River Stewardship is an integrated approach to the mission and program work of American Whitewater. Our stewardship program is made possible through on-going membership support. In our national stewardship project work we have some major buckets that our work falls into. One of the simplest ways to break these buckets down is to think of them as categories outlined in; Protect, Restore and Enjoy. Our community knows firsthand that you can’t love what you don’t know. It’s our common love of whitewater that makes us such passionate defenders of rivers. Here is an outline of historic and current project work that provides an illustration of how we function and the impacts of our collective efforts.
Protect American Whitewater has been a key player in protecting our treasured free-flowing rivers through growing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. From our early advocacy in support of protecting the Selway River in Idaho, to our recent invitation to testify before Congress on the value of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie in Washington State, we are a consistent voice for those who experience first-hand the beauty and joy of free-flowing rivers.
Restore American Whitewater has restored flows to dry rivers below dams across the country, and is a pioneer in bringing political and scientific legitimacy to restoring flows in a way that both improves riparian habitat and connects people to rivers. Rivers like the Feather in California, Chelan in Washington, Fox in Wisconsin, and Cheoah in North Carolina were once dry, but are living rivers again thanks to our leadership. We’ve also worked with fellow river advocates to remove dams that have outlived their useful life, restoring fish habitat and recreation opportunities to rivers throughout the country, including Washington’s White Salmon River (Condit Dam), North Carolina’s Tuckasegee River (Dillsboro Dam), and Montana’s Clark Fork River (Milltown Dam). We are currently engaged in advocating for recreational flows on the New River Dries (WV), something that could bring tremendous value to an economically depressed area with new recreational opportunities for adventure based tourism.
Enjoy American Whitewater knows that those who have a personal connection to rivers are the most powerful and effective river conservation advocates. We connect the public with rivers through promoting whitewater safety and improving public access to waterways. We also maintain the National Whitewater Inventory – a comprehensive database of over 7,000 whitewater runs, representing the nation’s most extensive atlas of whitewater rivers.
This compelling mix of stewardship project outcomes allowed American Whitewater to foster strong additional corporate and foundation support. We are able to solicit three additional dollars for every membership dollar we received. That three to one match allows us to stretch your membership investment. Where else can you make a one dollar investment and immediately stretch it to four dollars in support of river conservation? This match, combined with a lean organizational model, allows American Whitewater to leave a footprint much larger than our actual shoe size.
AW's stewardship program is managed by a National Stewardship Director who coordinates efforts between regional coordinators, volunteers, board members, and other staff members including our regional directors in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, California and the Northeast. Our Stewardship Team is in place to lead, train and support community-based activism representing the interests of boaters and the rivers we care for. Our River Stewardship Team remains focused on our mission, “To conserve and restore America’s whitewater resources
and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.” Staying true to our mission, we will continue to integrate our most valuable asset, AW member volunteers, into the issues at hand.
Crested Butte CO - Alleged disruption to a Heron Rookery and concerned private landowners have led to a "Voluntary Closure" of the Slate River from the Gunsight Bridge to the Town of Crested Butte between March 15 and June 21 for the 2019 season. The Slate River between Oh Be Joyful Campground and Skyland Bridge, a 10.5 mile stretch, provides an incredibly scenic and unique flatwater paddling experience in the Gunnison Valley. The Voluntary clsoure is a product of the Slate River Floating Management Plan, created by a Working Group convened by the Town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust. The Working Group was created in direct response to pressure from the local community including conservationists and private landowners adjacent to the river, who are concerned that a recent increase in boating activity is disturbing a Heron Rookery that straddles the Slate River.
This year, the Army Corps of Engineers has added Russell Fork releases on the first two weekends of November as a pilot program, in addition to the standard four October weekends. Additional changes to the release program are under consideration. American Whitewater has worked with local partners to craft a survey to inform the decision-making process and support releases that maximize benefits for paddlers and local businesses. Click through to take the survey.
This week American Whitewater kicked off our involvement with the relicensing of Felt Dam on the Teton River, near Tetonia, Idaho. The process will take several years and will result in a new 30-50 year license for this hydropower project, which bisects a Class V reach and a Class III(IV) reach of the Teton River.
