Reviews and Publicity for Pulse of the River (so far)

January 2007: Click here to hear the Colorado Public Radio interview


Loveland Reporter-Herald, January 19, 2007

Local authors seek stories of life on the Poudre

By Ann Depperschmidt
The Daily Reporter-Herald

Two writers want to save the Cache la Poudre River from becoming a “semi-dry ditch.”

And they’re doing that by compiling a book of stories about the river and donating the royalties from the sale of the book to the Colorado Water Trust — an organization they say is setting the most realistic goals for the future of Colorado rivers.

“We want people to think how they love the river before they change the river,” said Laura Pritchett, co-editor of the book, titled “Pulse of the River.” “We want to celebrate the river.”

Northern Colorado has a series of water projects in the works that would affect the Poudre River — the biggest one being the estimated $400 million Glade Reservoir.

But building dams and reservoirs will negatively impact the ecology and wildlife along the river, the editors said. Local municipalities need to conserve water instead of constantly looking for new sources, they said.

“There’s a mad dash to drain the river and get every last drop before trying to conserve,” said Gary Wockner, the other editor of the book.

So they asked people who had connections to the river — fly fishers, kayakers, scientists, historians and anyone else who wanted to save the river — to share their personal experiences with the river.

“We wanted a different voice,” said Wockner, a Fort Collins resident who works as an ecological scientist. “Not so much as a scientist or an analyst, but as a storyteller.”

Pritchett, an author who lives in Bellvue, said the river has always been important to her because she grew up in LaPorte along the banks of the river.

“We need to learn how to use water instead of always asking for more, more, more,” she said. “We need to stop planting bluegrass lawns and buy low-water appliances.”

Though population growth is inevitable, and Northern Colorado will need more water, the authors say there are water-sharing and water-conservation programs that policymakers should look into before spending so much money to change the Poudre River.

“Conservation is cheaper, sustainable and will help preserve the river,” Wockner said. “Earth’s most precious resource is being used for frivolous reasons.”

Pulse of the River

• What: The Friends of the Loveland Public Library will present a book signing and discussion about the book “Pulse of the River.” The editors and authors will be available to talk about the Poudre River and their inspiration for contributing stories to the book.
• When: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Gertrude B. Scott Room of the Loveland Public Library, 300 N. Adams Ave.
Conservation is cheaper, sustainable and will help preserve the river.

Wyoming Tribune News, January 18, 2007

In defense of a river
A group of activists in Northern Colorado is fighting a dam and reservoir project that they say would drain the Cache la Poudre River of its majesty

By Cara Eastwood

LAPORTE, Colo. - In winter, the Cache la Poudre River's flow is just a whisper of its springtime fury.

From its headwaters high up in Rocky Mountain National Park, snowmelt feeds the ribbon of clean, clear water that passes through the towns of Bellvue, Laporte, Fort Collins, Windsor and Greeley before it meets with the South Platte River and heads east to Nebraska.

All along its ever-urbanizing corridor, the Poudre serves as a source of recreation for anglers, boaters, bird watchers and those who enjoy running, walking and cycling along its banks. Farther downstream, the bulk of the river's water is used for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses.

Cities like Fort Collins have poured millions of dollars into the construction of pathways and natural areas around the river to offer greater access to its banks.

But this waterway - Colorado's only river to get the federal protection of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 - is at risk of being tapped for three new controversial reservoir projects that would feed the thirst of 16 downstream cities and water districts in northern Colorado.

While some say that more water storage is desperately needed on the growing Front Range, a group of river activists in Laramie County is joining forces against one of the new dam and reservoir projects that they say would be disastrous to the ecological health of the Poudre.

The loose association of concerned residents, united under the banner "Save the Poudre," aims to raise awareness of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District's plans to build Glade Reservoir on land where U.S. Highway 287 passes through a valley northwest of Fort Collins.

Buoyed by the support of groups like the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Fort Collins Audubon Society, Poudre Paddlers and the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club, the movement is gaining a high profile as the biggest anti-dam effort in the state.

