Paddling Up Support For The Green River
Today’s guest blog for our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series is about the Green River (#2) from our partner Steve Markle with the outfitter O.A.R.S.
The not-for-profit conservation organization American Rivers has just announced its 2012 list of the country’s most endangered rivers. Unfortunately, the historic and spectacular Green River, which flows through parts of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, made the list.
What’s the threat?
There is a proposal under consideration to divert 250,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River across the state of Wyoming to fuel ever-expanding growth in Colorado’s Front Range communities. The plan, in effect, would be to build a 500-mile pipeline to funnel water to Denver and its suburbs.
And as if that weren’t enough of a threat, there’s also talk of a nuclear power plant being built near the town of Green River, which would suck up an estimated 53,000 acre-feet of Green River water each year to prevent a catastrophic meltdown.
Naturally, we’re biased in our opinion that the water should stay in the river. There’s no doubt we have a vested interest! After all, we’ve been guiding whitewater rafting trips on rivers of the American West for over 40 years and, along with our subsidiary Don Hatch River Expeditions, are the largest commercial outfitter on the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. And at over 700 miles in length, the Green is the largest tributary of the Colorado River, which is the cornerstone of our organization. But these threats, of course, have more far reaching consequences than just our business interests.
Water shortages caused by these proposals could have a devastating effect on the robust recreation and tourism economies of the Colorado Plateau, as well as a potentially enormous negative impact on rural agriculture, native species and downstream water needs.
According to Trout Unlimited, which also opposes the pipeline project, the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Green River above it contribute $118 million annually to the local economy. (That’s in addition to the estimated $4.3 million Green River whitewater rafting contributes to the economy.)
Why Is This River So Important To Paddlers?
The four-day river trip that O.A.R.S. operates on the Green through the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument is one of the world’s great introductory river trips.
The camping is on sandy beaches among scattered boulders, rustling willows, junipers and giant cottonwoods. Clear creeks–perfect for swimming–tumble out of shady side canyons and the wildlife abounds.
The whitewater is moderate and fun, even for kids as young as seven. The side hikes are rich with history, ancient and not-so-ancient.
The geology is some of the most fascinating on the planet. A billion years are captured in these canyon walls, along with the remnants of various life forms that existed long before humans.
The scenery features vertical yellow and red sandstone walls that tower as high as 1000 feet and tiger-striped walls alternate in blonde rock and black manganese oxide. It’s not uncommon to hear from people that they consider the Green River through Lodore Canyon to be every bit as spectacular as the Grand Canyon.
And on the final day of a Green River trip in Dinosaur National Monument, Split Mountain Canyon awaits. The Class III rapids are so much fun, we run that part as a single-day trip as well. And, if you ask me, it’s the most scenically spectacular one-day river trip in North America.
What Will Happen To The River?
The very water in the river is what’s at stake here.
A pump and a 500-mile pipeline threatens to divert water from the river to slake the thirst of an ever-growing population.
And when the water is drained from the Green, a classic American river could be forever altered. Critical fish habitat, home to endangered species and countless others, will be jeopardized. A sustainable economy built on recreation and tourism in this magnificent place could take a big hit. Rural agriculture and urban water use downstream could be severely impacted. One of the best rivers for first-timers–one we love to share with people again and again–could dry up.
What Can You Do?
O.A.R.S. has joined with American Rivers in opposition of the proposed pipeline.
We recognize the importance of preserving the Green River’s recreational opportunities and natural ecosystems and think you should too.
If you want to pitch in, if you love rivers and wild places like we do, then here are a few things you can do to help:
- First, visit the American Rivers website and complete the pre-formatted message to Utah’s Gov. Herbert.
- Then, share a photo or message on Facebook and Twitter. American Rivers has prepared some for you on that same page, so it just takes a couple clicks.
- If you’ve got a blog or website, there are banners and graphics that you can embed to help spread the word.
It only takes about 3 minutes. Less, even. Thanks for joining us in support of protection for one of America’s great natural treasures.