Sign the petition to Protect Wild Rivers

I support the protection of 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and one million acres of riverside lands. We must defend our wild rivers public lands from harmful development and pollution, and protect 5,000 new miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers nationwide. Full petition »

Jeremy Diner link

Louie Hena

(Teseque Pueblo, New Mexico)

When I look at the river, I’m seeing life. I’m seeing my partner, who helps me make a living, who helps me water my crops so I can feed myself and my community. I see my ancestors using the water, like I do now. And I am seeing my grandkids running the river, like I’m doing now.

In these communities, we say Earth Mom is sacred. Everything out here to us, has a spirit. Our communities are connected to springs, which are connected to a river, and those rivers are connected to lakes up in the high mountains. We are all part of that system and this river gives life to us here.

More people around the world need to start listening to indigenous peoples, because what we do, we do it for Earth Mom, and if you look at Earth Mom, it is one big basket, and we are all corn kernels in that one basket. So whatever happens to Earth Mom, we are all impacted.

Everything who I am, is here. My way of life, is here. Clean air, clean water. The cactus, the willows, the piñon, sage, the bighorn sheep, the birds that you see flying around, the fishing. This is what we use within our communities. This is home.

My greatest hope for the future, is that the river does not run dry. For not just my kids, but for everybody’s kids. This is the lifeblood of New Mexico. This is the greenbelt. So if this goes, everybody’s gone.

Water and I, we’re one. We are always together. You start the day by saying prayers, then you end the day by saying prayers. It’s to leave the land saturated – wet.

The value of Wild & Scenic is that my grandkids’ grandkids’ grandkids will enjoy what we are enjoying today.

Jeremy Diner link


(Teseque Pueblo, New Mexico)

When I started doing these rafting trips I was 14 years old. Now I am 27 so I am been on the boats for over a decade. Hopefully we keep doing these trips cause my daughter’s 7, so in 7 more years, she might be sitting at the head of a boat, telling stories.

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Amy Martin

(Flagstaff, Arizona)

In my Mom’s spirit, I want to keep fighting for the preservation of these fragile ecosystems. With the loss of these places, we will lose that which enables us to break through struggles, that which gives us a clarity of mind, and that which reveals to us the line to follow.

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Kevin Fedarko

(Flagstaff, Arizona)

There is no place that I know of like the Grand Canyon. It exposes larger truths about who we are, and who we need to become, if we are to develop a more harmonious and balanced relationship with the places we live, and the places we call home.

Beauty means something. It’s more than just an abstract idea, it strikes at the core of who we are. It’s bedrock. Its one of those things that can sustain us.

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President Jimmy Carter

(Atlanta, Georgia)

In church we used to have one Sunday a year devoted to what we called stewardship, we would emphasize caring for God’s world the way it was made. And so from a religious point of view and from my childhood influenced by my father… I became deeply interested in fishing and water and streams.

Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood is going fishing with my father who was also an excellent fisherman. Back then it was all warm water because we lived in South Georgia. And it wasn’t until I became Governor in the 1970’s… that I began to learn about flyfishing on the Chattahoochee River here, and it goes right through Atlanta.

I think that the Chattooga was the first time I ever risked my life, I’d say, in going down a wild river. And I think it gave me an element of both satisfaction and a sense of, you might say heroism, in confronting the awe inspiring power of the Chattooga River when I had a major responsibility as a Governor of a state… it kind of opened my eyes to a relationship between a human being and a wild river that I had never contemplated before that.

I vetoed I think 16 different dam projects all over the United States which aroused a great deal of animosity and also condemnation among members of Congress and Chambers of Commerce and so forth. But I tried to maintain as close as I could my commitment that these dams were unnecessary and counterproductive for the future and well-being of American citizens.

I think it’s very important for all Americans to take a stand, a positive stand, in protecting wild rivers… I hope that all Americans will join together with me and others who love the outdoors to protect this for our children and our grandchildren.

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Amy Kober

(Portland, Oregon)

Our family has spent more time on the Wild and Scenic North Umpqua than any other river. I have the best memories of swimming in the river on hot summer days when I was pregnant, of walking the trail with a baby in the carrier on my chest, of my boys learning to catch crawdads and climb trees, splashing in Steamboat Creek, finding all kinds of bugs and snakes and other treasures along the riverbanks. The river is our touchstone and we’ll keep going back as much as we can. There’s no better way to spend time as a family.

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Erik Wardell

(Boulder, Colorado)

I got invited on a trip to the Grand, and I had to quit my job and say, “I’m doing it.” Being able to step out of your life for a second and just live and exist in nature, for me that’s what it’s all about. Because you’re not worried about who’s blowing up your social feed or those emails in your inbox. You’re just in it. It’s all about being present… and that’s something that’s really lacking in this day and age, especially with all of the technology we’re constantly on. That serves a purpose, but being out there in the middle of it, and just being present, is such an amazing opportunity and something I’m completely grateful for.

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Sage Sauerbrey

(Hailey, Idaho)

Sweepboating is about fight. You can read the river, but the river is going to try to throw you into a total shit storm. A lot of it is technicality, but in the end it’s fight – who fights the hardest to stay off that wall, who fights the hardest not to T-bone that rock and break the boat, who fights the hardest to hang on to those sweep arms.

There’s nothing in my opinion, no lifestyle more pure. Being able to work your ass off in the middle of the wilderness, in such a beautiful place, it’s how I view what men and women were supposed to do. Y’know, it’s what we’re made for.

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August Kober

(Portland, Oregon)

Rivers are fun. I caught my first fish on the John Day. I caught tons of fish, way more than my papa. When can we go back there?

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Shawn and Alta Crawford

(Cisco, Utah)

Everyday, I work toward preserving these spaces. Everyday. As a teacher, I share the wild with my students. As as guide and naturalist, I share the wild with my clients. As a Father, my daughter and I dwell in these spaces, the wild. Everyday.

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Steve Welch

(Groveland, California)

My grandfather introduced me to rivers when I was five by buying me a pair of LL Bean boots and letting me explore the magical, muddy floodplain adjoining his cattle ranch along the Sacramento.

My father deepened that connection by standing side-by-side and chest deep with me while teaching me to fly-fish on the Trinity, Morice and Gallatin.

There is no way my wife would have married me if I hadn’t been able to woo (and fool) her for 22 days on the Colorado in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to share wild rivers and timeless moments with my two sons during annual float trips on the Rogue, Salmon, and Green.

Whenever I can, I go alone to the Tuolumne to look for fish and to find myself (and peace).

Without rivers, I’d be a pale, lonely, single internet troll with no boots, no children, and no connection to our planet.

I imagine that my grandfather’s grandfather introduced him to rivers.

I can’t imagine my grandchildren’s grandchildren not having that opportunity.

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Mike Curran

(Big Wood River Valley, Idaho)

The rivers that I have visited, and the draw of the ones still to know, underline my being. My experiences interacting with them have shaped my personality and my outlook on life. My desire to keep them wild drives my career.

As a teacher, I strive to give my students a sense of place in the watershed that we inhabit, to spark their curiosity for the natural world, and hope that, based on their own connections, they will one day consider and approach the threats that our waterways face in their own ways.

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Russel Greene

(Washington, DC)

The Potomac river is not the biggest river, its not the cleanest river. Millions of people live within minutes of the Potomac. Potomac is a source of water for metropolitan Washington DC. What people might not know is it has a long history. It was a major factor in the Civil War. Another landmarks that sits on the Potomac river the Watergate hotel. Other landmarks include Mount Vernon and the Pentagon. This River is very diverse . The Potomac has flat water, has small rapids and of course the wild rapids of Great Falls.

The Potomac when it hits Washington DC is actually tidal and runs into the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac offers a lot of recreation options. The Potomac is home to lots of canoe clubs, college crew teams, Stand up paddlers. Up the river many olympians and others enjoy challenging rapids. The potomac also offers flat water areas that attract fisherman. I personally enjoy all the different zones. Its amazing that you can be so close to a city and have such solitude. Maybe I should be happy its Hidden in full sight.

