Our vision is that our nation’s remaining wild and free-flowing rivers stay that way, our developed rivers are restored to function and flourish, that the public has access to rivers for recreation, and that river enthusiasts are active and effective river advocates.
Whitewater rivers face a range of threats from dams to water withdrawals to access closures. In pursuing our river stewardship goals, we aim to create the greatest possible benefits for whitewater rivers and enthusiasts. Our conservation and restoration work is infused with recreational knowledge and enthusiasm, and our recreation work is driven by a deep conservation ethic. We call this integrated approach to our mission river stewardship and pursue it in three tracks: Protect, Restore, and Enjoy.
The projects we select align with our mission and vision, have tangible and lasting beneficial outcomes, create good policy and have local support, and benefit the rivers our communities love for current and future generations.
To protect rivers, we celebrate public lands, champion Wild and Scenic and other designations, defend rivers from dams and diversions, and advocate for clean water. We treasure wild rivers and celebrate the wildness inherent in all rivers. We believe that free-flowing rivers should stay that way.
To restore rivers, we negotiate new and improved flows at dams and diversions, and work toward dam removals where appropriate. We’ve proven that rivers are resilient and restoration works: often, just add water.
To help the public enjoy rivers, we defend the right to paddle rivers, secure areas for public access to rivers, share information on rivers, host events, and encourage sustainable use and safety on the water through education. We’ve found that sustainable access to rivers benefits individuals, communities, and rivers.
Making Policy Progress in Colorado
01/12/2022 - by Kestrel Kunz
The Colorado based stewardship team had the pleasure of working with a team of graduate students from the University of Colorado’s Masters of the Environment program in 2021. We set them up with the task of investigating the feasibility of a state run wild and scenic river protection program in Colorado. The team, Sarah Hamming, Sarah Heller, and Jack Sheehan, dove deep in literature to learn about the history and workings of the WSRA, other state programs and other mechanisms for protecting water in Colorado. Thanks to the far reaching stakeholder outreach of the students, the concepts have already been the topic of discussion in river conservation circles and will hopefully spark bold changes for the valuable waters of our headwaters state.
Nolichucky River Wild and Scenic Designation Update (NC/TN)
01/12/2022 - by Kevin Colburn
What’s up with the Nolichucky? We get this question a lot here at AW, and it’s a good one. As recent news articles have reported, regional efforts to designate the 7.2 mile Nolichucky River Gorge as the region's next Wild and Scenic River are currently stalled at the county level. Right now county leaders are neutral and support is vast among regional citizens. We remain hopeful that these counties and others in Western North Carolina will honor and celebrate rivers like the Noli that paddlers know deserve Wild and Scenic status. Here at American Whitewater we’ll keep working with local leaders and citizens to protect some of the region’s best whitewater rivers, including the Noli.
Prep-Work is Underway on Great Falls Catawba Restoration (NC/SC)
12/07/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
Nearly 20 years ago American Whitewater started working on new licenses for the chain of hydropower dams on the Catawba River, which spans North and South Carolina, with a special emphasis on restoring flows to the dewatered Great Falls of the Catawba. Hundreds of hours of negotiations and studies led to a settlement agreement in 2006, though the federal license was delayed until 2015 by litigation and other factors. Now, after six years of planning, Duke Energy is in the midst of a massive construction project aimed at bringing our two-decade old creative vision for this special place to life.
2022 Advanced Southeast Release Schedule Set!
12/06/2021 - by Kevin Colburn
American Whitewater and our affiliate clubs have spent the past 25 years working to restore flows to incredible Southeastern rivers impacted by dams. A lot of our work has focused on Class II and III rivers like the lower Nantahala, Tuckasegee, Hiwassee, and Catawba, but we also secured releases in some classic steeper reaches previously dewatered by hydroelectric diversions. Each year we meet with power companies and agencies to schedule future releases, review ongoing ecology studies, and discuss any issues with the release programs. We strive to create a schedule with minimal conflicts to maximize recreational value. Read on for the 2022 dates for the Class IV/V Cheoah, Nantahala Cascades & Upper, West Fork Tuck, and Tallulah rivers.
Sale of SDS Lumber Company Complete (WA)
11/19/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
This week three entities with strong Northwest ties and deep expertise in timberlands, forest conservation, and mill operations have acquired portions of SDS Lumber Company and SDS Co, LLC. The sale was finalized on November 17. Of particular interest to the whitewater paddling community are the lands acquired by The Conservation Fund, through an affiliate, representing over 35,000 acres of the SDS timberlands, including important oak habitat, river frontage, and municipal drinking water sources. These lands include key parcels along the Green Truss run that will remain forested and maintain the wild character of this place. The traditional put-in for the Green Truss run and take-out for the Farmlands run are also part of the lands acquired by The Conservation Fund.