Paddlers now have an important opportunity to oppose Forest Service plans to strip proposed protections from 89 rivers in central Idaho. The Forest Service really needs to hear from paddlers from across the country and it takes just a few minutes to send them a letter. This is a big deal for almost 1,000 miles of outstanding whitewater rivers and streams.
The U.S. Forest Service has recently initiated a process to develop a Comprehensive River Management Plan for the 27 miles of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River and the entirety of the Pratt River that were designated Wild and Scenic in 2014. Paddlers are encourage to provide input online and/or attend the planning workshops planned for October 11th.
The Vermont Superior Court sided with American Whitewater in a long-running dispute with the state over whitewater boating on the Green River in Morrisville. The Court overturned state restrictions that would have eliminated any meaningful opportunity for boaters to enjoy this extraordinary river and required scheduled releases in a ground breaking decision.
We need your help to protect the San Joaquin River! The proposed Temperance Flat Dam would drown an incredible river canyon that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has already recommended for Wild and Scenic River designation. Despite the enormous price tag of at least $2.6 billion, according to the Bureau of Reclamation's preferred alternative for the project, the dam would only yield 70,000 acre-feet of water per year on average. Take action today.
Today, September 5, marked the close of the public review process for the DRAFT Wilderness Evaluation Report. The Evaluation Phase is the second step of 4 different steps required in the assessment of lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS). American Whitewater thoroughly reviewed the DRAFT Wilderness Evaluation Report and submitted our comments to the Forest Service on September 4, 2018. Overall, we found that key paddling reaches throughout the GMUG area were greatly under-represented in the Polygon narratives and thus weren't acknowledged as contributing factors to the Polygon's respective Wilderness Ratings. We let the Forest Service know this, highlighting specific paddling reaches that should be added to each Polygon and which Polygons we believe should have a higher Wilderness Rating based on the high-quality recreation opportunities that each area has to offer.
Please stay tuned as we continue to report on the GMUG Land Management Revision Process and in the meantime you can learn more about the GMUG here. (Photo of Josh King by Nick Spitzer)
American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area. This letter will keep you up to date on important management actions of the National Park Service on the Gauley River. Enjoy your paddling season on this classic whitewater river. As in past years, American Whitewater has leased the field above Masons Branch, also known as the Legg field, for overflow parking.
On July 18, a coalition of recreationists, landowners, and conservations groups, including American Whitewater, submitted a formal proposal to the offices of Senator Heinrich and Senator Udall to designate 453.9 miles in the Gila River Watershed under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The proposal includes the mainstem Gila River, the San Francisco River, and select major tributaries to the Gila River, and would protect these prized river segments for future generations. Now, we need everyone to let Senator Heinrich and Senator Udall know that we care about these rivers and their many values - whether you are a New Mexican resident, visitor, or river lover, your voice can make a difference here.
American Whitewater is pleased to announce the creation of an endowment to promote safety education and outreach. The endowment will support “promoting whitewater safety, responsible on-river behavior, safety education and outreach, and maintenance of the American Whitewater Safety Code and Whitewater Accident Database.’ Anyone wishing to add to the fund can simply make a donation to American Whitewater here and include safety education in the comment field of the donation.
It's that time of year folks! Colorado Event Season is soon upon us. Whether you've been training all winter in preparation or whether you just enjoy a good show and boating with your friends, these classic Colorado river events are not to miss!
In addition to the many whitewater festivals that American Whitewater partners with in Colorado, we are excited to announce that AW is hosting Gore Fest again this year! We hope to see you at Rancho Del Rio on August 24 - 26. Stay tuned for more details on race registration, entertainment, and volunteer opportunities.