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Douglas Argyle

(Desolation Canyon of the Green River, Utah)

There’s a certain moment on a youth river trip when it happens: it’s usually around 8:30 on night two. The canyon walls are alight with alpenglow, the fire is just starting to crackle in the pan, and you sink in to your camp chair to take it all in. The guides are busy with the kitchen crew breaking down dinner, girls are chattering and giggling and boys are following stonefly nymph tracks in squiggles along the beach. There’s an occasional splash and clink as the last bits of gear move between boat and beach and infrequent bird calls sound from the acid green cottonwoods. You exhale audibly and make eye contact with an adult peer and exchange exhausted grins. The river is starting to fold you into it’s flow and the default world is beginning to drift away.

It’s now been over 24 hours since you last checked your email. Over 24 hours since you spoke about deadlines or stock options or politics. You’re starting to let go of your pet problems, the little worries and the nagging trivialities. You notice you don’t miss your smartphone. There is no urge to broadcast what you had for dinner to all 57 of your followers – even though it was the best meal you’ve had in recent memory. Right now you realize you are content to digest that meal on your own and to have the sights, smells and feels of the canyon for dessert.

The spectacle of kids finding adventure and delight in this wilderness begins to sting your eyes a bit. As the sun descends below the canyon walls in a glorious display of reds, oranges, purples and blues, the camp chairs around you start to fill up. Conversations shift from Taylor Swift to the swifts that skim the water and from World of Warcraft to actual WOW about the world around. The children’s countenances are noticeably lighter as if great weights have been sloughed off into the sand.

Ed Abbey said that wilderness is a necessity of the human spirit, and Terry Tempest Williams said that if you know wilderness as you know love, you’d be unwilling to let it go. Here on the river with these kids you realize you are witnessing first hand the beginning of a life long love affair, spurred by total immersion in the ebbs and flows of a mighty river ecosystem. In this moment you are thankful to be here with these young ones, and heartbroken that you can’t be here with all of the rest.

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Greg Shute

(Alna, Maine)

My love of rivers began on Maine’s Allagash and since my first experience on moving water four decades ago I’ve been fortunate to regularly guide people on the rivers of Maine, Quebec and in the eastern Arctic. Rivers are part of the fabric of our family. Tonight as a write these words, a mid-February warm spell has begun to unlock the ice on the Sheepscot River that flows a short walk down the hill from my home in midcoast Maine. Soon I will be able to launch my canoe on the Sheepscot, my home river, for the first Spring run downstream. This annual ritual connects me deeply to the landscape through which the Sheepscot flows and for a short time, while I paddle the river the pace of the world slows to one that makes sense.

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Rebecca Long

(Alexandria, VA)

Growing up my family spent many vacations along rivers on the east coast – not to mention the Potomac in our backyard. I found my love of rivers on the flat water of the Chesapeake Bay, but it wasn’t until a rafting trip along the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Flathead River that I truly came to understand rivers and how they can suck you in, figuratively and literally. I now long to get back west and experience more of what wild rivers have to offer.

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Jeffrey M Tuttle


I first saw Grand Canyon from 31,000 feet flying back to Florida from Vegas. The pilot pointed out that those on the left side of the plane would have a great view. And he was right. I told the wife that we should go check it out one day. End of conversation.

6 or 8 months later, while cruising through the channels I paused on a video of some whitewater rafting. That quickly ended but not before I realized it was the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

The program went from rafting to telling about the Grand Canyon Lodge on North Rim. It was stated that only 10% of all visitors to Grand Canyon make it to the North rim. I decided then and there… IF I ever go to Grand Canyon, I will go to BOTH rims. Then I will know the reason people go to each!!

While on North Rim we rode mules down to Supi Tunnel. Ron Clayton, world renowned mule wrangler noticed in me that the canyon had quite an affect. In deed it HAS an affect on me. A great one at that. He told me to get down on The Colorado River and see Grand canyon the best way there is.

Memorial Day 2015 at about 10:50 AM local time we met out guides and after a brief meeting and load up, I was cruising down the Colorado.

By the 2nd day all my expectations were blown “out of the water” if you will. Truly a life changing experience. Something everyone should see and feel and smell and touch. Something we all should experience if not for ourselves, for our souls.

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Barbara Hinkey

(Wild and Scenic Kern River)

I love the Wild and Scenic Kern River on the Sequoia National Forest in the Southern Sierra Nevada because it runs through me. It is my life river! I have learned to flow with it through life whether at flood stage or peacefully finding its way along the banks. Its water brings life to all that its currents and eddies touch. I never tire of being on the river; smelling it, touching it, hearing it and seeing the grandness it projects.
It begins as a trickle on the slopes of Mt. Whitney and traverses 165 miles of scenic canyons as it becomes a forceful water way. The Kern is home to the Golden Trout and the Kern River Rainbow Trout. It’s bio-diversity is unchallenged by any other river, flowing from alpine slopes to the floor of the Southern San Joaquin Valley. This mighty waterway offers the best of experiences for those who visit and enjoy its bounty and beauty.

I have spent a lifetime on in, by it and in it. My great grandchildren are the sixth generation of family who have the river in their souls. It is the life blood of the Kern River Valley and has become my purpose in my later years. The river and I are connected. I hear it, it hears me. I am co-founder of Keepers of the Kern, Inc., a grass roots, nonprofit organization based in Kernville, California. Keepers mission is to clean, restore and protect its unique qualities.

The actions which are taken today on the Wild and Scenic Kern River will insure it is protected for generations to come. “One Person Can Make A Difference, Together We Can Make It Right”!

The Kern is my life and as long as I have a breath left, I will love it and take care of it.

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Adele Stewart

(Saluda River, Columbia, South Carolina)

In Columbia, SC, we are so lucky to have a great river that flows through our downtown. When I lived there, I would sometimes wake up early before work and go paddle with friends for “Dawn Patrol.” There is nothing like the river in the morning when the mist is rising and the birds are just waking up, but the river is just as strong and playful as she always is. I love it and am so thankful for those memories that are full of joy, peace and anticipation, looking forward to what each day can bring.

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Marni Edmiston

(McDonald Creek, Glacier Park, MT)

I almost drowned as a young person – an event that made me understandably terrified of water. However, as a young adult, long after finally learning how to swim, I became fascinated with kayaking. It seemed the closest thing to being a water creature and I was hooked. I bought my first kayak – wide with lots of stability – and proceeded to connect with the water and with the peace and happiness being on the water brings. Though I learned to swim years before, I had learned to swim to survive, not really to enjoy. Through spending time in my kayak, I learned to be on the water, to go with the water. Kayaking allowed me to be in the still places; to shed little water, to glide silently by wildlife, to see fish swimming below, to watch water skippers gliding alongside – to be part of something bigger, something incredibly restorative. I’m not a whitewater runner. I still sometimes get scared. I always wear my safety equipment and never kayak alone. My respect for, and love of, the water is steadfast. Rivers, creeks, streams, lakes, the ocean – they are of us and we are of them. They are the blood of this earth and integral to the cycle of life that keeps us all alive.

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Lyndsey Anderson

(Confluence of the Green and Colorado River)

Rivers are magical. Rivers inspire adventure, strengthen a community, create lasting friendship and inspire love. It was a connection and admiration of rivers that sparked a friendship, a river trip that inspired a relationship and five years later the planning of the most wonderful trip of them all – a wedding. My husband and I were recently married during a week longer Stillwater/Cataract Canyon trip in which we were able to share our most special day with the people and the rivers that have shaped our souls. The ‘W’ was roaring as we pulled up to the beach, we unpacked in a sand storm and began the the most exfoliating game of bocce ever played. As the sunset, the air calmed as if the canyon approved of our union and we said I do. We like to think of the day as a reminder that we can weather any storm as long as we have each other and our amazing community by our side. Rivers truly are love.

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W. Stacy Vereen

(Harpeth River - near the Narrows, Cheatham County, TN)

Growing up on the Gulf Coast I learned at an early age to love the water. As I got older my love deepened to also include the flora and fauna in and around the creeks, rivers and bays just before their freshwater currents rushed out to meet a salty sea. Longleaf pine, live oak, swamp chestnut, bald cypress, pitcher plants, palmetto … all common around the swamps and tea-colored blackwater rivers of home. All things I missed when relocating to landlocked Tennessee.

