A Toast To Our National Parks Turning 100 years
Words KEVIN COLBURN (American Whitewater) – Photo: Courtesy of Steve Fisher
(Previously published in kayak Session, Winter 2016/17 – KS#60)
The National Park Service turned 100 years old this year and it is time to raise a glass and toast these exemplary places, the rivers that flow through them, and the many fine people who take care of them. So grab your favorite beverage and let’s go!
To the Gauley and New National Rivers! Here’s to the moonshine we love to drink, and the boats you love to sink! Here’s to the sandstone cliffs above us, and the undercuts where you try to stuff us! Here’s to Gauleyfest, and the river rangers who are the best! May the Park Service always keep the dam builders at bay, may the New River Dries soon be dry no more, and may your rapids dish out beatings to our descendants for countless generations to come.
To Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Your rain falls in blinding sheets, drips off so much moss and so many salamander tails, and quickly finds a creek. The Ravens Fork, Big Creek, the West Prong…the rain has so many choices, and so do we. In a land of people and pavement, cheers to the solitude you offer us when your weather chases away the meek. Cheers to your polished boulders that boof like California granite, and to your crystal clear water. Cheers to your rangers and your Native American neighbors who welcome us to explore. Cheers to the Smokies!
To Grand Canyon National Park! You’ve changed so many lives, surely saved many, and taken your share. As paddlers we’ve shimmied up your side canyons, fallen asleep on your beaches, and leaned into your colossal waves – both within your walls and for years afterwards in our wandering minds. Yes, you are a river of our dreams. May your beaches grow, may you remain free from gondolas and other abuses, and may you one day be reconnected to your source and your sea.
To Olympic National Park! May your rivers always run wild from snowfields to lonely beaches, through glossy volcanic canyons, and beneath towering spruce and cedars. And may they always run thick with the salmon that feed the bears, the people, and the trees. May the wounds of the Elwha dams heal quickly now that we, the people, have removed them from your path to the sea. And may Congress seek to designate the Elwha, Humptulips, Hoh, and your other great whitewater runs as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
To Glacier National Park! Cheers to your grizzly bears, with paws the size of paddle blades, and may none of them ever eat us. Cheers to your opalescent creeks, lined with green moss and purple huckleberries, coursing over blue and red bedrock, beneath massive peaks, beckoning to adventurers. Cheers to your epic forks of the Flathead River, to the people who fought the dams proposed there in the 1940s and 50s, and to those supporting Wild and Scenic status for their headwaters today. May your namesake glaciers find a toehold against climate change, and your rivers rise big each spring.
To Yosemite National Park! We’d like to thank your Park Service stewards for welcoming us into your most sacred valley – the Merced. With your traffic jams and 1st world problems, they could have just said no. But they didn’t. They still honor the sense of awe that John Muir experienced on his fateful visits to your valley and high country. And when they took to the river in boats, perhaps they experienced that same sense of awe and priceless solitude while flowing beneath the granite massifs. Cheers to your people Yosemite, and we’ll be seeing more of you!
To Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument! Hey new kid, welcome to the family! You may just be a National Monument, but you are 87,000 acres of new public land and that makes you cool as hell. And those of us who have paddled your East Branch of the Penobscot River know you’ll grow up into a National Park someday. So let’s raise a glass to the newest unit of the National Park system! Cheers to your moose and your far north wildlands. Cheers to Mrs. Quimby, who donated you to us. And cheers to the Park Service who accepted you as an awesome gift. So cheers to the new kid!
We could go on until our cups are emptied many times over. As paddlers we have a backstage pass to the parks, literally stepping over the railings and into the scenery. Rivers offer us the best views, solitude, and fun to be had in many parks. Steeped in their beauty, it would be difficult to see them as anything but sacred. Thank you to those who protected our National Parks over the past 100 years, and those who protect them today.
Kayak Session is proud to collaborate with American Whitewater, a non-profit river conservation organization. Our mission is to show kayaking at its best with amazing pictures of paddling on beautiful rivers. Without the hard work and dedication of AW, we would have a difficult time portraying these incredible rivers, and it would probably become even more difficult in the years to come. We would like to acknowledge this work and AW has agreed to keep us updated on some of the projects they are involved in. For more information on these and other issues that American Whitewater is working on, go to www.americanwhitewater.org