Off the edge: New museum exhibit features Stevensville adventurer

Ravalli County Museum Historian Bill Whitfield stands next to some of the items that people will see at the museum's newest exhibit that celebrates the adventures of Stevensville native, Tyler Bradt.

Stevensville’s Tyler Bradt has seen the world in a way that few could match.

The professional whitewater kayaker holds the world record for the highest waterfall ever run by a kayak after dropping 186 feet over Palouse Falls.

His expeditions have taken him to the world’s most remote places for adventures definitely not for the faint hearted.

The 29-year-old is currently in the middle of a five-year-long circumnavigation of the globe in a sailboat with a goal to experience the world through a series of adventures including surfing, wing-suit diving, base jumping and, of course, kayaking.

“The expedition conveys a simple lifestyle, the core element of sustainability,” Bradt said. “Living only on what is necessary, the crew will accomplish the expedition simply and practically, having fun, documenting the adventure and experiencing the adventure of a lifetime.”

Over the course of the next six months, people who walk through the doors of the Ravalli County Museum will be able get an intimate insight into the life of the Bitterroot Valley’s own worldwide adventurer through an exhibit that opens with a 7 p.m. reception Friday, April 22.

Called “Tyler Bradt, Off the Edge. Venturing the Currents of Risk,” the exhibit is unlike any other that’s graced the Hamilton museum.

The museum’s program coordinator, Noellyn Pepos, had been toying with the idea of creating a series of exhibits featuring young Ravalli County residents that she thought about calling “future legends.”

She was at a local brewery with a friend one day last year when Bradt stopped by to say hello. In the subsequent conversation, the seeds were planted to create the exhibit featuring Bradt’s incredible life.

“He didn’t really fit into my future legend’s idea,” Pepos said. “He’s a legend already.”

Bradt generously agreed to provide the museum with photographs, artwork, mementoes and some of the equipment that he’s used in his adventures, including the broken paddle and helmet he wore in navigating the 186-foot Palouse Falls.

“When I got in touch with him just before Christmas, he was really open to the idea,” Pepos said. “He was really happy to do it.”

Bradt is currently sailing on a 44-foot boat as part of Wizard’s Eye Adventure. Sometime during the exhibit, Pepos expects that he will be back in the Bitterroot Valley and available to make an appearance at an event at the museum.

“Everything that he gave me to use in the exhibit offers a glimpse into his life,” she said. “It’s his reality and his adventure, but this exhibit will help us all to share in it.”

The best part of it all is Bradt is a local kid with connections that run deep to the community.

“I’ve had people tell me that ‘he was my student’ or ‘I knew him,’” Pepos said. “People see him on videos doing these incredible adventures. Everything he gave me humanizes him. People will have an opportunity to learn about his life leading up to these adventures.”

A wall filled with photographs shows that Bradt was like any other active youngster growing up in the Bitterroot Valley. He raised critters for 4-H, played sports and rode in local gymkhanas.

“We have the saddle he used,” she said. “The exhibit will include a wall dedicated to the kinds of opportunities that both young and old can participate in here in the Bitterroot. We hope it inspires people to try something new.”

Ravalli County Museum’s focus is history, natural history and art. This exhibit touches on all of those.

“He’s a vital part of Ravalli County’s evolving history to be shared in real time,” she said. “I wanted to create an experiential environment for people to become part of the adventure and hopefully be inspired to create their own ultimate experiences,” Pepos said.

That’s what Bradt hopes too.

He told Pepos that if the exhibit inspires other youngsters to reach out and try something new, it will be well worth it.

“He said that he met a man who told him that if your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough,” Pepos said.