As an adult, I began to discover, almost by accident, the rivers and streams of Tennessee, and began missing home just a little less. From the North Carolina mountains and the clear, clean headwaters of the Tennessee River, the streams off the western slopes of Pine Mountain, Kentucky which form the Cumberland River, to the smaller but equally alluring rivers of the Highland Rim and limestone glades of Middle Tennessee, I became entranced with river birch, hemlock, cottonwood, red cedar, Virginia pine, chestnut and chinquapin oaks. Like when I was a boy, I wanted to intimately know all of these “new” rivers and the creatures who call them home.

Finally, I became certain that Tennessee, as well as any single point on this great continent, is far from being landlocked. There is water everywhere, if you stop to look.

Through the stream which flows through my backyard, and which I gaze upon as I write this, to the Harpeth River, north to the Cumberland, and further north to the Ohio, southwest to the Mississippi where is joins water that has flowed from as far north as Alberta, Canada before turning due south, I can go home, back to the Gulf Coast, back to my roots. There’s a comfort in knowing that. There’s a comfort in knowing we’re all connected.

Rivers are fascinating—each having its own personality. And I find unshakable peace in knowing that where there’s a river, there’s boundless opportunity for discovery, and for me that is pure, unfiltered joy.

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Ruby Seaton

(Gros Ventre River, Wyoming)

I was staying in the Gros Ventre campground outside of Jackson, WY, taking part in a wilderness program put on by the Animas Valley Institute. On the last day, we were given an assignment to create and enact a ceremony in the wilderness. I knew immediately that I was to cross the Gros Ventre river, on the other side of a wood with moose in it, some few hundred yards from our campsite. In the previous few days, I had watched a few of the larger, strong men of our group wade into this river.

So I went to the river’s edge. I tied my boots to my backpack, took off my pants, tucked the rest of my clothing into my underpants, and stepped in. I didn’t stop to think about it. This was early autumn, and the river was running swift and strong. I just stepped into it, barefoot. It was like stepping off the edge of the world, because immediately I had only two choices: either to step back onto the bank, which I wasn’t going to do, or to rapidly figure out how to stay upright on extremely slippery stones. My body figured it out for me, literally step by step. Soon, the water was half way up my calves, and the little slippery stones near the bank had become an endless mass of large, round, even more slippery rocks, with no gaps between them. I learned how to balance with my arms spread wide. I learned to pace each movement so that I could withstand the strong pull of the water and stay upright. My feet learned how to slowly, carefully create footholds in the gravel between the next two large round rocks. By the middle of the river, the water was near the top of my thighs. I’m a short, older woman. In reasonable heath, but nothing like the big guys from our group whom I’d seen in the river in the previous few days!

I felt more alive than at any other time in my life. Nothing else existed than each careful, careful movement, creating another foothold in the gravel between the rocks, easing onto it bringing my weight from my left hip to my right, from my right hip to my left again. Slowly, carefully. There was no time to be afraid, because I needed all of my attention and energy for keeping moving, though about two thirds of the way across, I did let out one huge yell.

Once on the other side, I discovered that my knees were shaking like crazy. I sat and massaged them on a lovely, white-sand, rock-strewn beach, with the time-bleached limbs of a huge old dead tree nearby.
The packed lunch I had brought with me tasted so good! …I spent an hour or two there on the other side of the river in a state of deep, joyful at-oneness, with self, with the wild world, with the river tumbling by.

I had somehow known that I would not need to go back across the river in the way I’d come across it. Sure enough, when it was time to return, a friend showed up on the other bank, a young strong one who waded out to the middle holding an old pair of Birkenstocks, and said “You can wear these; I don’t care if the current sweeps them away.” She took my hand and together we stumbled safely back across, then through the moose-wood back to our camp.

It may sound as though the river itself was merely the backdrop to this story, but it wasn’t like that in reality. This fast flowing mountain river was a magnificent Being that I will never forget. I had a direct encounter with the awesome power of Wildness that day that I still carry within me years later. In fact crossing that river changed my life. I step out into far more tricky situations these days, not looking back, not second-guessing, just figuring it all out as I go.

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Leslie Scopes Anderson

(Southern Utah)

There is still a long un-dammed portion of the Colorado River flowing through Utah. In 1983, when a river was running down Main Street in Salt Lake City because of heavy rains and sudden snow melt, I ran Cataract Canyon during the highest water in 100 years! The river’s average high is 60,000 cfs, but this year it was at 116,000! A way thrilling ride for all who experienced it! Long live wild & scenic rivers!!

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Clyde Creason

(Pantano Wash, AZ)

When my wife and I retired in 2014 and moved to a 55+ mobile home community situated next to the Pantano Wash, a large wash (a river during Tucson’s monsoon season), I was delighted to find a bicycle path (called The Loop) that bordered the wash. The wash, when not flowing, has trees, shrubs and even cactus from bank to bank and serves as a wildlife corridor for our native javelina, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, rabbits mountain lions (cougars) , birds including large ravens, hummingbirds, hawks of various kinds, finches, and numerous other species.

Under both the Broadway bridge and the Speedway bridge are a large population of Mexican Free Tailed Bats, a migrating bat which flies out at sunset to catch its evening meal ( a sight worth seeing as the population under the Broadway bridge numbers in the thousands).

What I was not prepared to see was the incredible amount of trash in the bottom of the wash which included shopping carts, abandoned homeless encampments with the usual sleeping bags, apparel, plastic bags and bottles and incredible numbers of tin and aluminum cans.

I was shocked. And also extremely embarrassed to think that visitors from all over the US and Canada who came to spend the winter at the RV resort next door would be bicycling along this path. This became the start of a group that I named “Friends of the Pantano”, dedicated to the cleaning of this waterway.

I immediately posted a flyer asking for volunteers in both the offices of our mobile home park and the RV resort next door. Our first group consisted of about 15 senior citizens and after 4 hours of digging up shopping carts and piling up trash we began to realize what a massive undertaking we had started.
The next day our group had dwindled to 6 or 7 due to muscle aches and joint dysfunctions. At this point I came to the realization that we might need more help than the die hard senior citizens provided so I contacted Tucson Clean and Beautiful, a non-profit group that works close with both the city and Pima County. They were excited to work with us and provided gloves, trash bags and other items. More importantly they arranged for all the trash we had collected to be picked up by Pima County backhoes, and dump trucks. They also provided for a legal Right-of-Entry permit and put me in touch with another hard working group called the Arizona Conservation Corp. This group of about 15 summer-help twenty somethings helped us tremendously. Through a personal friend at a nearby church (Christ Community) we utilized the hard work of their youth group for 2 days. We also garnered supplies such as water and ropes from the local Home Depot which also borders the wash.

All in all, over a period of about a year and a half, and down the length of a mile and and half, we removed approximately 75 shopping carts, and 6 to 8 large truckloads of trash. Unfortunately Pima County Regional Flood Control District has rescinded our Right of Entry into the wash and we are currently unable to continue to maintain the wash. However, those who worked on this project have been left with new friendships and a sense of satisfaction when they think of their accomplishment.

Jeremy Diner link

Andrew McGlenn

(Pratt River, WA)

In 1989, on one sunny Saturday morning in July, we set out for a fly fishing trip on the Pratt River. It’s located on the west slope of the Cascade Mountains and flows into the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.

We had to wade across the Middle Fork and proceeded to hike up along an old, faint trail that paralleled the Pratt. The whole family was on board, along with Charlie, our black lab.

After hiking upstream about 2 or 3 miles, we dropped down to the river and got our fly rods out. I don’t remember much about how the fishing was, maybe due to what proceeded to unfold…

We worked our way downstream, fishing the holes that we encountered. As we went along, I slowly noticed that much of the stream bank was hard to access due to small landslides that often made the riverbank inaccessible. This was not a big deal as we were wading the river as we went down. But it seemed to become more extreme the further downstream we went.

Then the light started to fade as dusk crept in upon us, and we found ourselves in a really gnarly stretch of the river. The plan had been to walk, wade and fish our way down until we hit the confluence, where we had started.

But, this was rapidly becoming an impossibility. So, we made the decision to climb up and try to intercept the trail we’d hiked in on. By now, the sun had set and darkness was upon us. I remember seeing a few stars through the forest canopy as we clambered along.

We fumbled our way up the hill over downed trees in search of the trail, but could not find it. My brother Bruce and I forged ahead and eventually stumbled upon the trail. There was a moment of rejoice and relief. But that was soon dashed as we realized it was so dark that we couldn’t even follow the trail.