This past fall American Whitewater met with Ohiopyle State Park managers to discuss possible updates to their whitewater paddling regulations. The first topic was to change the rules governing raft sizes at different water levels to recognize the capabilities of self-bailing rafts. Shorter self-bailing boats will now be allowed to run the river at high water. Some small changes to the regulations will make Ohiopyle Falls more accessible to paddlers. A change in the way the gauge is interpreted should make the falls "legal" on more days. Although whitewater paddlers are only one part of the vast public that visits the park, every effort was made to accommodate them while avoiding user conflicts and safety hazards. Special thanks goes to Ken Bisbee, Ohiopyle State Park Operations Manager and John Hallas, a former Ohiopyle State Park Operations Manager who is now Director of State Parks. Click here to read the updated Ohiopyle River Regulations:
The Department of Agriculture recently announced that it will not review a 20-year prohibition on new mining development (i.e., a “mineral withdrawal) for over 101,000 acres of public lands in SW Oregon. The protection, which was implemented in late 2016, covers rivers cherished by the whitewater community including the Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith and Illinois Rivers and their headwaters.
Senator Stewart Greenleaf, a Pennsylvania State legislator known for his practical, problem solving approach to solving the State’s problems, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Mr. Greenleaf, 78, was first elected to the Pennsylvania House in 1976 and has served in the Senate since 1978. He is a long time member of the Philadelphia Canoe Club and his work was directly responsible for fall and spring white water releases on Tohickon Creek (1977) and summer releases on the Lehigh River (1999). For a behind the scenes story of this and other work on behalf of paddlers and more information on his long career, please follow this link:
The Washington State legislature is considering a bill that could significantly impact river access in Washington State. Under current state law, a County is prohibited from vacating right-of-ways that abut a body of water. House Bill 2521 and Senate Bill 6152 would add new language to state law that would allow a county to vacate a public right-of-way abutting a waterway “for the protection of public safety.”
It is looking like another great year to be a paddler in the Southeast! Over the past two decades American Whitewater has worked with affiliate clubs and partners to negotiate an awesome array of scheduled releases on river reaches previously dewatered by hydropower dams. Each year we are part of a process to schedule these releases in an integrated manner that aims to maximize their recreational value. Check out the outstanding line up for 2018.
American Whitewater has restored boater access to the Hoosic River at Schaghticoke through negotiations with Brookfield Renewable, operator of the hydro project. Brookfield had constructed a fence and locked gate that prevented paddlers from accessing the river below the dam. Negotiations with Brookfield over the past year resulted in a resumption of scheduled releases in the spring, and in addition, new procedures for boaters to gain access when natural flows are high enough for boating.
On November 8th, 2017, the House passed H.R. 3043, the “Hydropower Policy Modernization Act.” H.R. 3043 undermines the current hydropower licensing process, which is a key tool for protecting and restoring rivers impacted by privately and municipally owned and operated dams. The bill moves to the Senate next.â€¨â€¨ You can help by reaching out to your Senators and encouraging them to stand up for rivers as they consider hydropower legislation.
ARKANSAS RIVER, Colo. - The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) is revising their Management Plan for the first time since 2001. The new Draft Plan was made publicly available in October and the AHRA is accepting public comments through November 10, 2017 (next week!). In order to design effective and productive comments, American Whitewater has thoroughly reviewed the Draft Plan, discussed the Plan with our local Affiliate Clubs, attended AHRA Public Open Houses, and reached out to key members of the local paddling community. To make it easy for you to SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS, American Whitewater staff have compiled our key concerns and comments for your review.
On Sunday, nearly 50 people gathered on the banks of the St. Vrain River to pick up trash from the water and the shoreline. We started the day off with Hotbox Roasters coffee and donuts, and a few words about River Stewardship – the common cause that brought us all together. We found bedframes, rusty nails, lawn chairs, car doors, plastic water bottles, candy wrappers, fast food containers, and it doesn’t stop there. Our findings are likely a combination of leftover debris from the floods, illegal waste dumping along the river, and built up trash from years of careless passers-by. Thank you to all those that came out for the river cleanup! American Whitewater depends on our affiliate clubs, members, and dedicated volunteers in order to tackle our many River Stewardship projects.