Speaking for the river

To promote water conservation rather than the construction of any new reservoirs, a group of local writers associated with Save the Poudre recently published a collection of stories, poems and essays that celebrate the river for the physical and spiritual role it plays in their lives.

"Pulse of the River" is divided into four sections that focus on the healing power of the river, its fascinating ecology, its history and its ability to help people learn about themselves as they swim, boat, fish and recreate in and near it.

"The driving theme is to ensure the long-term ecological health of the river," said Gary Wockner, a Fort Collins-based writer and ecologist who co-edited the anthology with Laura Pritchett. "Our position is that instead of storage, we should teach conservation. It's cheaper, it's more sustainable, and it preserves the rivers."

Wockner contributed an essay to the collection that describes an afternoon he spent on the water with his daughter, Julia. Intermixed with his narrative about catching crayfish, Wockner weaves in criticism of the West's antiquated water laws and suggests that changes could be made to assign value to the rivers themselves, not just the water within them.

"It's an Old West versus New West way of looking at water," he added. "It used to be solely for human consumption, but in the New West, we're using rivers for their value as human enjoyment."

In another submission, poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes speaks out against dams in one stanza of her poem, "The Soul Is a River, The River Has a Soul:"

"How could a dam endear me to its metal heart?
for when I looked behind me, all the water
was held up now, as though by robbers,
in not a lake, for it had not trees,
nor fauna grown up in the water,
nor flowering wands anywhere near,
nor fish in hundred-year-old holes,
but just a huge holding tank of still water only."

The emotional stories and poems that tell of each writer's connection to the Poudre River resonate with readers.

If it were tapped for these projects, even in high water years the river's flow through the city would be significantly reduced, Wockner said. As a result, convincing people to support the cause of saving the Poudre hasn't been difficult, he said.

"This is an easy one," he added. "It's something everyone can see and feel and hear."

Todd Simmons manages the Matter Bookstore inside the Bean Cycle coffee shop in Fort Collins, where a sizeable display area is devoted to the Save the Poudre effort. He also contributed a story to the anthology.

In two months, Simmons said, he has sold about 1,000 copies of "Pulse of the River."

"It's a mute argument to fight over this thing that connects us," he said. "These projects would degrade the river, and I think (the water conservation district) is in gross negligence of their mission."

A thirsty state

Nicole Seltzer, public liaison for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said the issue isn't as simple as conservation versus storage.

"It's frustrating to me once in a while," she said. "It's easy to say 'conserve more' when you're not the ones who have to sit down and provide the water."

The conservancy district spent six years analyzing options for providing water to the burgeoning population inside its boundaries, and Seltzer said the group is confident that it has arrived at the best solution.

"The status quo is not sustainable," she said. "Things are going to change in the future, whether or not (the reservoir) gets built. It's a choice between pooling resources and building a joint water project or having all of these folks supply water to their towns on their own. That's more expensive, and it will mean drying up irrigated agriculture."

The project to build Glade Reservoir and store water in another reservoir near Greeley is officially called the Northern Integrated Supply Project. Two more projects that also would draw water from the Poudre include the expansion of two existing reservoirs: Halligan and Seaman.

Because the water rights used to fill Glade Reservoir would be junior to those rights that exist farther downstream, Seltzer said the district expects to be able to fill the water body only about five out of every 10 years, depending on runoff.

"We would only be diverting water (into the reservoir) during the high water months of above-average years," she said. "These projects wouldn't drain the Poudre - it's already protected by minimum stream flows through Fort Collins, and something like 60 percent of the river above the Poudre Canyon is protected as a wild and scenic river."

Seltzer said the methods currently used by Front Range cities to buy up irrigated land and transfer water rights from agricultural use to municipal use won't work forever.

"Colorado has doubled its population in the last 35 years," Seltzer said. "In that time, we've only built one major water storage project - Windy Gap - and that was 20 years ago. In short, we can't meet the water needs of future generations by taking shorter showers."

Water conservation is vital, Seltzer said, but it won't go far enough.

