The Power of Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is an important part of the US economy, contributing about $650 billion annually and over 6 million jobs .

Austen Lorenz

With a cool breeze blowing off the river, Jarrad looked up at the sunbaked limestone walls of the Auburn Quarry, a popular rock climbing area in the Auburn State Recreation Area along the Middle Fork of the American River, visualizing the moves required to get to the top of the 40 foot wall.

Twenty miles away on the South Fork of the American, Julie was getting ready to take her inflatable kayak down Trouble Maker, a class III rapid and one of the most rafted sections of river in California. Rock climbing and whitewater rafting are just two of the many popular outdoor activities for the millions of Americans who celebrated this Memorial Day Weekend.

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer and with it, a surge of people dust off their camping, fishing, and other outdoor gear and head outside. The influx of cash from people camping and buying supplies for s’mores, rafting, and fishing, not to mention filling up their cars at local gas stations to get out of town, is extremely important for rural towns across the US.

Austen Lorenz
Camping Gore Range in Colorado

In 2013, 142.6 million Americans participated in an outdoor activity, many of which were on or enhanced by rivers.

Outdoor recreation is an important and often overlooked part of the US economy which contributes about $650 billion annually in direct spending resulting in over 6 million outdoor recreation jobs .

The Colorado River, American River’s Most Endangered River of 2015, alone accounts for $26 billion in economic outputs from river based recreation. Across the US, small rural towns that traditionally survived on boom and bust extraction industries now thrive with more sustainable recreation based industries like whitewater rafting.

As regional outdoor recreation economies are built up there is an increased motivation to protect the landscape that provides these opportunities. Local communities across the US have become increasingly aware of the economic value of healthy rivers and river-based recreation, and they are fighting to protect flows and water quality. American Rivers supports these efforts through its Blue Trails program by helping to improve water quality, river access, and recreational opportunities.

Julie Fair
Trouble Maker Rapid on the South Fork American River

So go out! Enjoy the cool water during a river float, the rush of a trout’s tug on a line, or diversity of wildlife in a lush riparian area. And when you do go out, support the small towns that steward the rivers and wild places you enjoy.

Oh and here is a silly joke to share with your family, friends, or whoever you encounter on your journey. Why are rivers so rich? Because they have two banks! Ok and one more. What do fish wash their fins in? River Basins! Now go outside and enjoy!

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