October 29, 1998
I'm looking at a picture of an autumn landscape in Arizona of great beauty. It's a desert river with a braided channel. In the foreground are cattails along the right bank of the river. At the top, a late afternoon sun has turned the tips of cottonwood trees yellow-gold and their reflection has painted the stream in the upper part of the photo. The river at the bottom of the picture is a dark blue in gathering shadows of the waning afternoon. I look at the picture longingly, wishing I could be there, but thankful for protection of this scenic waterway as a Riparian National Conservation Area. What an image of serenity and peace the scene conveys! I can see myself sitting on the sanbar, watching the water slowly flow downstream. The chill air of the desert night is about ready to descend on that magical place.
Any time I see such scenes of rivers, I am grateful also for the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, 30 years ago this month. Magnificent rivers, wild and free, are protected across the country and secured for future generations to enjoy, free from development along their banks.
For most of my life I have been fascinated and in love with rivers. I turn to see them flowing beneath every bridge I cross on country highways. In southern Mississippi years ago, I drove upstream trying to find the source of my favorite river, Black Creek, travelling progressively emptier roads and seeing the river get narrower and more like a little creek the closer I got to its origins. I parked the car, walked down the bank and sat for awhile looking at the clear, tea-colored waters flowing within banks only about 10 feet across. Downstream about 40 miles, it flows swiftly toward the Pascagoula River, past submerged logs and over sandbars when the water is high. I could watch it flow for hours. I wrote about this special little river in an earlier journal entry. I remember most every experience I had either canoeing down short segments of its length or walking along a path up above the stream on the high bluffs. This is a wild and scenic river, and rightly so.