"Conservation is really important - it's a tool that all our municipalities use, but it's only one leg of a stool," she said. "Even if you do conserve a bunch of water, where are you going to put it? More storage ultimately needs to be the answer."

Buying rights for rivers

All the proceeds from the book "Pulse of the River" will be donated to the Colorado Water Trust, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that buys water rights for conservation benefits.

"The economic values of water have expanded," said director John Carney. "They now include things like recreation and ecosystem services and the economic values of wetlands or open space."

The group's work with water is comparable to that of the land trust program that buys land for conservation. Often, the trust works with ranchers seeking to consolidate operations.

"For example, if they sold some land to the Forest Service and retained the water rights," Carney said, "they could sell us the water rights and we would work with the state of Colorado to translate that into in-stream flow."

This water that continuously remains in the river provides habitat for fish and amphibians, shelter for birds and continual food sources for wildlife.

With projects in Summit County, Eagle County and San Miguel County, the trust's efforts are taking off and starting to gain recognition in the conservation community.

"What we represent that's different is a market-based approach to in-stream flow," Carney said. "In Colorado, that notion hasn't taken off just yet."

But environmentalists like Wockner look to the Colorado Water Trust as the future of conservation for the state's waterways.

The trust's existence represents a shift from seeing water as a commodity to be used versus a critical component in the existence of a river ecosystem. Wockner hopes to help spread the view that the river itself - not just the water - has value.

"Our goal with the royalty donation was to highlight a positive alternative," Wockner said. "(The Colorado Water Trust) is on the cutting edge of positive alternatives to help preserve and restore rivers in Colorado. The concept has a lot of potential."

Get the book
Pulse of the River, $17, Johnson Books, 2007

Get involved:
Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:


North Forty News, December 2005

New Book Celebrates Healing Power of Poudre River
by Cherry Sokoloski

There's something magnetic about the river. Maybe it's a movement, maybe it's the life forms it spawns -- from mayflies to Mergansers to cottonwoods along the shore -- or maybe it's the recreation it supports. Whatever the reasons, a healthy river attracts people to its shores.

There's a now book out that celebrates the river running through this community, the Cache la Poudre. Called "Pulse of the River: Colorado Writers Speak for the Endangered Cache la Poudre," the book is a compilation of 37 essays and poems by a wide range of authors and poets, most of whom live in northern Larimer County. The book is a collections of personal experiences with the river, edited by Gary Wockner and Laura Pritchett

The book will be launched Dec. 1 at a "Save the Poudre" party, 7-9pm, at New Belgium Brewery, 500 Linden St. Several environmental organizations will be represented at the party, including the Sierra Club, Friends of the Poudre, Trout Unlimited and Poudre Paddlers. The evening will include readings from "Pulse of the River," the debut of a new documentary film about the Poudre and music by Matt Campbell and his Bottom Line Band. The event is free and open to the public. More information about the event is available online at

"Pulse of the River tells stories from the vantage points of fisherman, kayaker, scientist and poet. The selections include Haiku and history, essays and fiction. Contributors include James Galvin and Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Themes that flow through the book, like a good spring runoff, include the healing power of the rivers and the importance of connections between people and nature. "I am inside the river, and the river is me," writes Diane Fromme in "The Mirror in the River."

Botanist Mark Easter added "then and now" graphics to the book. In "The Lady's Last Dance," he describes the Hayden Geological Survey trek in 1869, when Henry Wood Elliott made detailed etchings of the Poudre River. Elliott's etchings are reprinted in the book, along with photographs of the same scenes taken in 2005.

While most of the pieces in "Pulse of the River" tell stories about memorable experiences along the river, there is a political undercurrent in some of the editors' contributions. Pritchett, who grew up along the Poudre in LaPorte, said the goal in assembling the collection was "to celebrate the river and tell stories about ti, to remind people about the many ways the river affects their lives, and also to encourage a dialogue before reservoir decisions are made."

Several reservoir projects are on the drawing board for northern Colorado, including Glade Reservoir north of LaPorte and enlargements of Halligan and Seaman Reservoirs on the North Fork of the Poudre. Pritchett said the river is threatened "not by the reservoirs but by simple neglect and taking it for granted. I want to make sure we don't neglect it."