Skagit River Recreation Flow Survey (WA)
11/12/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
Seattle City Light is in the process of securing a new license to operate the Skagit Hydroelectric Project before the current licensee expires in 2025. As part of that process a number of studies are underway that include an assessment of the impacts of hydropower operations on recreation. To collect information from the public, Seattle City Light is conducting an online recreation flow survey for three river segments on the Skagit River. American Whitewater, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and North Cascades National Park participated in the development of this study plan. The purpose of this recreation flow survey is to gather information about recreation flow preferences for three river segments on the Skagit River along a 25.2-mile length from the Goodell Creek Boat Launch inside the Ross Lake National Recreation Area to Howard Miller Steelhead Park near Rockport.
Comments Needed By Nov. 26 to Secure Protections for West Slope Rivers (CO)
11/09/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
In August, we announced the release of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison Draft Forest Plan. This plan will guide the management of over 3.2 million acres and thousands of river miles, including high-quality paddling streams like the Upper East and the Taylor rivers. The current plan is over 38 years old and is severely outdated. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effect change on our public lands and we need the paddling community to ACT NOW by submitting comments to the Forest Service. Make sure that you personalize your comments by sharing a photo or a personal experience about a river(s) on the Forests.
Opportunity to Provide Input on Washington State Recreation Planning
11/05/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
Every 5 years Washington State updates their State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). All states must have such a plan that is required to receive federal recreation dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The process is currently underway to update Washington State's SCORP for 2023-2027 and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office is soliciting input through a survey. In addition they are providing an opportunity to upload a photo and narrative description of a special place. Input from the whitewater paddling community will demonstrate our community's interest in river access and conservation and help American Whitewater to be more effective in advocating for our community's interests in statewide recreation planning.
Gila Wild and Scenic River Bill Reintroduced and Gaining Speed (NM)
11/03/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
Today, Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján reintroduced the M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act. The Act, officially reintroduced on November 2, is poised to protect over 440 miles of free-flowing rivers and streams in the Gila and San Francisco watersheds in New Mexico. The success of this campaign wouldn’t be possible without the support of our local partners that have championed this effort and our dedicated members. Over the past couple years, thousands of paddlers and river lovers have voiced their support for protection of the Gila watershed by writing directly to our legislators, signing petitions, and sharing personal stories of the Gila. Your voices have been heard and securing permanent protection for the Gila and its tributaries is nearing the finish line. While the reintroduction of this bill comes as a great win, there is still lots of work to ensure that the legislation is passed through Congress. We will be working to get this across the finish line - for good. Please take a moment to thank the Senators for their hard work and dedicated to protect the Gila River!
It’s Finally Time to Protect Colorado’s West Slope Rivers!
08/16/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
Today, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest Unit announced the much-anticipated release of the Draft Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Draft Plan materials were released on Friday, August 13, initiating a 90-day review period. The GMUG National Forest is home to gems like Oh-Be-Joyful Creek, the Taylor River, Norwood Canyon on the San Miguel, and numerous others. Many of these rivers are free-flowing and offer outstanding values, including paddling, breathtaking scenery, fish habitat, and profound history and culture. This point in the plan revision process is the most important time for the river community to engage and speak up to protect our beloved West Slope rivers in Colorado!
Proposed Hydropower Dams on Little CO River Stopped (AZ)
08/03/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
This week, I returned from a 19-day Grand Canyon trip to learn that two proposed hydropower projects on the Little Colorado River had been formally abandoned. On July 26, Pumped Hydro Storage LLC officially surrendered their two preliminary permits for the Salt Trail Canyon and Little Colorado River Pumped Storage Projects. These two projects received preliminary permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2019 and if completed, would have inundated 4.5 miles of the Little Colorado and created 4 dams up to 240 feet high. American Whitewater and our members were among hundreds of commenters that opposed these hydropower projects, including multiple native tribes whose sacred lands would have been irrevocably destroyed.
Whitewater Boating Opportunity on the Upper Sultan (WA)
07/30/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
Snohomish PUD will be providing a whitewater boating opportunity on the Upper Sultan River on Sunday August 8th. Paddlers who plan to attend are asked to register on the Snohomish PUD website. We have been working for the past 3 years to provide this mid-summer opportunity. While we hoped to release a bit more water than the anticipated flow of 500-700 cfs, we agreed to this flow out of an abundance of caution to prevent impacts to fishery resources of the Skykomish River basin. With monitoring during this release, we hope to collect additional information that can inform future summer whitewater boating opportunities on the Sultan River.
Water Quality Rollback Stopped, Issues Unresolved (CO)
06/18/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
At 5pm tonight, Colorado’s Water Quality Control Commission voted not to rollback the antidegradation rule that has for decades helped to keep our rivers clean. However, they did uphold their ability to make arbitrary decisions on polluting Colorado’s waterways - like they did on the South Platte in 2020 - for the next ten years. The outcome followed a two-day hearing earlier this week, during which the antidegradation rule was discussed at length. While we still have a long road ahead, Coloradans were able to stop what would have been an atrocious rollback of protections for Colorado’s beloved streams. Thank you to those that stood up and took action to protect Colorado's water quality!
Take Action to Protect Water Quality in Colorado
04/28/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
Colorado’s waters are at stake. From our high mountain streams to the backyard of urban communities, water quality is threatened state-wide. The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission has proposed a change to the antidegradation rule that would allow for more pollution into higher quality waters without review or justification. The proposed rule would go against the very premise of the Clean Water Act, which the Commission is tasked with implementing and overseeing in Colorado. Help us protect the antidegradation policy by signing on to this petition to the Water Quality Control Commission.
Black Canyon Put-In Closed for 2021 Season (CO)
04/06/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
The National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation announced this week that the East Portal Road which serves as the put-in for the Black Canyon section of the Gunnison River will be closed for maintenance for the duration of the 2021 season. While the road closure is an unfortunate obstacle for many this season, the needed maintenance of the road will lead to fewer unexpected road closures due to rockfall and will improve access to the Black Canyon for the long term. American Whitewater will track the status of the road closure and we will share an update as soon as access to the Black Canyon is reopened.
Moose, Beaver (NY) Dam Relicensings Set to Begin Again
04/06/2021 - by Robert Nasdor
Federal relicensing of 21 hydropower dams in the Adirondacks begins this month on the Moose, Beaver, and Black rivers, home to iconic whitewater boating runs treasured by paddlers throughout the northeast. For the next six years, AW will be at fighting to protect and expand paddling opportunities on these rivers. To support our efforts to restore rivers and our opportunities to enjoy them, AW launced the Adirondacks River Restoration Campaign. To get involved, SIGN UP HERE.
Train Operations in Eagle and Arkansas Corridors to Require Full Review (CO)
03/25/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
This morning, the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) made a much-anticipated decision on the revival of the Tennessee Pass Rail Line - a 160-mile rail line that follows the Eagle and Arkansas Rivers between Sage and Parkdale, Colorado. The STB formally rejected Colorado, Midland and Pacific Railway’s (CMPR) request to be exempt from oversight and regulation of their proposed operation on the line, which would be leased under an agreement with Union Pacific. This decision comes nearly three months after CMPR filed a notice of exemption on December 31, 2020, as people were bringing in the new year.
Over 1,000 Miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers is Back in Congress
02/24/2021 - by Evan Stafford
Late last year you may remember our push to pass over a thousand miles of Wild and Scenic designations and millions of acres of protections for some of the most storied whitewater landscapes in the West, including the Grand Canyon (AZ), the Dolores (CO), the Olympic Peninsula (WA), and several whitewater rich watersheds in California (Trinity Alps, Central Coast, San Gabriels) under the banner of the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act (PAWA) and by attaching it to the end of year must-pass National Defense Authorization Act. Ultimately that play was unsuccessful, however now this legislation is back under the Protecting America’s Wilderness And Public Lands Act (PAW+) and it’s headed to the House floor for a vote this Wednesday February 24th. Your Congress person needs to hear that these river protections are important to you and as usual we make it super simple with our easy-action form. The details of the river protections included in this bill can be found in this prior article we wrote when this package was first introduced in Congress.
Help Protect Colorado’s Western Slope Rivers this Valentine’s Day
02/09/2021 - by Kestrel Kunz
American Whitewater is asking the paddling community to step up this Valentine’s Day to help protect rivers like the Taylor, Oh-Be-Joyful, and San Miguel rivers in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) in Colorado. This Valentine’s Day and for the whole month of February we are collecting LOVE LETTERS from you to your favorite river in the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests. We want to hear directly from you about why you love these rivers and why they are worth protecting. We have made this easy-to-use form to submit your letter to us!
Representative Simpson Proposes a Bold New Vision for the Snake River (WA/OR/ID)
02/07/2021 - by Thomas O'Keefe
After three years of careful study and conversations, Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) has released an Energy and Salmon Concept that includes a proposal to breach the four Lower Snake River Dams while making significant regional investments in salmon conservation, recreation, transportation, agriculture, and energy. American Whitewater supports the efforts of Representative Simpson to launch this converastion; we welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue on a proposal that would have a signficant impact on our work throughout the Columbia River basin for years to come.
Weybridge, Vt, VtFull Profile
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.