It doesn't take all that much to make a difference in the life of a river. Even something so small as picking up a piece of trash you find floating along can help out. But those who are looking to make a bit more of an impact might join American Whitewater. With the combined power of its membership -- nearly 7,000 individual members and 100 paddling clubs from around the country -- the organization is big enough to really change the state of U.S. whitewater rivers.
Lots of the individual members are whitewater enthusiasts -- those who actually ride the rivers -- but not all. Many are all-around recreational users, those who float or fish or swim in rivers that may be threatened by damming projects or industrial development; others are interested in conserving nature in general and have found rivers to be worth saving.
Membership benefits are numerous. In addition to the huge reservoir of information maintained by American Whitewater, including river-safety tips, travel advice for a particular whitewater vacation and guidelines for how to best navigate any given whitewater river, there are events and festivals all over the country. The organization sponsors the Gauley River Festival in West Virginia, Ohiopyle Falls Race in Pennsylvania, the Potomac Whitewater Festival in Maryland and the Wenatchee River Festival in Washington State, among others.
Perhaps even more compelling, they get to share their knowledge with people who are truly interested in it. Through a program called StreamTeam, members are invited to help maintain the massive American Whitewater presence on rivers and river areas. A member can become the designated expert on a given river, adding, updating and sharing everything he or she knows about the rapids, other river features, motels and camping in the area and great restaurants to eat at after a float.
Member or not, anyone can help out when it comes to preserving rivers for future generations. If you're interested, write a letter to a legislator about an upcoming dam project, or pick up some trash on a riverbank, or simply make sure you leave no sign of your presence the next time you go for a dip in a nearby stream. Every little bit helps.
For more information on American Whitewater and related topics, look over the links on the next page.