Thrills and Dreams
Siddhartha sat by a river, and in its music he heard the history and wisdom of the world. Huckleberry Finn used a river to find himself. The prophet Ezekiel had a vision in which "the voice of God was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory."Jesus was baptized in a river, whereupon God himself spoke to the multitude. In Japan, falling water has long been associated with fertility and abundance, and formal Japanese gardens usually include a small waterfall.
You, too, can listen to a river. You can appreciate its sounds, its colors, its movements, the way light plays on it, and the way it nurtures plants, animals, and people.
Rivers and river canyons are some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on our planet. Every state has rivers to enjoy. Most states have some rivers that are nearly flat and peaceful, and others that are steep and frothy.
For a visual introduction to some of the nation's most beautiful rivers, see the video Wilderness Rivers. It displays America's Wild and Scenic Rivers and their legends, from Zane Grey's Rogue River to the Chattooga River of Deliverance. The illustrated book, America by Rivers, by Tim Palmer, also gives you an overview of some of the most memorable rivers of the nation. (Both items are available from the NORS Resource Center. Click to go to the complete catalog.)
How can you best enjoy a river and feel its magic? That depends on your preferences. You can walk along a river, sit by it, eat by it, play at its edge, or wade in it. You can fish from it, exploring its pools and eddies.
You can, after careful examination, swim in it, and feel its rounded stones or its oozing mud with your toes. In a few places, after very carefully probing its depth by swimming and using a long pole, you can jump or dive into it from a bridge or cliff.
You can also get on it and ride down it. Aladdin had his magic carpet, on which he and Jasmine discovered "a whole new world!" So it is with a river--all you have to do is get on it, and it can carry you through deep jungles, dense forests, precipitous canyons, sun-parched deserts, or vast plains. It can carry you past houses, schools, parks, and factories. It some places it can carry you past castles, mansions, and monasteries. It can carry you along smoothly and quietly, like magical levitation, or it can carry you along with all the sound and fury of the wildest rapids and waterfalls.
A skilled paddler or oarsman can run a canoe, kayak, or raft down a wide variety of rivers, including rivers in every state in the Union. But different types of rivers tend to predominate in different regions of the country, and consequently river runners in different regions tend to gravitate towards the type of watercraft that are best suited for those types of rivers.
Open canoes are used nationwide, but are especially popular in the midwestern and southern states, where broad rivers are common. Expert paddlers also run their canoes down narrow chutes and over waterfalls.
In New England and the Appalachian states, there are a number of smaller, rockier rivers that are popular for whitewater canoeists, using decked canoes, and kayakers.
In the western states there are a number of long rivers with big rapids, where inflatable rafts and kayaks are popular. Hard-hulled dories are often used for fishing and cruising the clear, deep, rolling rivers of the Northwest.
The famous rivers of the Southwest flow through deep sandstone canyons, colored red, yellow, and orange. The best knows of these is the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, in northern Arizona. It's over 200 miles long, and takes a number of days to run. The big, rolling river carries you past an almost endless series of cliffs, buttes, and stone monuments.
Where do you start exploring rivers? See the section on Getting started or improving your skills for a list of ways to get involved in river recreation. For an overview of river recreation in each state, see the book Paddle America, A Guide to Trips and Outfitters in All 50 States by Nick Shears. (Also available from the NORS Resource Center. Click to go to the complete list.)
According to the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century, half of the world's major rivers are polluted or drying up. The Colorado River has been so misused by large-scale agriculture that the ecosystems it once supported are severely threatened. China's Yellow River is also significanty polluted, when it runs at all: For 226 days in 1997, the river ran dry in its lower reaches. The level of the Aral Sea has dropped three-quarters in thirty years due to a drastic reduction in the water flow from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. In turn, the low levels of highly polluted water have resulted in the highest infant mortality rate in the former Soviet Union. In fact, the effects of neglected and mismanaged rivers created 25 million environmental refugees in 1998, more than the number of people displaced by war.
The World Commission on Water also reports, however, that rivers and lives can be saved through the cooperation between governments, businesses, and communities. When individuals and organizations realize that the health of a region is tied directly to the health of its environment, they can form successful partnerships based on ecologically sound principles.
The purpose of NORS is to help you enjoy rivers and to conserve rivers and river recreation opportunities for future generations. You may wonder if that purpose stands in the way of progress. What about electricity production and irrigation?
The age-old answer is to take only what we need, without destroying the balance of nature, without destroying the rivers on which so much flora and fauna depend. The answer is to take enough water for efficient irrigation to water the crops we need, while still leaving enough water in the river for the fish, the flora and fauna surrounding the river, and for human recreation. To make enough electricity to satisfy our real needs, with efficient use, without destroying the river and the natural habitats that depend on it.
Electricity provides comfort, safety, entertainment, and productivity for our society. But it does not provide inspiration, glory or fulfillment. Destroying nature to provide more irrigation and electricity is a losing proposition, leading only to frustration and emptiness.
It turns out that seven U.S. Supreme Court decisions have declared that rivers that are physically navigable, even by small recreational watercraft, are legally navigable and are public land up to ordinary high water line. They are held in trust for the public by the states, to be permanently conserved for navigation, recreation, and fisheries. Unfortunately, thousands of miles of rivers across our country are treated as if these Supreme Court decisions did not exist!
The purpose of NORS is to reaffirm public-trust ownership of those thousands of miles of rivers, and to use that public-trust ownership to enhance wildlife habitat and responsible recreation on those rivers.
To support this effort and increase your own knowledge and enjoyment of rivers, click here to start or extend your NORS Membership.
To see how you can get guidance and rewards for working on these things yourself, go to the section on the U.S. River Conservation Team.
The National Rivers Website is made possible by the generosity of the members of the National Organization for Rivers (NORS.) To start or extend your membership, go to NORS Memberships.
NORS was founded in 1978.
The National Organization for
Copyright © by the National Organization for Rivers. All rights reserved. 4.