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Origin Story (Dedication to the Wild Rivers of Washington State)

“There are many ways to salvation, and one of them is to follow a river.”

David Brower -- Foreword to Oregon Rivers by Larry Olson and John Daniel

Money Creek Sunset, WA

People ask, why is your website/travel blog called Northwest Rivers Photography? Some say it is too long, too complicated, or that it does not connect directly to Rich Bowers. But if you know me, it really does!


The backstory is that ever since I first fell in love with moving water, and taking pictures of wild rivers, it was always going to be ‘Northwest Rivers.’ That was long before Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Deception Falls, WA.

As for so many others, my love of water happened on my first river trip. That genesis was intimate, physical, and immediate, and just like the water we were on, it was deep, powerful, and intense. As changing, swirling, and rushing rivers shape the land, determine direction, and provide corridors for the future, rivers have provided that for me throughout my life and photography. Once you’ve fallen for rivers, they never let you go!

Wells Creek Falls, Whatcom County WA.

That first trip changed my life. It led me to quitting my job, rewriting my resume, and spending several years volunteering and searching for a way to let my work revolve around water. It led to several wonderful decades creating interesting partnerships and protecting rivers and the landscapes they sculpt. It led me to careers that allowed me to be on the water, to visit waterways from the Penobscot in Maine to the Kern in California, from the tannin-laced streams of Florida to the gradient heavy rivers here in Washington State, and from my then home-river the Potomac to the Nooksack today. It granted me passion and focus, and it fed my soul and created many of the relationships and friendships that I have today. It led to my wanting to document and remember these rivers that mean so much, and directly to my work with Northwest Rivers Photography.

Martin Creek, WA.

Every passion needs to be fed on a regular basis. It is not only whitewater and adrenaline that feeds mine, it is also: knee-deep powder days on Mt. Baker; early days body-surfing Maryland’s Ocean City waves with my friend Mike and my daughter Danna (maybe the inception of her diving and marine interests?); kayak camping trips with my wife Stephanie to British Columbia’s Broken and Curme islands; diving in Fiji and the Great Barrier Reef; just standing in the northwest rain and grinning from ear to ear. Feeding and refueling this obsession happens every time I dip my paddle in a creek or ocean and feel the pull and energy of the water.

Skykomish River, WA

Of course, there are defining moments and experiences that stand out. I have been lucky enough to have so many of those, and the stories that go with them.


One was of my first whitewater trip to Washington’s Ohanepecosh River. Flowing from 8,000 feet on the Ohanepecosh Glacier to its confluence with the Cowlitz River, the name is an Upper Cowlitz Tribe term meaning “standing at the edge place.” Absolutely descriptive and appropriate! Last winter, I went back to take photos of this favorite wild river, but the snow was deep, and the roads closed. A trip to plan in the future.

Chelan River Whitewater Study, 2009.

Sitting in the back of the van, listening to my friends Mike, Tom, Pete, and Rick (all much better boaters than I) tell war-stories of this steep creek plunging off the southwest side of Mt. Rainier, I knew I was in way over my head. I knew I didn’t have the skill needed for this run. Nor did I have the right equipment -- watching them put on dry suits, hoods, booties, and gloves, while “mister-from-the-east-coast” donned a pair of shorts and a short sleeve wetsuit top. I wisely determined to run shuttle.

Robe Canyon, South Fork Stillaguamish River, WA.

Until I got to the put in. The Ohanepecosh was easily the most beautiful river I had ever seen (still is!). Changing emerald to turquoise waters, huge boulder gardens, with moss literally dripping from the Doug Fir and Red Cedars, a twenty-foot plunge off a boulder to start. I had to run that river.


I quickly found that my original assessment was correct, I didn’t have the skills. But with a little luck and good friends, I made it out safety. Totally stoked, and with an excitement and sense of accomplishment that lasted forever. I close my eyes and still see the water, the trees, and individual drops and routes today.

Ruth Creek, Whatcom County WA.

Everyone has a home river, everyone is part of a watershed, and everyone lives downstream. I hope you get to spend time on the water where you live. And when you come to the northwest, plan to spend time enjoying the bounty of wild waters that surround us.

Goodnight, Skagit River.

"I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts , before joining the night and the stars." -- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


Endnotes:

For more river and stream images, go to: https://www.northwestriversphotography.com/rivers-streams

"Mother Nature is our wild world. A wild, winding river is her autograph." --

Duane Short, Wild Species Program Director, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.




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