So, after a fatal attempt at fashioning some torches with fern fronds tied to sticks, we decided that we’d have to hunker down and wait it out until it got light. Fortunately, Bruce, the youngest had a box of matches in his pocket…and this also allowed us to build a fire as we rode out the night, huddled together with Charlie trying to keep warm in our shorts and t-shirts…

At last, dawn broke and we started out again. About an hour later, we came to the confluence, crossed the river, and got back to the suburban. What had started out as a day trip had turned into a minor overnight family survival trip.

It didn’t prove to be a matter of life and death, but it was a good lesson in being prepared for the unforeseen and unexpected.

Just one of many McGlenn family adventures. However, we vowed not to repeat that one…

Jeremy Diner link

Shaina Maytum

(Green River, Split Mountain, Moonshine Rapid, 15,600 CFS)

My father taught me to love the river. By the time I was born, his river days were largely over, but small family trips combined with epic and wild stories ultimately led me to start rowing my own boats as both a river guide and on my own adventures. Some of my happiest memories of the last 10 years center around floating the rivers of the Southwest with the best people I know.

This photo was taken last June right above Moonshine rapid where the Green River cuts through Split Mountain. The last time my dad was on this stretch of river was circa 1980. This time, though, my friend Anna and I were in charge. We rowed, dad paddled, and I saw in his face a glimmer of the young river rat he once was. His pride in Anna and me was palpable. Those 9 river miles were some of the most special I have ever shared with my father.

I was the lucky winner of a Gates of Lodore permit for this coming summer, and dad will be tagging along again. He gave me the gift of the river, and it is my turn to give it back.

Jeremy Diner link

Dorian Atchison

(Suwannee River, North Florida)

There’s nothing that can describe raising children immersed in the natural environment, especially the wild rivers. The Suwannee River in North Florida has more fresh water springs than any other river, providing swimming & diving holes for humans, but also fresh water for manatees to drink as well as all kinds of wildlife. My boys & I loved living along the Suwannee River. Now just miles from where I raised them, and slated to go right through the Suwannee River State Park is the Sabal Pipeline. It is shameful this can be allowed to happen. The Suwannee is an old river, with huge cypress and all varieties of wildlife depend upon it.

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Matt MacConnell

(Palmerton, Pennsylvania)

The Lehigh Gorge is a PA Scenic river way that should in my view be added to the National Wild and Scenic program. The river runs north south and covers many miles of terrific trout habitat. I lead a group that stocks trout in the Lehigh River and leads many conservation projects to help clean up the coal legacy that has impacts on the river while also monitoring water quality. Trout stocking in the spring is a joy for me as well as for the trout we are releasing.

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Julia Klema

(Dolores River, Colorado)

I seem best able to define my life by rivers. This is true across my family: we know ourselves best within the landscape of water moving downstream, traversing varied ecosystems, crashing through rocks, and pooling between cliff walls. Rivers make everything make sense. They are like a story line: moving clearly from one place to another, shifting in tone and personality throughout. One river must be given credit for this place of importance that rivers hold: the Dolores. The River of Sorrows. Flowing over two hundred miles from the Colorado San Juan Mountains to its confluence with the Colorado River north of Moab, the Dolores is a gentle, curving cut across the landscape, a transition from high alpine to redrock desert. Driving many of the roads through the region, like Highway 491 from Cortez to Monticello, you cannot tell there is an imposing canyon dropping down in the middle of the visible sage brush expanse. This small corner of Colorado remains surprisingly unvisited and unknown, but these canyons are in part where I grew up. The Dolores is where my father began his river outfitting company in the 70’s, offering multi-day trips across this remote landscape. As children in the summers, my brothers and I were sent out with our dad on the river. We were at ease in the sand, the wind, learning to row boats, read water, traverse slickrock streams, and pack up all the gear at the end of each trip. More than that, we learned to love rivers.

There is one wind filled afternoon that always comes to mind when I think of my childhood summers. The water seemed to be working its way back upstream in small piled waves. The red sandstone cliffs appeared distant, beyond the haze of rain falling between us and them. There was that sense of portent that always accompanies storms gathering in the desert, as they slowly pick up momentum, holding everything in suspense and pulling the wind into their idea of what the day should be. The river felt wide. The grasses on shore began slowly to rustle and scratch at each other, drawing circles in the sand as they swung back and forth on their stalks. The wind strengthened and clouds pushed across the sky. Birds cast their black silhouettes into the river’s reflection.

This was in the mid 90’s and I was eight years old. My older brother, ten only, had been given his own raft to row. I remember him looking so small at the oars, as the headwind intensified. He was wearing a red and yellow striped life jacket, and from my position I could see his slight body against the backdrop of the imposing sandstone cliff that rose at the next bend in the river. I had burrowed down into the footwell of the boat out of the wind. The desert felt vast and imposing, the distance to our destination, far. The wind was powerful and unpredictable. My brother fought to find purchase with his oars in the current. Within the intensity of the storm, despite worrying how we would make it to the take out, I was filled with wonder at the beauty, the adversity, and the wildness of the river corridor.

It is this moment, and a hundred others, that makes up my relationship to the Dolores River.

Until the unreliability of in-stream flow below McPhee Reservoir made commercially running the Dolores unfeasible, my family and I took clients and friends through its varied canyons, and shared our love of it with them. It was the best place to grow and learn to be a person. That time spent with rivers has seeped into the core of who I am and who all of my family members are.

Today, two decades after the windy day on the lower Dolores, the life of my family still revolves around rivers. My brothers continue to guide in the Grand Canyon, and explore rivers worldwide through kayaking. One is pursuing a PhD in hydraulic engineering, while the other has been working as a salmon fisherman and recently finished working as on-river support for a remote BBC first descent in New Guinea. I am currently in a Masters of Fine Art program focusing on advocacy for rivers through creative work, running rivers across various continents to bring attention to the importance of water and rivers in various environmental, social, and political contexts. My parents still run rivers for the pure love of it. Everything, for us, comes back to water.

Rivers, I find, make me feel the most alive of anything. This is in seeing the intensity of the life they gather around them and in the way the Dolores built me to be the person that I am. My love for wild places is reflected in the vibrancy water carries within itself, within its movement, and through the stories it spreads across landscapes.

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Maija Wade

(Upper Deschutes River, Oregon)

My husband and I received a 14’ NRS whitewater raft as a wedding present. The gift was perfect for us. Our love story began in a raft on a fast flowing Wild & Scenic river.

My husband was a raft guide for Oregon State University, although a stranger to me at the time. I was an outdoor girl looking to ditch the college parties and restore myself through adventure.

I signed up for a Halloween Day raft trip. He was the trip captain. (Spark, not spook!) It poured rain but we didn’t care. A romance was born and eventually a family–a river family.

Fast-forward 20 years and dozens of North American rivers trips later, now we prepare to take our two river-loving sons, ages 5 and 8 down the Wild & Scenic Upper Deschutes River for four days with my dad–the one who gave us the raft.

It’ll be a family full circle moment. One we’ve had before.

My husband grew up rafting this section with his family. I was on it as a young person, too. We’ve rafted it more than a dozen times as adults and several of those times with our kids, my dad and other family. So we have traditions, like cooking paella in camp, water gun fights, the fake rubber rattlesnake, and jumping off of jump off rock. While those are all fun, it’s the time to just be together for days on the river without modern distractions that nurtures relationships in new and surprising ways.

Rivers transport us to a place where meaningful connection is more possible.

There are boisterous group conversations in camp chairs and quiet pondering as one group member strums his guitar. At night, kids wear headlamps and map stars in the sand with sticks.

There is the collective manual work of camp, which puts us together as we connect with the kinetic basics of life.

Of course, there’s the time in the raft to yip and yaw through the rapids.

Osprey sightings, fish jumps, the many colors of river rock, the scene changes every year. In fact, every moment is new on the river as the next quantity of water rushes in to replace the amount that just flowed by. As generations together on the river, we are active participants in taking that all in.

In addition to being with family, I get excited to ditch the modern stuff of life like I ditched bad parties in college. Rafting the Deschutes gives me time to reconnect with myself.

Of course I connect with the cute trip captain, too!

These reasons and more are why we repeat the trip again and again.

Thanks to the Upper Deschutes and its designation as a Wild & Scenic river, we board our raft like a spaceship and blast off to the constellation of river rock, flowing water and human connection.

