.  As a pack of wolves circle, another elk inexplicably arrives to defend her, and all the rules of survival of the fittest in the wild go out the window in a remarkable display of courage and compassion.  This selfless act is an inspiration to the young couple facing the elements on their own, taking care of one another in the face of hardship.

Bjornen’s hardships in the wild are complicated by a recent diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.  She is plagued by swelling and pain in her joints, causing difficulty walking and sleeping, all symptoms that would be hard enough to manage in a standard urban setting.  Add heavy backpacks and strenuous hikes up the sides of mountains and through tangled forest undergrowth to the equation and the level of difficulty rises significantly.  Still, the splendors of nature comfort her and offer their kindred spirits for her to reflect upon.  She chooses to stay.

The river presents its own stories of strength and determination.  In the middle of the roaring river, small birds called dippers thrive where the river is roughest, slipping in and out of the current to feed on aquatic insects.  They build their moss nests directly above the rapids, so food for their young is never far away – a fortunate circumstance, given the tantrums displayed by their fledglings demanding to be fed.

Chinook salmon making their way up the river to spawn must also be determined.  In the course of their epic migration from the Pacific, these powerful fish use all their energy to leap mighty falls and struggle upstream in order to spawn and then perish in their natal streams.

The year in the wild is transformative for the couple; they took on the wilderness and all its challenges and in the end have come to treasure their experience in this wild and untamed place they once called home.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS.  Fred Kaufman is executive producer.  River of No Return is a production of Hobbit Hill Films, LLC and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry.  Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Nature has won more than 600 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities, and environmental organizations including 10 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first award given to a television program by the Sierra Club.  The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.  Recently, Fred Kaufman was named the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Media by the 2012 International Wildlife Film Festival.

PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides, and more.

Major corporate support for Nature is provided by Canon U.S.A., Inc.  Additional support is provided by the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Arlene and Milton D. Berkman Philanthropic Fund, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the nation’s public television stations.

 

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About WNET

New York’s WNET is America’s flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Noah Comprende and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.

Photos
For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of NATURE. No other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.
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Isaac and Bjornen hiking in evening meadow. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Bighorn carcass in snow. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Single bull elk in mist. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Sunset on River of No Return. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Wolves on a social call. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Two bull elk in misty meadow. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Moon rising over profile rock. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Snowy Ridge. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Brothers in the grass. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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A council of bighorn rams. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Isaac with camera. Gabe Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Winter gorge. Bjornen Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Settled in for the night. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Bjornen journaling by stream. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Bjornen journaling in lupine flowers. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Male mountain bluebird on whitebark pine snag. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Coyote with bighorn sheep skull. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Dipper resting on a branch between dives. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Elk at attention. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Isaac and Bjornen admiring petroglyphs. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Chinook salmon at Dagger Falls. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Whitebark pine overlooking the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Whitetail deer. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC

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Bighorn sheep overlooking Big Creek Canyon. Isaac Babcock THIRTEEN/Hobbit Hill Films LLC