Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life on the River

Our boats are moving deeper into Missouri and Kansas. We've travelled 332 miles since we first put our boats in the water. They've become our home, our closet, our kitchen and our workplace. We swim up to the gunwales to get served a snack. They are our travelling shade and the way we set juglines for fishing. They are our mobile data collection office and maproom, housing our GPS units, maps, data sheets, binoculars and cameras and getting us close to shore to check things out.

They are our touchstone to land, taking us to the sandbars that are our bed and to the river accesses that resupply us. We use them to take people out on the river. Families or journalists, some have only looked at her from her banks or from bridges. Then they're out in it, the current swirling around them. They are swallowed up in this water world, a part of this flowing heart of the heartland.

We've become a part of this world. People know who we are when we approach them on the river. "You guys are the surveyors, huh?". Or "You the ones that clean the river?" There is often the follow up question..."So you're just looking at the trash? When are you gonna pick it up?"

The days of the week dissolve into "river time". There are no hours, only times of the day.Yet when we interface with the "bank world", the timing is always right. The river gods seem to be working with us, and paying attention to time becomes unnecessary.

The elements are working into our bodies and into our belongings. Everything we pick up leaves a sand shadow. Sand is everywhere. We sweep the boats clean, and the sand returns. It hides in every pocket and crevice and fold. Fabrics absorb the river humidity and the sun dries them quickly. Our bodies are brown from the unending bake of the sun. We swim to cool down, and the river mud enters our pores.

When we swim, we try not to think about all of the pipes we've seen entering our river, some seeming innocent and safe, but others smelling like the worst things of civilization with colors nature didn't create. We abstain from swimming below large cities... Sioux City, Omaha, St. Joseph. But the river calls us back and we tell ourselves we are a safe distance.

One of the future projects of River Relief is water quality monitoring. We'll be researching the information that is out there about Missouri River water safety to compile it for all of us. We'll be gathering other data that hasn't been done yet. And after this trip, after dissolving ourselves into this river, we really see the importance. This river is the lifeblood of the heartland, and who else will pay attention?

As we move down the river into Missouri, there is less work on river habitat, fewer scientists studying her changes. Fewer boats are running her current and fewer homes have a river view. No barges are running the river except those maintaining the channel for non-existant barges.

Choices are being made about this river, but it seems more unconscious here. Who is paying attention? The fishermen and women are, and we are. Who else? We want to know you, and we want to work with you to keep watch on her.

Contact us so we can contact you.;; 573-443-0292.


At 9:44 AM, Blogger Cooper said...

I expected to see lots of comments. Lots of people are enjoying reading your blog. We are proud of you in Central Missouri.


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