To boldly go where no man…(just kidding, obviously that’s taking the metaphor too far).

Rivers connect families.

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Nick Dalrymple

(Confluence of the Wabash and White, Mt. Carmel, IL)

The Wabash River by Nick Dalrymple

The mussels were big and plentiful. The button factory was busy. Mussel men were making a living. In the early 1900’s a large pearl was found at the confluence of the Wabash and the White rivers. A poor mussel man became rich that day and the pearl ended up in the collection of the Queen of England.

In the late 50’s and early 60’s Dave and I would wade in the river feeling for mussels with our bare feet. When we found one we would duck under the water, collect the mussel and drop it in a bucket. Later Dave’s dad would check them for pearls. The meat was used as trotline bait, the shells use used to make cultured pearls or ground up and feed to chickens. By 1991 pollution and over fishing had put the mussels on the endangered list.

At that time water sports of all kinds were popular. Swimming, fishing, water skiing, boating, and canoeing were all great fun for us. There were boat races and ski shows. A houseboat restaurant provided food for people on the river.

A group of us took a few days canoe trip from Vincennes to New Harmony. We camped on sandbars and Islands. At the Natural Dam near New Harmony we tried to shoot the rapids and folded two capsized aluminum canoes in half. We divided our gear into the other three canoes, pounded the canoes back in shape and, taking turns bailing, we completed the trip.

Camp Pahoka had a 16 man canoe. On summer days we would pile into the camp’s canoe and paddle up river to the Natural Dam singing “Dip, dip and swing them back, flashing with silver. Swift as the wild goose flies, Dip, dip and swing.” And then back to camp. Maybe they still do.

My older brother and a friend cut our ping pong table in half and attached inner tubes to the underside for a float trip from Mt. Carmel to Grayville. I was angry at the loss of the table, but my brother paid dearly for his transgression, and I forgave him. By the time they got to Grayville he was sun burnt to a crisp.

A favorite activity in our teen years was parking by the river at night with our girl friends and watching the submarine races.

Recently my family joined in on a community canoe trip. They report it was lots of fun except for the Asian carp jumping in the canoes and whacking them in the head. The carp also limit water skiing now!

Whenever I go home to Mt. Carmel I have breakfast at the Twin Rivers restaurant. It overlooks the confluence of the White and Wabash where the famous pearl was found. The anchor points of the old ferry are still there. An eagle high in a tree reminds me there are still plenty of fish in the river. A boat or two go by and I dream about growing upon the Wabash.

Link to water quality of the Wabash River basin:

Link to the pearl story:

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Sarah Vardaro

(South Fork American River, California)

I was born in the Riverland in South Australia. But the river there is a tamed place, controlled and conquered. Last time I visited home I was excited to visit the mouth of the Murray River that wanders through my state. I spoke to a woman at the tourist center who seeing my excitement discouraged me from going out there. The mouth of the Murray she said, is crawling with excavators that are desperately trying to keep the river mouth open to the ocean.

I went rafting for the first time in Queensland Australia but it wasn’t until I visited California in 2010 that I fell in love with the river, after living on the banks of the South Fork of the American for three months. Even this river, with houses, campgrounds and rafting companies, offered a portal to the wildness of Californian waterways.

Seven years later I am still looking downstream, am still hypnotized by the currents and the beauty of riparian forests. I am still living on the banks of the South Fork of the American River and I now run a rafting company here.

And really that was never that likely! The river has been one of my greatest teachers, its wildness is infectious.

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Kathy Etling

(Grand Canyon below Glen Canyon Dam)

My husband and I have floated and fished many rivers, small Missouri streams like the Huzzah, Courtois and Meramec, all of which we fought to keep free-flowing back in the 1970s, and also wild western rivers like the upper reaches of the North Platte in Wyoming. All of these rivers and streams — and many more, like the magnificent Current in the National Scenic Riverways Park — have their own innate beauty and charm and each is a treasure in its own right. But the river that has most affected us is the mighty Colorado below Glen Canyon Dam.

We booked a flat water float because we didn’t have the time to do a raft trip through the downstream rapids but in no way did we feel slighted or think we had missed anything. The canyon walls soar high above you on both sides of the river, overwhelming you with their magnificence. Etched into their faces are petroglyphs left by the Ancient Ones — many more of which, our Navajo guide explained, have been inundated by the clear, rushing waters which carry us ever onward. One is humbled by the power and might of this magnificent stream, harnessed as it may be in its upstream reaches. When you look around you, it is like glimpsing the face of God.

We feel blessed to have shared so many days on so many of our country’s wonderful rivers and streams. We wish nothing more than for all Americans to be motivated to get out and see the beauty that is ours right now and will be forever. That is, if we continue to do right by our rivers and protect them from mining, poorly planned development, non-point pollution and other threats. For together we can do great things . . . and keep our rivers clean, wild and free.

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Sarah Moray

(Grand Canyon)

When I was six years old my Dad took me on my first river rafting trip. I had no idea what to expect, but those few days on the Green River changed my life. Most of the 30 summers since then I’ve taken a river trip. A bad day on a river is better than a good day of doing something else. Whether a day trip on the Deschutes or a 14 day trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, rivers are where I feel most myself, most at peace and most happy.

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Chuck Peven

(Salmon River, ID)

Rivers have been part of my soul for as long as I can remember. Whether I am fishing, rafting, or trying to restore habitat, rivers are my strength.

I am the best possible me when on a river.

Rafting has been ingrained in me since the middle 1970s, learning the ropes on the Olympic Peninsula, graduating to the Class III water of the Wenatchee and doing the granddaddy of them all, The Canyon (Grand) about 12 years ago.

Rafting trips were our family vacations and our kids grew up learning how to paddle and row, set up and breakdown camp, and enjoy the ever-changing scenery.

Fishing is a major part of my being, with clear moving water my preference. I rarely keep a trout for dinner, but relish the pursuit in mostly amazingly beautiful places that sometimes allow us to learn their secrets.

The following sums up my deep feelings of rivers:

“There is a river that flows through a church
It’s a holy place where one’s soul can be searched
Not a place of Sundays, nor steeples,
But of hallowed waters for certain peoples.”

Patrick Harris in The Drake, fall 2013

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Marty Pool

(The Gates of Lodore)

When I float down a river, especially a river in canyon country, the timelessness is visceral. Time takes on entirely new dimensions. I look up and the walls I see could easily be those of 100 years ago, or 100 years from now. Or they could be entirely different tomorrow, changed entirely by a flash flood or rockfall. As I look at the scene around me as a float, ever frame of every second is different. The perspective constantly shifting as my boat glides along, the splashes of droplets and the sun’s glint on the water constantly dancing, never still. But this feeling only exists on rivers that are protected and run free. When a river is dammed, or built upon, or diverted, it becomes just another part of our structured, human world. And time on the river feels plain

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Mark Leisher

(Potomac River Shutes near Great Falls)

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Steven Quarles

(Missouri River Breaks, Montana)

When I worked on the Senate Natural Resources Committee in the 1970’s, there was talk of erecting a dam that would have flooded the Missouri River Breaks in Montana. The committee held a hearing on the river’s future in Montana and, following the hearing, I and two other committee staffers floated the Missouri Breaks with a Montana Fish and Wildlife employee who was an expert on the river.

For several days and nights, the river champion said nothing about the potential impoundment. Then on the last night around the campfire at sunset, he asked us to look up at the alpenglow near the top of a cliff face across the river and quietly said, “That’s where the water’ll be.”

I have never encountered a more powerful, truly heartfelt, and extraordinarily efficient and effective lobbying moment. Just five words in two seconds were enough. My colleagues and I returned to DC and wrote the bill that designated the Missouri Breaks as a Wild and Scenic River, forever protecting it from new dams.

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Wyatt Ellison

(Salmon River, ID)

Driving back from the Salmon River gave me a lot of time to reflect on my time there, from thinking about the sound of roaring whitewater to the twinkling constellations untarnished by the pollution of mankind. And as I pass more gas stations and billboards on the side of the road, I realize that the world needs more places like the Frank Church Wilderness. Places where young men and young women can experience wonders away from technology, where older adults can let go of the world for a while, to slow down and smell the roses. Because life’s too short to go full speed without taking a minute to look at the world around you. So, just take a minute and live life on the wild side. You’ll be amazed by what you can find there.

