It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act October 2, 1968
I grew up on Rivers, and they raised me as their own.
Some of these rivers I lived around were unnaturally constrained: their waters warmed, their sediments backed up and their fish destroyed for the benefit of industrial progress. As a kid I never wanted to swim in the waters of the Snake and Clearwater confluence. I turned down the invitations of my friends whenever they went jet boating in the Lewis-Clark Valley. I couldn’t stand the thought of spending a day stranded afloat on those gasoline smelling waters.
I knew there were cleaner rivers out there because I also grew up with the free flowing rivers of the Bitterroots. My father was a passionate fly fisherman, and he took the whole family up the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers in the late summer and fall.
I spent days on the clear banks of the Lochsa, chasing butterflies and minnows. I learned there that even the smallest creek can’t be dammed by the devious efforts of my brother and I. I swam in the clear, still waters while my parents taught me to respect the swift-moving currents. I watched my Mom and Dad pull countless shimmering rainbow trout from those smooth waters. I watched all of them return to the river for the next angler.
As a kid, I had no idea why the confluence in the Valley was so different from the rivers upstream. Now, I know the quote above is the defining difference between the two.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is an ideal, a passion put into words by Senator Frank Church and others like him. Thanks to those written words here I am now, guiding on the Rogue River, another one of the original eight set aside by the act. I’m enjoying this river as many have enjoyed it before me, and many will after.
And with a bit hope, luck, and the help of those like Church, my children won’t be afraid of swimming in the Confluence of the Lewis Clark Valley.