Long before highways and railroads crisscrossed the landscape, rivers provided navigation routes for waterfowl, migrant mammals and human explorers. Even today, despite dams, levees and channelization, they connect the varied ecosystems of our planet.
Standing on the banks of the Missouri, near Columbia, I often ponder the source of the water that streams past me, on its way to join the Mississippi in St. Louis. I know that much of it fell as snow across the high mountains of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Some cascaded through Front Range canyons, even passing within a mile of our Littleton farm. Some exploded from geysers in Yellowstone National Park, dropped over Yellowstone Falls and flowed on toward Livingston, Billings and the Yellowstone's junction with the Missouri, in North Dakota. And some fell from massive supercells on the High Plains of Kansas before flowing eastward via the broad watersheds of the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers.
Rivers have sculpted our landscape and give us a sense of connection with other communities, natural and human. More importantly, they transport nutrients to the sea, the source of all life on Earth, and she returns the favor by generating the storms that feed their flow. Rivers are nature's vital highways, recycling her waste, nourishing bottomlands, bringing water to arid lands and, no less important, filling our souls with the spirit of adventure.