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Katherine Sessel

(Salmon River, ID)

The Salmon River has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Not only is the trip a vacation and place to relax, but it’s also an adventure in the great outdoors like no other. Whether it’s floating the Main, Lower, or Middle Fork, a trip on the salmon is a trip to look forward to for months. On the river there aren’t any distractions of the outside world. Life moves more slowly there, and it’s nice to take a break now and then.

I’ve floated this river a couple times with my family and now with NOLS, and although the trips were set up completely different, the feeling from being on this river in a totally wild place stayed the same. That feeling can only happen in a completely wild place, which is why the Salmon is such a special place for me.

In the future I hope that people are as lucky as I am to float this river, and that more places become completely wild to bring that feeling that only comes with spaces like this.

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Asa Turok

(Salmon River, ID)

This summer I spent nine days on the wild and beautiful Salmon River. The experience was like no other. Seeing the beauty of the valley and the crashing of waves on rapids like Whiplash and Vinegar reminded me of nature. On the river I saw families on vacation having a great time and I couldn’t help but think about how great it would be to go down this river with a family of my own someday. But, at the rate that the beautiful rivers of America are being dammed and polluted I may not be able to. The Salmon River is the largest in-state wild and scenic river in the lower 48 and you can still see the effects of damming and pollution. In the late 1800’s there were 30,000 Coho Salmon and over one million Sockeye returning to the Salmon River each year. Now? The Coho Salmon is extinct on the river, and only ten sockeye Salmon return each year in a population sustained mostly by fish hatcheries. 2018 is the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and this anniversary is a chance to bring awareness to its issues and work to change them. And if you’re like me and want your children and your children’s children to see these beautiful and wild rivers of America like I have been so fortunate to have experienced, then we as Americans need to get to work.

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Akira Hagiwara

(Salmon River, ID)

I am alive
I am a human
I am short
I am Asian
I am adventurous
I am in Idaho
I am short tempered
I am excited
I am hard-working
I am Akira
The Salmon River is moving
The Salmon River is free-flowing
The Salmon River is beautiful
The Salmon River is inviting
The Salmon River is changing
The Salmon River is large
The Salmon River is wild
The Salmon River is important
The Salmon river is full of wildlife
The Salmon river is a home
On the Salmon, I am more aware
On the Salmon, I am prepared
On the Salmon, I am wet
On the Salmon, I am having fun
On the Salmon, I am alive
On the Salmon, I am excited
On the Salmon, I am free
On the Salmon, I am curious
On the Salmon, I am Myself
On the Salmon, I am intentional

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(Love Bar, Middle Fork Salmon River)

Some days just work out, and this was one of them – the last night on my first trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. This camp had been closed to reservations due to fire on the day we launched, but we found out at the MF Lodge that the restrictions had just been lifted. It was a hot August afternoon, so when we floated around the corner and found this beautiful, shady beach it was too good to pass up. Cocktails on the cool sugar sand, the splendor of this view, good friends, and the river rollin’ on by, made this a cherished memory. Millions of years in the making, this place is a true work of natural art – a pristine chapel for my river devotion.

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Heather Burford

(Little Spokane River)

Some of my fondest memories were made on the shores of the Salmon River in Montana and Idaho. I want my daughter to experience the wildness as it is now. She’s far too young to hit the sections filled with class III and class IV rapids, so for today we hit up the Little Spokane River that flows through our backyard. I hope the shores of the Salmon remain wild and free so that when she is old enough, she will experience the power, the beauty, and the wonder that live in that river.

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Robert Poe

(Chittam Rapid, Main Salmon River, Idaho)

It had been an interesting trip. Water was higher than any other time for us on the Main Salmon, nothing outrageous, but it was like being on a whole new river and I loved it! My heart pounded as we got closer to the end, to where river meets road once more. But the final bit of wild and scenic river does not disappoint. Chittam rapid, one of the classics on this beloved section of river lay between us still. The water pushes into a rock wall as it goes around a bend in the river, accelerated by a drop in the river bed. While it can cause problems at normal levels, this day it seemed as though the current would be sure to create even more trouble. The paddle boat with us decided they were best to portage around, and my passenger decided he would rather help them then go along for the ride. We watched a boat go through, hit their line and I knew exactly what I needed to do. I’d been on the river for more than half my life, and I felt like I was learning everything anew. I climbed back into the raft, feeling like it was likely more prepared than I was (it had seen more miles and years than I could have dreamed of being on). As I drifted out into the current I took a couple deep breaths, found my mark and set up the line. From that moment on, nothing else seemed to exist: there was the river, a raft, and myself. Even noise itself seemed to fade into oblivion. My arms pulled on the oars, shifting my trajectory just enough to hit what my lessons had taught me would be the right spot to hit. But even that was something I had to look back on, to think about and thank in my mind the many lessons I’d learned from boatmen and from the river herself. It was still just a river, a raft and myself. Even thoughts were gone in a moment like that. It really is just a river, a raft, and yourself. Because everything else disappears…

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Gloria Miller

My favorite, of course, is the Looking Glass River. Now it’s probably one of the shortest rivers in Michigan and my next favorite is the Grand, which I’ve been down three times from beginning to end on the Grand River expeditions: 1990, 2000, 2010. I hope I’m around to go in 2020. I’ll make sure something

of mine is on that trip, whether it’s me or not. But, as far as wild experiences, I think the craziest one I ever had was on the Pine River in Michigan, which is, there are lots of Pine Rivers, but this one happens to be up in the northwest part of Michigan and it’s a very fast river and I never canoed before. And I learned that I always wanted to be in the back. I wanted to be in control. I’m a control freak probably.
And one time, when I was teaching, we took a group of girls–this was before Title IX and they didn’t have other things to do–and we took them on a trip to the Pine River. And we got there, and everyone said “Oh you can’t go down it now, it’s too dangerous.” Well you can imagine 10 or 12, I don’t know how many kids we had along, “Ms. Miller, we can’t. We gotta go! We came all this way.” And I had brought my canoes, because I had a little canoe livery on my river and so I said “Well, we’ll camp overnight here at the campground and tomorrow we’ll see what it’s like.” Well tomorrow came and it’s a beautiful day, and I said “OK, I’ll take you up river, put you in, and if you get down here safely, then maybe we can go the rest of the way.” Well they got there safely, but on the trip down, I was in the lead and another teacher was in the rear to make sure we had everyone accounted and we had three accidents. Yes, two girls tipped, got tangled under in a tree that was down in the river and I had to canoe back upstream to find people because they didn’t come. You know, “Where are they?” And the other teacher, fortunately, she and another girl dove in and got these girls out. And the canoe stayed tangled in the tree, never did find it again.
And another place in the river, another one went over and their canoe got away from them. So I lost two canoes on that trip, but I didn’t lose any kids! And then we were supposed to be home in the early afternoon and it was already late afternoon and we were still on the river. So, when we got off and got to a little gas station place in a restaurant, I said “Call your parents, and tell them we’re a little late, but don’t worry, we’ll be home in a couple hours.”
So I don’t know if the parents ever knew what happened until later, much later. And I still am in contact with some of those kids because it’s a trip they’ll never forget.
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Kaitlin Grable

(Galveston, TX)

I grew up in Mainz, Germany. My family lived on the Rhine River, and from my bedroom window I could watch the boats go by. I was also fascinated by the history and love of the river, which is detailed all the way back to Roman geographical documents. The culture of my hometown was built around the river. So even though I reside in the states now, it will always be a part of me.

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David Sligh

(Charlottesville, VA)

Barbours Creek is a mountain stream near the western boundary of VA, and I’m a mountain boy who was born and belongs in this environment. The creek is a cold, clear trout stream and now lies within a designated wilderness area in the Jefferson National Forest. One of my first memories of a stream is going to Barbours Creek with my grandfather and grandmother. The kinds of values this stream embodies– peacefulness, beauty, sustenance of people and wildlife– are what the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act are all about.

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Rajesh Sigdel

(Grand Rapids, MI)

I started loved Indian Mill Creek when I started conducting research in the creek. The creek is impaired due to its degraded trout community and my research focused on finding the causes and sources of pollution. The creek headwater starts from agricultural land and flows through different land uses. The creek was important to native Indian communities. I was collecting data and suddenly saw a small fish in the creek which mesmerized me.

