Mekong River Journey: One Family’s Epic Adventure

By Katherine Sather/ The Nature Conservancy

It’s known as the “Mother of Water.”

As the 12th longest river in the world, the mighty Mekong River indeed nourishes many. It supports the largest freshwater fish harvest in the world, providing the primary source of protein to more than 50 million people as it runs its course through six countries, including Laos, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The river’s creatures sound like the stuff of fantasy novels – freshwater dolphins, giant stingrays (as big as your living room!) and 400-pound catfish. But they’re real, and they face an uncertain future.

Nature Conservancy scientist Jeff Opperman and his family recently embarked on a 1,500-mile journey along this incredible river. With Jeff are his wife and two children, including 10-year-old Luca and 8-year-old Wren.

“We want the kids to experience a place where people are directly connected to the river, in terms of their livelihood and culture,” says Jeff.

Mekong River

Mekong River, Southeast Asia.

There’s some urgency to the timing of this journey. “The river is at a crossroads,” Jeff continues. “Even 10 to 20 years from now, it could be a very different place.”

The Mekong River is largely untapped for hydropower. However, dozens of dams are planned and decisions about dam development—such as how many are built and in what locations—will have a huge impact on fish populations. “The Mekong, you could say, is really the global focus for the debate about the sustainability of large dams and hydropower,” offers Jeff.

The river is much more than a fascinating destination for his family. He’s helping to build the scientific support for the Great Rivers Partnership (GRP), a coalition of partners working to develop sustainable solutions for our world’s most important rivers. On this trip, Jeff hopes to learn about this river, its challenges and opportunities, and make connections with the conservation scientists working to keep it healthy.

He and his family are posting dispatches from their journey at Follow along on Twitter by tracking the hashtag #MekongJourney.

My 8-year-old’s Determination to Help Dolphins
Nature Feeds Our Families
Inspiring Youth in Nature

Photos © Jeff Opperman


Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo4 years ago

Thank you for the worrisome news. Why can't people see the flaws in their plans. I'm not a scientist, but I can understand that dams are terribly destructive. Why not create wind farms and use solar energy.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Sue T.
Susan T5 years ago

2 lucky kids to experience this! want to adopt me! or hire me? lol

jenny H.
jenny H5 years ago

What an incredible opportunity for their's somewhere I would love to visit.

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

I'm looking forward to the book.

tiffany t.
tiffany t5 years ago

I thank Jeff Opperman for trying to make the world a better place. Also showing his family how the majority of the world lives. Live simple so others may simply Live!

Dee D.
De D5 years ago

Sounds like an incredible journey...thanks.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson5 years ago