Appeal of Flowing Water

Reflecting on my travels I realized that as a hiker-naturalist-artist I am also drawn to flowing water. My enjoyment began in childhood when my brother and I dug new waterways in rocks and gravel and built dams to make wading pools in mountain streams. Childhood engineering was also fun on sandy beaches, but a mountain stream is special.

Catching crayfish for pets taught me a lot about other stream life that was under rocks, in mud or weeds, or swimming around my ankles.

I sketched and painted rapids as I studied the texture and flow of cold mountain water. Colors and sounds change continuously.

Floating is a wonderful for contemplation. My brother and I floated stretches of a creek on simple air mattresses; walked a mile or so back upstream and floated down again. I learned to read flow over and around rocks, had a few close calls with powerful currents, and began to appreciate the character of a stream.

The sight and sound of flowing water can be soothing, but the possibility of rising water deserves respect. Just after we exited one of our downstream rides on a sunny day we watched a wave of muddy flash flood water flow over the clear water that preceded it like a tidal bore flows into narrows. A storm at higher elevation sent a sudden increase in volume downstream. I've seen angry arroyos during the monsoons in southwest deserts and the power of 100-year floods and 500-year floods in water courses along the Colorado Front Range.

I recall special memories of Passage Creek in Virginia's Massanutten Range, the Crystal River below Marble and upper Rio Grande above Creede in Colorado Rockies, and the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Having floated for days on some of Earth's great rivers: Amazon, Nile, Yangtze, Danube, Rhine and Colorado, I appreciate that a conveyance larger than an air mattress is increasingly appealing for watching Nature, history and culture and for accessing more places to hike.

A Colorado composite cropped from a larger image. Styled with palate knife and oil on stretched canvas. Indian Peaks, upper Frying Pan River, trees and boulder from other highcountry locations. © 1966 SAMiller


Sunset of our last day on Amazon river-sea and tributaries. Rio Tamshiyacu, Perú. © 2015 SAMiller

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This page last modified: June 2016