Wockner grew up beside a slow-moving river in Illinois and now lives a few blocks from the Poudre as it flows through Fort Collins. In his essay "Against the Current," he calls the Cache la Poudre "an extremely threatened river" due to demands on the resource from agriculture and population growth.

"We are planning to dam and drain the Poudre at the very same time we are spending millions of dollars to preserve and enhance the natural areas around it," Wockner writes. "We are trying to kill what has drawn us her, what sustains us, and what heals us."

However, Wockner also sees a mix of "hope, activism and technology" that could restore water and health to the Poudre. In their introduction to "Pulse of the River," Pritchett and Wockner write, "We firmly believe the Poudre can run strongly again, not only in the canyon west of Fort Collins, but also below the mouth of the canyon and all the way out to Greeley."

"Pulse of the River" sells for $17 and is available through major booksellers, at Matter Bookstore in downtown Fort Collins and at Overland Foods in LaPorte."



Rocky Mountain Chronicle, Dec. 8th, 2006


A new book offers praise for and defense of Fort Collins' home stream

Good writing can be compared to whitewater kayaking: The greater challenges a storyteller or paddler approaches, the greater the rewards and satisfaction will be.

In the new anthology, Pulse of the River, Colorado Writers Speak for the Endangered Cache la Poudre, Fort Collins author Todd Mitchell writes of a challenging kayaking adventure along the flood-swollen Poudre. Looking back on obstacles and currents "more complicated than I can comprehend," he seemingly refers not just to the river, but his life: "Then I continue on, drifting with the river, learning to be part of something larger than myself."

Pulse reads as something larger than just a random collection of stories and poems, set around a mountain river. Edited by local authors Gary Wockner and Laura Pritchett, the book was published at a critical moment for the river, which is facing a series of proposed dams. Its contributions course with very personal experiences along the banks and in the waters of the Poudre, which constantly figures as a central role in the healing of disillusioned souls.

"The concept of healing is just over and over in the book," says Wockner. "From the beginning of the book to the end, you are in a place, and you can feel the passion of these people."

This sense of intimacy floods from college professors and high school teachers, engineers and scientists, fly fishermen and boaters, who all share moments of clarity achieved along the free-flowing Poudre.

Colorado State University geologist Ellen Wohl writes about how her observations from studies on the North Fork of the Poudre tune her into the rhythms within her own life and the effects of the decisions of our society.

In "Death and Decay in the Poudre," Matter journal editor Todd Simmons shares a tale about tossing a rotted bear carcass into the stream in his quest to think and act like a river, and as an offering to "add some sort of hoodoo-voodoo protection against confused progress."

These passionate expressions distinguish Pulse from many other books that have been published in the name of environmental causes during the past decade.

Wockner co-edited a more far-flung collection, Comeback Wolves, Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home, in 2005. That effort recently won the Colorado Book Award for best anthology. Wockner is proud of the honor, but he says Pulse is a better book because of its universal appeal of river conservation and its local focus on the Poudre.

"[Pulse] was not a mission to gather the greatest hits of American environmental writers," says Wockner, who did convince well-known Montana author Rick Bass to pen the foreword. "The goal was, ‘These are your friends and neighbors. This is your book about your river.'"

Wockner and Pritchett also hope the book encourages readers to recognize how our lives might be affected if the Poudre is dammed. The proposed Glade Reservoir would build a $300 million dam to siphon off flows, which could ruin fish and wildlife habitat along the river. Building opposition to the dam is another challenge, but these writers know about being part of something larger.

In her essay, "Godzilla at the River," Pritchett writes about enduring a mysterious illness and finding solace along the Poudre. After recovering, she thanks the river, "Perhaps because the river's going to keep going, because it's more constant and sure than I am, because it has a force and a strength that will outlast mine, and because its body offered mine what it could."

Royalties from Pulse will be donated to the Colorado Water Trust, a nonprofit organization that purchases water rights to keep them in a river for environmental purposes, a strategy that the editors believe can help protect the long-term health of the Poudre.