Come one, come all! American Whitewater has teamed up with the CAN'd Aid Foundation and Avid4 Adventure to host a river float and cleanup along the St. Vrain during the 2017 Lyons Outdoor Games festival in Lyons, Colorado. Register online to volunteer @ http://bit.ly/2oQNcBv. Join us at Bohn Park at 9:30am for Hotbox Roasters coffee, donuts, and registration. After the cleanup, we'll head to Oskar Blues Grill & Brew for some brews and apps on the patio. Each volunteer will receive one FREE Oskar Blues Brewery core beer. See you there!
American Whitewater staff traveled to Green River, UT in late March to meet with private water users and state agencies, and to participate in the official opening of the new boat passage through the Green River Diversion (Tusher Dam). Completion of the boat passage has freed the Green River from its last in-stream obstruction between the Flaming Gorge Dam and the confluence with the Colorado River – over 400 floatable river miles through iconic canyons and historic landmarks. It has a been a long process, and our work isn’t over yet! As your boating representative, American Whitewater will continue to work closely with the dam operators and Utah’s Division of State Lands (FFSL) to ensure that the boat passage meets the needs of the public during its inaugural year.
Colorado - American Whitewater has released a new study on whitewater recreation in the San Miguel River Basin. The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) requested that Montrose County consult with American Whitewater on recreational needs and future impacts for the San Miguel River. Montrose County acquired conditional water rights to the San Miguel River in hopes of building multiple new reservoirs on BLM land. American Whitewater worked with Montrose County’s agents to assess the impact its conditional storage proposals would have on existing recreational opportunities.
The Green River, from the Flaming Gorge Dam to its confluence with the Colorado River, is known for its beautiful and iconic multiday paddling trips enjoyed by boaters and anglers. For as long as any of us can remember, the only man-made obstruction to boaters and fish on this stretch has been the Green River Diversion Dam (i.e., Tusher Dam), located just over 6 miles upstream of the town of Green River, UT and more than 120 miles above its confluence with the Colorado River. Since it was first built in 1913, the Tusher Dam and the keeper hydraulic it created forced boaters to either portage around it or run the unsafe hazard, while negatively affecting fish migration patterns.
Dave Brown, the man behind Friends of the Ocoee and Citizens For Gauley River, has announced his intent to retire as executive director of America Outdoors, the national outfitters association. The team of lawyers and scientists he assembled in the early 1980's to keep the Upper Gauley from being dammed - Pete Skinner, Pope Barrow, Mac Thornton, and Steve Taylor - later became the core of a Board of Directors that revitalized American Whitewater. He also organized the first Gauley Festival, which would later be handed over to American Whitewater. Outfitters have been a vital part of the coalition seeking to protect whitewater rivers and Dave has been an outstanding leader in these fights. Click through for his refections on his remarkable career.
River outfitters and American Whitewater joined together decades ago to protect the Gauley River from hydro development. The success of these business enterprises were one of the key reasons that the river was protected as a National Recreation Area. But with success has come new challenges. Professional guides find the number of kayakers on the Upper Gauley overwhelming at times and kayakers also find the number of rafts intimidating. Regardless of any “right of way”, it’s everyone’s job to avoid crashes! Here’s what you can do to avoid collisions with commercial rafts.
The report on paddling access to the Ausable River has finally been issued: late, incomplete, biased, and erroneous. All of the data in the study support year round paddling access, and the data is generally accurate and defensible. The dam owner, New York State Electric and Gas, has maintained its position however that no access should be allowed to the beautiful Class IV river. It is now up to FERC, and AW and KCCNY will be filing comments this week requesting year round access.
A cornerstone of our outreach and education program designed to empower our volunteers is our Stewardship Toolkit, an on-line resource built on a decade of AW institutional knowledge in conservation, access, and safety issues. Each link below is a chapter containing a wealth of information. These topics are constantly being updated and we invite additional contributions.
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
Endangered Species Act
Land Management Practices
Writing or Visiting Congress
Making a FOIA Request
6) River Access
Navigability Law Primer
State Navigability Law
State Liability Law
Paddling in National Parks
Private Land Closures
Barbed Wire / Obstructions
Protecting a Streamgage
8) River Safety