National Geographic : 1993 Nov 30
Making waves U When Marion Stoddart explored the Nashua basin in the 1960s, "the highest form of life in the North Nashua was sludge worms." Outraged, she has spent 30 years getting industries to treat waste, citizens to monitor water quality, and builders to limit riverbank development. Today the activist canoes the waters she helped revive. river," said Cynthia Poten, a keeper of the Del aware River. "We're working for current and future generations, and for all living things." In British Columbia, Roy Argue said, "In Prince George almost nobody makes money off salmon. But people work just for the sake of having salmon in the stream. I think that's wonderful." "Water is a living thing," said Clarence Alexander, the Gwichin Indian chief I met in Alaska long ago. "You have to treat it as such. We don't cuss out the river. We treat it like it's got a soul of its own. This might be our super stition here, but our superstitions are pretty much like real." The Gila ran exuberantly out of control, and Peter Essick and I rode the brown waves, car ried away by water. The skeletal branch of a WATER: THE PROMISE OF RESTORATION mesquite tree rose from the river, thrashed the surface, then sank. A trailer held its aluminum hem high but got wet anyway. Refugee rabbits paced its deck. A whirlpool opened, sucked itself tight, and disappeared. The river was swift but casual, tearing up farmland and cost ing millions with little apparent effort, like someone who crunches your knuckles just shaking hands. It didn't seem like a place to be hopeful, but I was. Change happens. We swept around a bend and there, on a cliff above the water, was a line of pickup trucks, parked with doors open. The people of the val ley had come to watch. They stood beside their pickups, little silhouettes of human beings with light behind them, standing there without moving, as if transfixed by what they might learn from the river.