New West Magazine, Dec. 6, 2006

Colorado Environmental Writers
New Anthology Celebrates the Poudre River

By Jenny Shank

Pulse of the River: Colorado Writers Speak for the Endangered Cache la Poudre is a new collection of essays, poetry, and fiction about Colorado's Cache la Poudre river. In their introduction, editors Gary Wockner and Laura Pritchett, who had previously worked together on the anthology Comeback Wolves, write about how they found the river "bone dry" one day as they hiked together. "Three large dam-and-reservoir projects are in the works," they write, "that will take ever more of the Poudre's flow and divert it out of the main channel toward the unquenchable thirst of its users." The writers whose work is collected in Pulse of the River are passionate advocates of the Poudre's preservation, and many describe through poetry and prose how the river has sustained and healed them, physically and emotionally.

In Wockner's essay, "Against the Current," he describes how a move to Fort Collins to a home near the Poudre's banks helped him shrug off a malaise and regain physical fitness. He also provides a sketch of the difficulty of increasing the Poudre's flow, given Colorado's complex water rights laws. "Water in Colorado, and throughout much of the West," he writes, is a legally a commodity--not a public resource like forests, open space, and wildlife--and every drop of water is more-or-less owned by some entity that has a full legal right to use it." Among other conservation methods, Wockner proposes the creation of "'river health funds' that buy rights to water at market prices and keep water in the river for the greater good."

In her essay "Godzilla at the River," Laura Pritchett writes about how she was struck with a mysterious, debilitating condition that left her in too much pain to write or even play with her children. While she underwent many treatments and evaluations, she visited the Poudre for solace, and found signs that others had used the river for their ceremonies. "On one sandy beach, I frequently find this: Yellow cornmeal sprinkled in a circle with deep-red rose petals scattered on the inside. Footprints all around--someone has been dancing!"

The other essays in the anthology include Todd Simmons graphic account about how he found a "dead and decaying black bear," near the Poudre River, loaded it into a sack, carried it to the riverbank, and started dismembering it and feeding it piece by piece into the water. "…I toss body parts and handfuls of maggots and other pieces of bear into the river. I've never heard of a ritual like this, but I'm sure I'm not the first to imagine a dead black bear can add some sort of hoodoo-voodoo protection against confused progress."

The Poudre has also served as the muse for a number of northern Colorado poets, including CSU professor John Calderazzo, whose "Herons" is a tribute to the waterfowl he observed above the river. "They might have flown in/ from China or the Cretaceous,/ they look so odd,/ great blue herons wheeling/ in twos and threes over the red rock wall/ carved by the hissing river."

On the books website, Wockner explains that he hopes the collection will "help galvanize public sentiment about the beauty and necessity of the Poudre." Proceeds will be donated to Colorado Water Trust. Pulse of the River is available now online and in bookstores.


Rocky Mountain Collegian, Dec. 4, 2006

Book defends value of the Poudre

by Geoff Johnson

Todd Simmons got naked in the Poudre River. Actually, he did it twice.

Along with 10 people the first time and 12 the second, Simmons was trying to raise awareness about what he said is an endangered Cache la Poudre River.

"Nudity works in this culture," said Simmons, editor of Matter, a Fort Collins-based literary magazine.

Friday night at the New Belgium Brewing Company, about 200 others attended an event in honor of the release of "Pulse of the River," a collection of poems and essays by Colorado writers in defense of the Poudre River.

Simmons contributed to the book in the form of an essay: "Death and Decay in the Poudre," which is about a dead bear he and a friend found in the Poudre Canyon.

One of the book's editors, Gary Wockner, said in addition to raising awareness about the book (the proceeds of which are going to the Colorado Water Trust), the event sought to "spread the word about dangers to the river."

"We're trying to get activists and advocates excited to protect the Poudre," he said among vats of brewing beer and a growing crowd.

At the heart of the issue for Wockner, his co-editor Laura Pritchett and others in charge of the event was the proposed Glade Reservoir, a water body that could be complete as early as 2013 and would be slightly larger in size than Horsetooth Reservoir.

