Sunday, August 2, 2015

Defenders of Wild Rivers

Friends of the Yampa
Wow, it's been a year since taking the plunge into the unfamiliar RV lifestyle by buying an 18 year old motorhome. I can't say that decision was a mistake. It has also been one year since my wife's death -- a lonely year without Jan's warm and constant presence. It has also been a FULL year of new experiences, new people, projects, and possibilities.

I've driven nearly 4,000 miles, visited a lot of inspiring locations and had great fun learning more about Utah’s and Colorado's unique history and characters. I still need to explore much more of these two great states.

I’ve been reintroduced to the Dinosaur National Monument that I firstvisited in 1972 with my girlfriend at the time, the late Mary DeJager. I've been able to raft through the Monument down the Green River twice this season. It contains some of the most spectacular scenery that western rivers have to offer. No wonder, the Yampa River that joins the Green is the last undammed river in the vast Colorado River basin.

John Wesley Powell Photo (National Gallery)
This country dominated by great vistas and raging water has inspired brave explorers like John Wesley Powell and thousands of defenders of wild rivers, many from Colorado, but also thousands of fellow Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Isaak Walton League, and National Parks Association members. Had it not been for these friends of wild places the Yampa and Green Rivers would have been dammed and their canyons inundated with thousands of feet of silted water. What a great battle ensued that these volunteers undertook and are still fighting! They preserved a national treasure for future generations! A full read of the history of fighting for wild rivers is worth your time! Try this site for an introduction: 

Many of the people that float the Green River are past and present river guides and their children, each carrying on a tradition of exploring, enjoying and protecting wild spaces. Each person that floats the river becomes an advocate for the protection of wild places. It’s impossible to not be convinced of the natural beauty of this region.

Those river guides gained their experience working for both large and small river rafting concessionaires that have a special relationship with the monument’s rivers and have also been instrumental in supporting the National Park Service in their mission. Locally, the best of these concessionaires consist of:

I've seen activist leaders of several environmental groups come float the river such as the Water Keepers Alliance, Friends of the Yampa, American Whitewater, and the Sierra Club. David Brower of the Sierra club first encouraged club members to explore, enjoy and protect this region back in 1953 when David Brower finally visited the area and experienced his "conversion" to being a strident defender of un-dammed rivers.  (For an abbreviated history of this turbulent time read for free portions of  Dreamers and Defenders: American Conservationists).

The club sponsored two trips on the Green River this summer. I hope to continue that tradition next year leading a trip of my own down either the Green or Yampa River. Why? The Yampa remains threatened today with proposals to transport the Yampa River's water over three mountain ranges to the Denver area.

Another significant group of people I’ve witnessed exploring the Green River and Dinosaur National Park are the growing number of environmental/adventure education organizations: Outward Bound, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), Colorado Discover Ability, National Outdoors Leadership (NOLS) School, SPLORE, and more. I encourage your support for these organizations.

Groups of all sorts come here to get away from urban living and explore their potential: school classes, retired teachers and administrators groups, family reunions, women’s groups, and the Wounded Warriors Project. The challenge and inspiration provided by the river experience changes people physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Well, my season at Gates of Lodore is drawing to a close. Seasonal Ranger Gonzales' last day is this week.  In six weeks my constant companions, Roger Dodger and Whiskers, will be heading south with me for the winter with no firm plans yet for next summer.  Until next April arrives I’ll drive a couple thousand miles more, visit nearly a dozen different national parks and wildlife refuges, and meet what I hope are many new friends along the way. Every day is a new adventure. I hope to meet you on the road.

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!
~ An old Irish blessing                      

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