Writing for the Poudre

By Gary Wockner and Laura Pritchett


"We will champion what is beautiful, and so finally make our opponents irrelevant."
--from Resistance, by Barry Lopez.

Spring is here, beckoning us out there--to the greening, blooming landscape of Northern Colorado. If you're like us, one of your favorite walks or bicycle rides is along the Poudre River as it meanders through the city and county.

The Poudre though, as we all know, is an imperiled river. Its streamflow through town is but a fraction of its historic average, and multiple damns and diversions--which will diminish the river all the more--are being planned. What used to be a year-round flowing river with abundant fish, nearby wildlife, and beauty, is a shadow of its former self.

Unfortunately, many people believe the Poudre's demise is inevitable, when in fact, the opposite is true. At the very same time that our local leaders are plotting the Poudre's ruin, other visionary leaders around the state are plotting a very different future for Colorado rivers.

As examples: First, three weeks ago the Colorado Senate defeated a bill that would limit the amount of water that organizations and cities can purchase for recreational uses in rivers. This means that many Colorado leaders are rethinking what constitutes a "beneficial use" of water and are championing free-flowing rivers as viable and important.

Second, and connected to the Senate bill, some communities have, or are considering, water purchases for recreational kayak and whitewater parks. These parks bring in millions of dollars statewide and greatly enhance local economies and rivers. The whitewater park in Denver on the South Platte River near the REI store exemplifies this new viability.

Third, the Colorado Water Trust (www.coloradowatertrust.org) is working to connect willing sellers of water with organizations and cities that want to buy water to enhance the ecological health and beauty of rivers. Other organizations-land trusts and the Nature Conservancy-are also working to conserve rivers through willing-seller methods.

And finally, writers and poets are getting into the act. The Colorado publication, Mountain Gazette, has published special river editions and other selected river stories. Whitewater journals and other nature-writing publications are proliferating in Colorado, and river photographers and painters are thriving.

One thing is clear in all this: Colorado's rivers are entering a renaissance.

And so here in Northern Colorado, the story of the Poudre is not about its inevitable demise, but rather about its economic, ecological, and aesthetic future. This is not the time for mourning, but rather for celebration, camaraderie, and hard work to create this new future.

As one aspect of this celebration and work, we will be compiling a book of stories and poems about the Poudre River. And we invite all of you to join us.

We are calling for essays and poems that will be collected into a Poudre River anthology to be published in 2006. This writing and poetry could take many forms including river-rafting stories, nature ruminations, camping-hiking-fishing-wildlife essays, family outings tales, ecological musings, and river rights narratives.

To bring the project full-circle, we will donate royalties to an organization that is working to restore Colorado's rivers--the book will celebrate the Poudre and be part of its new future.

We invite you to enjoy the spring and get out there--along the Poudre River path and its greening, blooming surroundings as it meanders through Northern Colorado. And then, we invite you to write an essay or poem and send it to us, which you can do at www.poudreriverbook.org.

Like Barry Lopez, let us work to champion what is beautiful, and in so doing, make the river relevant and whole again.

Gary Wockner, Ph.D (www.garywockner.com) is a writer and ecologist, and lives in Fort Collins. Laura Pritchett, PhD, (www.laurapritchett.com) is a prize-winning short-story writer and novelist, and lives in Bellvue.