My research found that sediment is affecting the creek. I am thrilled that local residents are starting a protection group to bring trout back to the river.

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Shawn Morford

(Salem, OR)

The Little North Folk of the Santiam River (LNF) was protected in the past 20 years through establishment of a Wilderness Area called Opal Creek W.A. Prior to the 1990s it was slated for harvest, but through the efforts of citizens and environmental organizations, together with federal elected officials, the water is free-flowing and sourced in the wilderness area.

We have a summer cabin on this river and we pump water from the river for our sinks and showers. Each time I take a shower, I feel the healing, untouched cleansing me like a baptism. It is also a part of the municipal drinking water for the city of Salem. It’s proof that citizen engagement and commitment does and can make a huge difference for generations to come. I am benefitting from the hard work of people before me whom I have never met. It’s my turn to pay it forward.

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Matthew Adams

(Soldotna, Alaska)

In the summer of 2016, I went fly fishing for rainbow trout and dolly-varden on the Russian River. I found a nice run and was starting to catch some fish when some fishermen upstream started to make some noise. I looked up to see not one, but two brown bear cubs entering into the stream on the other side. Eventually a third cub joined the other two and they started to work their way down the river- chasing sockeye salmon and the occasional carcass. While other fishermen hopped out of the river until they passed, I stayed put and kept fishing since momma wasn’t around and these cubs had almost no interest in any of us. They ended up passing within about 35 feet of me as I kept fishing.

About 20 minutes after passing, their mom did show up and was throwing a bit of a fit, running down to the river and huffing, then back up the hill while looking for the cubs. At one point she was directly across from me and ran down to the river straight at me. I happily removed myself from the river at that point, only to see she wasn’t looking at me, just the general area in my direction. She ended up moving on, making lots of noise the whole time, and I resumed fishing. The whole experience, from catching fish to a neat bear encounter, is one of my favorites to date!

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Dennis Chestnut

(Washington, D.C.)

I learned how to swim in the Anacostia River! Every river must be fishable and swimmable, for all generations. Everyone has the right to a healthy river.

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Steven Shauer

(San Antonio, TX)

On October 5, 2013, the San Antonio River Authority, along with Bexar County and the city of San Antonio, hosted the Grand Opening celebration for the Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation project. Completing one of the nation’s largest urban ecosystem restoration projects and giving the river and giving the river back to the citizens of San Antonio will always be a special memory for me.

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Brian Williams

(Martinsville, VA)

It was an afterschool program. I was teaching kids how to paddle, water safety, and macro invertebrates. My river is perfect for teaching kids all of these activities. A student, 13-years old, stepped off of the bus, took one look at the river and said “No way, I’m not going near that!”

With a little encouragement, I got him down near the water. I asked him to help me with the other kids. By the end of the day, he was hooked. A new confidence, a new skill! Instant water advocate!

Nothing else can affect the soul like a river. It’s my escape, my recharge, my sanity!

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Paco Ollervides

(Caledonia, OH)

In 2015, I spent my birthday on a 3-day river trip down a portion of the Deschutes River. The best part, other than the breath-taking scenery, the adrenaline of the class IV rapids, and simply being outdoors, was the company. My colleagues from River Network joined me along this trip since the trip was planned as part of our staff trip. Flipcharts, strategizing, and bonding with people that share your passions and your work load, is a must. I recommend it highly.

This river, and all rivers for that matter, are the life-blood of our socities. They inspire us for their power, their consistency, and I can’t begin to imagine the greatness that they represent to all of us. Conquering my fears, I did overcome a few rapids on my own and now I am hooked. I wish I could just do this everyday.

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Bette Pierman

(Benton Harbor, MI)

The Paw Paw River is a beautiful and peaceful jewel in Southwestern Michigan. As I have gained kayak paddling experience, while also enjoying nature’s beauty, I am pleased to be joining others to work on turning this into a Michigan Water Trail. Viewing wildflowers, turtles sunbathing, and view Mother Nature turning discarded tires into floating gardens makes my heart smile on most river days.

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Hilary Arens

(Salt Lake City, UT)

The place I most connect with myself, the place where I most connect with my community, is the river. I love the physical demands of rowing whitewater, while also loving the peace and tranquility of sitting next to a creek in quiet meditation. Both my body and my soul need rivers to thrive.

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Suzi Berl

(Asheville, NC)

The bill was sponsored by Representative Nancy Johnson (long-time rep from the sixth district-R). We had to overcome the strong Democratic opposition to the protection of the river. The senior member of the CT delegation was the daughter of the founder of the Metropolitan District Commission (FDC), the water company for Hartford, CT. They wanted to divert most of the flow of the river for water supply. It took a real grassroots effort from across the state for the Farmington River Watershed Association to get the river designated.

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Erin Wall

(Athens, GA)

My favorite river memory was my first time rafting. I had a friend invite me to go  camping on Memorial Day weekend, and the group she was going to be with was going to be rafting the Lochsa- a river well-known for its whitewater and the Lochsa falls. I hadn’t intended to raft but got peer-pressured and agreed to go if they had enough gear for me. I was terrified, but it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had. I got thrown off the raft at the falls and was stuck under the raft for about 10 seconds. Once I got out- I was hooked.

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Brad Webb

(Bozeman, MT)

One, one of many memorable trips was solo canoeing the lower Green River nearly 15 years ago. The solitude and landscape provided the opportunity to retreat and explore. One evening, I listened to rocks fall off of the cliff behind me. Finally, I found a group of desert bighorn sheep high on a ledge that had dislodged the rock. Great evening entertainment!

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Angelique Dahlberg


I LOVE the St. Croix! I live within walking distance, and as an avid hiker and paddler (kayaking!), I spend a lot of time on and near our local National Park. My favorite stretch is a several house paddle (or all-day, if that’s your plan,) just north of the flowage at the Taylors Falls Dam. On one particularly eventful trip, I balanced a shivering and wet chipmunk, that we found mid-river, on my paddle, and spared it from being that night’s dinner.

On another trip- this one a glassy, calm evening paddle- we met two snakes crossing from one side to the other. Long run the St. Croix!

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David Cernicek

(Jackson Hole, WY)


Two tickets to a sold out show! A Van Halen one, and I was BIG stuff! I was 13, lean & mean, but I just wasn’t into the good kid soccer scene. I had just joined an explorer post though, and they had to go and mess up my plans by inviting on a trip down a river section called the “Yampa-Green” the same time as the concert. The new group of post guys were cool and camping for a week in boats sounded adventurous, but I had the previous tickets that others didn’t! It was a hard choice between “epic coolness” and “neat-sounding, but possibly dorky scouts-related river stuff.”

I didn’t really like Van Halen. It was about being somebody I wasn’t. Not sure how the choice to go rafting came about, but it was the coldest, wettest, most miserable week of my life to date. I loved every minute of it, including the flu and pinkeye I brought home! The “lord of the flies” organization I joined had two ranks: “greenie” and “boatman.” The boatman’s life was charmed while the greenie endured a life of servitude, up-to-chin sand burial and duct-tape ponytails. All boys covered every aspect of all logistics of river trips while adults drove the bus and constantly turned down the music. For the first time, I had the inner-feeling of being in the right place at the right time, from my new connection to the river, every spring weekend and summer vacation would be from then on.


It was doubtful many times, but when I crossed the stage for a high school diploma, I also set out that day from New Mexico with only the gear on my back to Colorado to live my dream to become a professional river guide. The rivers of Idaho and Colorado made my office, and my adventures provided a lifetime of stories of varying truth and ownership. It consumed every summer while in college and a bit beyond until it was time to find the American dream and the white picket fence my parents expected.

My normal and my happy left when I ‘grew up’ and put river life behind me. Careers in insurance and advertising came with severe depression. Rampant alcoholism finally brought me to my knees. I quit everything! It beat dying. I knew I had to go back to find my river normal, but had to find something better than working cheap, living homeless, smelling bad, and telling outrageous stories about how high the water level and how big the rapids were.


I found grad school to reinvent. Not sure what I was doing, I stumbled headlong into learning to manage riverine natural resources, and became an expert in river user behavior. To complete my studies, I ended up serving as a river ranger and in that, found my life’s calling. I am a federal river manager now, and one of few people who has found a way to combine their passion with their career. My life-work balance is ‘complicated’, because it defines me.

