Looking down at the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.– Photo by Pat Bean
“The river is another world, which means that one’s senses and reflexes must begin to live another life.” – Wendell Barry
Texas Flooding got me Thinking
I grew up near the Trinity River in Dallas, which has been overflowing its banks the past few days. It was the first river in my life. The current flooding made me remember when I was a kid, sitting in the backseat our car looking out the window, as we drove over a huge viaduct with just a skinny stream surrounded by huge patches of dry land beneath us.
The Virgin River in Zion National Park. I remember when this river tore out the Zion Canyon Road after a heavy rain. The time is fondly remembered as the camping trip from hell. — Photo by Pat Bean
I wondered, back then, why the bridge was so long and high. And then the rains came, and I understood the necessity of the bridge and the vacant land, which had suddenly become part of the river.
The Trinity River was the reason John Neely Bryan decided to establish the settlement, which would become Dallas. He thought the site would be a great place for a great port, but he was wrong. The Trinity River’s ebbs and flows were too fickle to allow reliable navigation. But if you knew where to go, one could find a cool, quiet place to swim on a hot summer day back in the 1940s and early ‘50s — when I was a kid.
The next river in my life was the Brazos. I met it when I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast for 15 years during the late 1950s, all of the’ 60s and the early ‘70s. I swam in it, fished in it, caught crabs in it, sat beside it and canoed it. It was also the river in which I saw my first water moccasin and first alligator.
The waters of these two Texas rivers were usually brown and muddy, which is why I was so surprised at the next two streams that became a part of my life, Utah’s Logan and Ogden rivers. Bubbling down from mountain springs fed by snow melt, these smaller rivers were cold and clear as a crystal glass. They gurgled and sang as they made their way downstream.
Nothing gave me more pleasure than finding a hiking trail that ran beside them, or the joy of tubing a stretch of these rivers through a narrow canyon
The Snake River below Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Pat Bean
It wasn’t until 1983, however, when I became acquainted with the river that would turn me into a passionate white-water rafter. For the next 20 years, after that first introduction to a six-mile stretch of the Snake between Hagerman and Bliss, every summer would find me floating the Snake (an annual trip below Jackson, Wyoming), and other rivers as well.
I’ve rafted through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River twice, paddled the River of No Return (the Salmon), taken a wild ride down the South Fork of the Payette, and captained a raft down the Green River through Dinosaur National Park.
I feel as if these rivers are a part of who I am. They have made me stronger because I’ve challenged them, humbled because I’ve tasted their power and been lucky to escape alive, and thoughtful about their tenacity to keep rolling on, wearing down obstacles through eons of time in their effort to reach the sea and start the process all over again.
Bean Pat: The Outer Banks after a storm http://tinyurl.com/k37fyjd
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