Glade Reservoir would be located about a mile north of Ted's Place, near the intersection of US 285 and Highway 14, and would be filled with water diverted from the Poudre River.

The New Belgium event featured readings by four authors featured in the book. Introducing the authors, Wockner asked those in attendance, "What do you think of dams and reservoirs?"

The question was met with a resounding "Boo!"

Wockner then asked, "Do you think we should save the Poudre?"

The crowd roared affirmatively: "Yay!"

John Calderazzo, a creative writing professor at CSU, contributed to the book. He said the Poudre River is particularly close to him, both emotionally and physically. He lives less than a mile from it.

"I'm proud to be in this book," he said. "It's got a lot of good literature, and a lot of great activism."

The free-beer-fueled crowd had to be quieted with what Pritchett referred to as "kindergarten tactics": "Shhh!"

With the crowd a little quieter, Calderazzo read two of his poems published in the book: "Herons" and "Highway Flagman."

After reading, Calderazzo said the poems are a departure from what he usually writes. "Usually, I'm traveling, going somewhere to find things to write about," he said. "But these poems are based right where I live. (Writing the poems) was different for me."

The evening also featured an installment of an ongoing documentary film project called "Drop by Drop," by local filmmaker Bryan Simpson.

The film featured interviews with people in Northern Colorado who would, in one way or another, be affected by the construction of Glade Reservoir - including Simmons.

"Todd (Simmons) brought my attention to (issues surrounding the Poudre River)," Simpson said.

Of Simmons' participation in the film-making, Simpson said, "He throws his energy into this. He's a wonderful guy to be in the center of a thing like this."

Sipping on a complimentary 2 Below Winter Ale, Simmons said, "I'm tired of (society's) inability to see value in things that can't be bought and sold,"

"I want to do things that matter," he added. "I'm going to be a father soon."

Staff writer Geoff Johnson can be reached at


Rocky Mountain Chronicle, Dec. 1st, 2006

Poudre Preservation
by M.S.

Do your part to protect one of Northern Colorado's most important resources, the Cache la Poudre River, by attending the Save The Poudre Party tonight at New Belgium Brewery, 500 Linden St. in Fort Collins from 7 to 9 p.m. To celebrate the release of the locally published book, Pulse of the River, NBB will host music from Matt Campbell and his Bottom Line Band, as well as the debut of a locally produced film about the river.

Pulse of the River is a collection from more than 30 local authors and poets, some of whom will read selections from their works at the bash. The writers -- who include fisherman, boaters, hikers and parents -- banded together to bring awareness to several dam and reservoir projects that are threatening the Poudre.

For your part, consider this: Book royalties to the Colorado Water Trust. Go ahead and pick one up.

Fort Collins Coloradoan, Nov. 25th, 2006

Launch party plans to save day for river

A new anthology of essays, stories and poetry gives voice to Colorado's only National Wild and Scenic River.

"Pulse of the River: Colorado Writers Speak for the Endangered Cache la Poudre" (Johnson Books, $17) is an anthology of new prose and poetry about the river by local and regional writers.

A launch party for the book will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at New Belgium Brewing Co., 500 Linden St.

"The book is mostly personal stories from writers and poets who live or have lived in the Poudre Valley," said Gary Wockner, a local author and ecologist. Wockner edited the anthology with local author Laura Pritchett, author of "Hell's Bottom, Colorado" and "Sky Bridge."

Contributors include James Galvin, John Calderazzo, Clarissa Pinkola Estes and Bill Tremblay. Proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to the Colorado Water Trust, an organization that buys, trades and shares water for river conservation purposes.

"Water in the West has huge legal and financial institutions around it. Rivers are the conduits of water," Wockner said. "Our goal was not to celebrate the water but the river."

Matt Campbell and his Bottom Line Band will entertain at the party, and a new documentary film about the will be screened.

The party also will provide an opportunity to learn more about proposed dam and reservoir projects, Wockner said.

"The book is one piece of a larger network of advocacy."