America is Rivers

Spending some time enjoying the Chicago River!

Spending some time enjoying the Chicago River!

As a primary city dweller, I have found that it is far too easy to forget the amazing topography of the United States. Mountains, rivers, lakes, plains and forests merge together to become the America we know and love. While all of these features are vastly different, together they are home to our cities, rural homesteads, parks, and wildlife found in the air, on the ground and in the sea.

Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be reminded of just how special the landscape and communities of America are. Beginning in Washington, D.C. and ending in Denver, Colorado, I spent a week on the road traveling cross country to begin my new job as American Rivers’ Intermountain West Blue Trails Manager.

From the Potomac to the Allegheny, the Chicago, Mississippi, Missouri, Platte and finally the South Platte, I saw quite a few of the great American rivers, as well as many lesser known but well-loved local rivers and streams. Ecologically speaking, these rivers are very different, however as far as the community benefits they provide they are the same. Rivers connect us to the local environment, economy and our communities.  One of the things I found most special about my trip was seeing first-hand the connection many cities and communities have with their rivers. Through riverside trails, increased boat access, recreational outfitters, and economic development along the river, river communities are beginning to turn back to their most valuable asset.

My travel companion and former National River Cleanup Manager, Lynsey Knowles, joined me on the adventure.

My travel companion and former National River Cleanup Manager, Lynsey Knowles, joined me on the adventure. Here she is on the Mississippi River.

Rivers are one of the best ways to reconnect people to the outdoor world, each other and to spur economic development within their community. In my new role as the Intermountain West Blue Trails Manager, I’ll be working to help communities do just this. From Montana all the way to New Mexico, American Rivers is excited to begin working with communities across the west to implement and develop Blue Trails, helping to increase economic development, recreational access and riverside land protection.

My cross-country experience and, I’d imagine, my new work experience will likely lead me to the same conclusion journalist Charles Kuralt determined during his show On the Road, “I started out thinking of America as highways and state lines. As I got to know it better, I began to think of it as rivers. Most of what I love about the country is a gift of the rivers…  America is a great story and there is a river on every page of it.”