Through a Photographer’s Lens
University of Montana wildlife biology student Jaydon Green traveled throughout western Montana this fall photographing rivers for American Rivers through the eyes of both an artist and a scientist. He shares with us his experiences of learning to capture the essence of wild rivers.
These are just a few of the 28 special rivers flowing within the Lolo National Forest that deserve protections to ensure they remain clear, cold, and copious well into the future. Interning with American Rivers allows me to share the beauty of wild rivers with you.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time walking around outside looking for bugs, birds, and other little critters I could see in my neighborhood. This quickly developed into a passion for exploring and discovering animals and plants that can’t be seen in everyday city life. When I moved to Missoula, one of the first things I noticed, and soon fell in love with, was how interconnected the city is to nearby nature. Rattlesnake Creek is somewhere I often return. The sounds of the creek, the rustling leaves, the call of a bird- evoke a sense of inner calm. I feel like a kid again. Chasing the pileated woodpeckers from tree to tree. Watching the deer seamlessly navigate the twists and turns of the intricate forest floor. I always find something I haven’t seen before, and my childhood self couldn’t be happier.
I arrived at the North Fork Fish Creek Trailhead before first light and took one of the freshest breaths of air I have ever inhaled. The air was cool and crisp, and the ground was covered in dew. A thick surreal fog had settled in the valley. In the dawn light, tears of joy came to my eyes when walking through a previously burnt forest, as I saw thousands of young trees growing and bringing back life. As I walked down this trail taking pictures and exploring, I lost track of time.
As a wildlife biologist, I find comfort in the natural world, where the land appears untouched and the waterways create their own paths. I remain stubborn in believing that development could never amaze me in the same way that patterns in the bark on a tree do. When visiting the Thompson River and nearby Thompson Falls Dam, I was shocked by the contrasting dynamic between natural and man-made.
Seeley Lake’s symbiotic relationship with the Clearwater River is unmistakable. Beyond providing a stunning backdrop, the river serves as a lifeline for Seeley, offering recreational opportunities, sustaining wildlife, and fostering a sense of community. The river, much like area residents, adapts and flows, embodying the resilient spirit of this close-knit community. I was approached by several locals who asked why I was taking photographs. This led to rich conversations with people who share a deep love and connection to this river. The Clearwater River isn’t just some river; it’s a character in Seeley Lake’s story. When photographing this area, I sought to capture the way the town embraces the river, and the river, in turn, is part of Seeley Lake’s identity.
Learn how rivers stir our creative juices
Learn more about why Western Montana rivers deserve new protections
Learn more about the American Rivers Northern Rockies office and our work to protect rivers in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming