Meet Our Donors

We thank all our donors for their generous support. Here are some of their stories.


Desert River Journeys

"For over two decades, Phil Nelson and I traveled thousands of river miles together. When we moved to the Desert Southwest, Phil developed a passion for exploring the rivers of the region and spent many wonderful times enjoying the beauty of the canyons. He was so inspired by these desert river journeys over the years that he wrote stories about his trips in order to preserve the experiences and share them with others. Phil passed away suddenly the summer of 2009 after coming back from a long trip on the Escalante River – he was doing what he loved until the end of his life, and these stories are his river legacy.

I am pleased to share them with you and also am making my own river legacy, in memory of Phil's love of wild rivers, by including a gift to American Rivers in my estate plans to protect rivers for future generations of river explorers."

- Katherine Brown, AR River Defender, UT, member since 1990

People float rivers for many reasons. Some go for the excitement of whitewater rapids. Others like to relax. Cast a line out. Here you'll find stories of treacherous water, exciting situations, natural calamities and some outrageous human behavior along with peaceful, thoughtful moments.

My style of boating is a bit different than most. I tend to get on small streams, in small boats, for long periods and usually alone. My equipment has been specialized over the years. It all fits in order. I've tried and tested equipment and ideas over decades now. What works for me may not suit you. Read More »

Escalante River, First Run, May 1986

I'd shown Jim some photos of the Escalante River. When he looked at them he asked if it could be boated. I wondered myself. I had thought about it. I knew it would be possible in some stretches. But other parts I had seen were shallow and rocky. And we'd taken inflatable kayaks down the San Juan River a couple of weeks earlier, with raft support. But, as yet, we hadn't done any multi–day trips using only the inflatable kayaks. So we thought about it. We studied the scant information available. We practiced packing our gear into the little boats, keeping the weight light. We asked ourselves: "How long would it take to do this? ... How do we get in and out of the canyon? "

The best way out seemed to be Coyote Gulch, just before Lake Powell backed up. We would have to pack everything in on our backs. We decided to bring framed backpacks to tie our boats and gear on. We figured at least two trips. We'd try for no more than 50 pounds for each load. Read More »


San Francisco River, New Mexico

It didn't start out this way. Originally, a friend was going with me. But, at the last minute, his boss told him he had to stay put and be on call –– or be fired. My car was packed. I was ready to go. So I went.

I drove through the night from Parks, Arizona to Glenwood, New Mexico. I parked at the San Francisco Hot Springs. Back then, you could drive right down to the river. Now, there is a locked gate, and you have to walk. I couldn't do a shuttle. Nothing was listed and I knew no one in the area. So I figured I'd leave my boat and gear hidden down at the take–out then hitchhike back to the car and drive back to pick up my stuff. Read More »

Whitewater Experiences Motivate Mystery Author

I was paddling whitewater rivers and contributing regularly to American Rivers long before I stared writing mystery novels. So it made sense that eventually I would "write what you know" and develop a new series with a whitewater river ranger sleuth set on the nearby Arkansas River. Read More »


Doug "The paint actually wore off the paddles" is how James "Doug" Barber, AR supporter since 2000, described his unforgettable trip for a high school science project on Ohio's Cuyahoga River before it, literally, burned. And sources say the river actually caught on fire at least twelve times before that. The infamous condition of the Cuyahoga at that time is described well in an excerpt from a 1968 Kent State University symposium:

"...The surface is covered with the brown oily film observed upstream as far as the Southerly Plant effluent. In addition, large quantities of black heavy oil floating in slicks, sometimes several inches thick, are observed frequently. Debris and trash are commonly caught up in these slicks forming an unsightly floating mess. Anaerobic action is common as the dissolved oxygen is seldom above a fraction of a part per million. Animal life does not exist. This entire reach is grossly polluted. Read More »


An Interview with a Coot in a Canoe: A Life of Defending Rivers and Writing about It

It was June 10, 2003. I was lying on a big, flat rock on the west bank of the Connecticut River just south of Bellows Falls. My old buddy Ramsay and I were canoeing the entire Connecticut River. After fourteen days and a lot of rain, this was the nicest day we'd had. The sky was blue, the sun bright, the temperature about to hit 90. We were taking a break after paddling around another of the river's big loops. The rock was hot and I was about to roll off into the river when I remembered what the Doc, a pathologist we'd stayed with the night before, had told me when I asked him if the river was suitable for swimming. "Do you like swimming in treated or untreated crap?" the Doc said. "The storm drains and sewer plants in towns like West Lebanon and Springfield use the same lines for water runoff and sewerage. When it rains, they divert everything directly into the river. When the weather's dry, the sewerage is treated. When it's wet, it's untreated. They're working to straighten it out, but treated or untreated, crap's still crap."

The Doc's warning ended any thoughts I had of going for a swim, but gave me a new one. "You know, Ramsay," I said, getting back into the canoe, "I've come to the conclusion that best definition of a truly civilized society is one where any kid at anytime can jump into any river for a swim." Read More »

Jonathan Berger and a life of canoeing the "Little North"

"When the creek zig-zags the crocodile zig-zags" - saying in Burkina Faso.

membersIf one looks at a map in the book "Canoe Atlas of the Little North" one is struck by just how accurate this adage is. The author of the Atlas, Jonathan Berger of Philadelphia, a member of American Rivers since 1984, has spent most of his life canoeing almost every inch of this great expanse, known as the Little North -- a true wilderness -- that lies between the Boundary Waters area of the Great Lakes and Canada's Hudson Bay. Most of the time he and his traveling companion were -- truly -- off the map. So much so there were, in fact, no maps to be had. So, they created their own. Read More »

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