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(Tornado, WV)

My favorite river memory would involve the restoration of an 88-mile river. But in addition, they also created an 88-mile River Trail alongside the river. The Big, Little, and Coal Rivers are all natural, free-flowing river systems. Because of all of this restoration and improvement, we see many tourists visit these rivers, ultimately benefitting the economy of surrounding communities. Rivers benefit us all.

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Caitlin Keller

(Poudre River, CO)

My favorite river is the Poudre River because I grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado and I grew up on the Poudre. But my special memory of it would be watching Lord Huron perform at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre. And he miked the river, so the live river sound of the Poudre was playing throughout the whole concert and it was magical.

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Jonathan Stokely

(Eleven Point River, MO)

I grew up in Southwest Missouri, but going kayaking and canoeing on the rivers in Southeast Missouri. Current, Eleven Point, White, and Jack’s Fork are some of the best ones, if you haven’t been I strongly suggest checking them out. There’s a specific stretch on the White River called ‘the Narrows’, where these giant bluffs rise up out of the river and deep blue holes. You can catch everything from Northern Pike to small-mouth and large-mouth bass. And then there’s a campsite called Buford Springs, where my dad grew up going to the cabins that Mr. Buford actually used to own. He would cultivate and grow the seaweed that you needed for aquariums. But the government long took it over and turned it into a national forest and preserved it and tore down all the cabins.

My dad took me up there and I grew up going into the backwoods, seeing everything from foxfire wood to coyotes howling at the edge of our campsite at the full-moon. First thing in the morning, I would walk along the springs and jump-in to really get my day going.

So if you ever have the chance to check out the Eleven Point River, I strongly suggest it. And for that matter, any of the rivers in Missouri have the most clear and beautiful water that you will ever see. We need to protect them.

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Mitzi Brasier

(Glen Canyon, Colorado River, CO)

My love for rivers started when my husband took us on our first rafting trip. That trip brought me right where I want to be in nature. I have always loved the canyons of the desert with the combination of canyons and water. But more, it was just a place to disconnect from the life around me and be completely grounded instantly. The second you take off from that beach, you are instantly grounded into the world you want to be in.

I have two children. One of them has a lot of challenges in the societal part of the world; it is very hard for her. But the second we take off that beach, she is just the person that she is meant to be, so it means a lot to me.

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Patrick McCombs

(Denali/San Juan Rivers, AK/CO)

A couple of years ago, my brother and I decided to raft the Denali River. My brother was a guide for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks at the time. It was really fun because it’s such a beautiful place and a beautiful area around there. It feels a lot more wild just because the water is so cold. And on Sunday, I’m leaving to go kayak the San Juan River. I love the Juan because the canyon walls are crazy. The trip itself is geology based so we are going to learn a lot about the geology of the area.

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Sarah Johnson

(Gunnison River, CO)

The Gunnison River from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park captivates my spirit of the west, wilderness, and also holds the legacy of wildness in America. As a park ranger there for 2 years, I fell in love water in the West, became a member of Colorado’s western slope landscape story. I created my own relationship with the steep, deep, elusive, dark, mysterious, and spectacular Black Canyon, and its creator, the Gunnison River.

This place holds the wild, fierce force of carving the canyon, while also providing reflective, replenishing, and spiritual renewal at the same time. The Gunnison River through the Black Canyon is a sacred, wild force that inspires my love for wild rivers and wild places forever.

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Taylor Gaddis

(Colorado River, CO)

I grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley, right on the Colorado River. I went on lots of big trips, but I think some of my favorite river stories are some of the smaller ones. Like when I would ditch class in the early springtime for runoff, taking a dunk in the river, and then coming back to Shakespeare class in high school dripping wet. Other times we would just be floating outside of the boat or out of the raft on a Tuesday with friends. We would bring pool supplies like inflatable sharks and flowers and alligators. It was great just being ridiculous and being able to float down the river. It was something different than your normal means of transportation.

It’s always fun to shake it up, not take yourself too seriously, and enjoy the resources that we have here. Everyone else around seems to love the rivers and everyone comes together on the rivers. I love the culture that rivers have the power to bring together. There’s a sense of collaboration that comes together, and also the raw power of the river. The river will win every time and the people understand the beauty and the danger, as well. Finding the balance of the two is really beautiful. It’s something that needs to be respected and we don’t want to see another gold king mine spill like in Animas River. I think that people are really starting to take it seriously with the national outlook perspective that we have in our rivers and fresh water.

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Will Lenox

(Colorado River, CO)

I’ve loved rivers since I was a young man. My dad was a river boat captain on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. My grandfather was, and so was my great-grandfather. I am fourth in the generation of river pilots. I pilot whitewater. I learned how to guide when I was 19 at Feather River College in Northern California in Quincy. While I was there at my guide school, we were kayaking the South Fork of the Feather River. The plan was that we were going to kayak the section at takeout and we were going to use our buddy’s Jeep as the shuttle vehicle. So it was a great day on the water, we get to takeout and it was really cold and we were trying to find the keys to the Jeep. But they weren’t where they said they were. But luckily we were able to find a stick and jack the lock open and there was a key in the center console. As we drive along, we are thinking about how nice this Jeep is and how lucky we were to find an extra key.  When we get to our friend’s campsite, they tell us that it isn’t their Jeep… So we realized we’d stolen someone else’s vehicle and no one wanted to take it back. So we took it back to takeout and of course, then we saw the funky, old Jeep that we were supposed to take.

As for rivers, I just love putting on and watching the world go by. I asked my fiancée to marry me on the Grand Canyon in November 2015. And that’s what we planned to spend a lot of time doing for the rest of our lives.

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Tyrene Hodge

(Atlanta, GA)

Most people think of rivers as just attractions for recreation, but it wasn’t until I volunteered with American Rivers that I realized how necessary they are to sustaining life and infrastructure. Rivers provide drinking water and food for communities. And homes to animal life. Knowing how necessary rivers are to everyday life helped me understand the importance of protecting them.

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Shaun Ripley

(Gunnison River, CO)

The Gunnison is my favorite river. It’s got all the cold waters, you get to fish, you get to kayak, you get to float, you get to do whatever you want. It’s fantastic. We spend many, many hours a year on it. We camp, we do overnights. So, that’s our river. Taking people from California on a wrestling camping trip. They have no idea how to camp. They know how to wrestle but they don’t know how to start a fire, it’s great.

I’m 27, so [I’ve been going out on the river] 27 years. My first birthday was actually on the river. No, I don’t think they put me in. I was a little too little. But we got to camp and we got memories of bears, memories of raccoons taking our food, we do hunting out there, so it provides everything that we need. Once to twice a year, I make it back but yeah, absolutely, we go as much as we can.

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Jeffrey Brindle

(Austin, TX)

A friend and I went to a small creek when we had heavy rains. We wanted to check out what the rivers would look like. We saw a couple other people body surfing the creek and I knew that I wanted to try it! So I jumped in the water and body-surfed the flood waters. It was a scary and crazy experience but also a really fun time!

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Benson Tran

(Austin, TX)

One of my favorite river memories is simply just volunteering with Keep Austin Beautiful to pick up litter throughout the park. I would consider myself fairly environmentally conscious, but until volunteering, I was not cognizant of the amount of microlitter that fills the side of the riverbed. Overall, it was a solid experience to help clean a park and river that I frequently visit.

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Jeremy Diner

(Bristol Bay, AK)

I was on the staff of American Rivers, working on clean water supply issues in the Southeast. Now I’m heading to Bristol Bay, Alaska. As my river stakeholder status shifts from ‘advocate’ to ‘fisherman’, I look forward to seeing our fight for wild rivers and clean water through a new lens. Never before have I been truly dependent on a river—for my food, for my finances, and for my security.

The first Bristol Bay sockeye will be caught in early June, and by mid-July, the total catch will be almost 40 million fish—the largest sockeye salmon run in the world. Those that escape our nets (a highly managed and calculated number) will return to the remote headwaters of Bristol Bay to lay their eggs, along the way supporting a way of life for numerous indigenous tribes, subsistence fisherman, grizzly bears, and the entire ecosystem. These salmon and their rivers are threatened by the Pebble Mine — if built in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, it would be the largest open pit mine in the world.

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