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Our Lives Depend on Rivers

Rivers do so many things!

Energy: Early industrial era mills, shops and factories built near fast-flowing rivers where water could be used to power machines. Today steep flowing rivers provide free renewable energy for powering hydroelectric plants.

Friends KayakingTransportation: Rivers provide transportation for exploration, commerce and recreation.

Soil and water: River valleys and plains provide fertile soils, water for irrigation and plains to reduce flooding.

Fun: Rivers are fun—and fun can be lucrative. Rafting, fishing, swimming, hiking and wildlife watching all draw people—and therefore money—to areas with healthy rivers.

Economic boost: According to a report by the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation participants spend $86 billion annually on watersports (kayaking, stand-up paddling, rafting, canoeing, and motorized boating), the second highest revenue stream, with camping in the lead at $142 billion. Watersports directly support more than 800,000 jobs annually.

Habitat: Rivers water s provide excellent habitat and food for many of Earth’s organisms. Countless species of fish, birds and other animals live in and along rivers and depend on them for their food. Many animals build their homes on riverbanks and riverbeds.

Connections: Rivers also connect ecosystems to one other and affect landscapes far beyond the apparent surface of the water. For example, wetlands provide breeding areas for many migratory birds, and rivers provide corridors for wildlife to move within and migrate as American landscapes become increasingly fenced off and fragmented.

Good for the soul: Rivers hold immeasurable spiritual and aesthetic value. If literature is any indication, wild and free rivers are a key metaphor for the human experience. Books have been written in honor of them. Poets use them as similes. Many religions have long held water as a part of their spiritual values. If there had been no wild and free Mississippi, there would be no Huck Finn. The river was a symbol of freedom and opportunity.

Comfort, beauty and peace: Scenic rivers provide stress relief better than any prescription or counseling services. The next sunny day visit a river and sit quietly on the grassy bank, with the sun warming your shoulders and watch the water flow by. You will be surprised how it rinses away your stress, troubles and cars.