Humans have always been drawn to rivers. The greatest civilizations in history have sprung and flourished alongside them. They flow through every environment on the planet, bringing us the essentials of life. But, what rivers give, they can also take away. They are powerful, frightening, majestic, and awe-inspiring. They are life.
Paddling the world’s longest and largest rivers is magical. Like climbing or trekking amongst mountains, you become a part of that place. You are connected to it in a way that travelling by other means just does not allow. It becomes, for just a short time, your natural environment. The people who call the river banks home become your neighbors, and you share their lives.
Dusk on the wide Amazon River, snow covered trees beside the Missouri River in Montana, watching the sun rise on the Volga River by a city a thousand years old, the sun setting over cowboys herding cattle across the Darling River in Australia; the images and stories are endless.
Descending these rivers provides a unique insight into the life they have built and sustain. The great waterways of the world have shaped the very existence of humans and the ecosystems in which they live. Bringing these stories to life is the reason to paddle them. From the fisherman, the hunter, the family and the power company worker, to the farmer, the trees, the predator and the prey. All have inspiring and thoughtful stories to reveal.
Days, weeks, or months on a river bring a paddler closer to the planet and its people. Understanding our place here is the wonderful outcome.
See if your boat building and maritime skills can withstand the Whitewater Center’s challenging rapids. Put your hand crafted vessels to the test down class II-IV rapids on the competition channel.
There is a magic in our open spaces, the wild places where each step further feels like one closer to home. They exist as a refuge, a place for stories told in paddle strokes or miles walked. Across the breadth of a continent, from ragged mountain ranges to coastal lowlands, the number of places to explore is only rivaled by the number of ways that you can do it. Woven into our national identity, they are a touchstone of beauty and freedom, handed down from one generation to the next.
In this country, we have just over a million square miles of public land, and that’s something that just thinking about, never fails to stir my imagination. With such a vast amount of acreage out there, it is easy to feel disconnected from what happens in a place you may never have seen or been to, but it is important to still realize that we all have a voice in how it is managed. I think the recent protests of Shell’s arctic oil exploration are a good example of that. Not very many people will ever visit that part of Alaska, but nevertheless, thousands have spoken up for what they would like to see done.
Closer to home, the Rogue River watershed, where I work as a guide, has been threatened by the looming specter of industrial-scale nickel strip mining. Raising public awareness of that is what inspired me to begin a career as a photographer, and has been a tremendous opportunity to view the strength of a community’s voice in determining how our land is managed. The recently introduced Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act is a direct result of the public outcry to the proposed development of an iconic watershed and has been an inspiration to continue working to introduce people to the wanderland they did not know they had.
Nate Wilson is a Northwest based river guide, photographer and writer primarily focused on projects in nature. For more of his work, check out www.natewilson.photo