Stories run through river's past and future

By Gary Wockner & Laura Pritchett
November 17, 2006.

How do you save a river?

You start with a story.

About a year and a half ago, we wrote a Soapbox in this newspaper in which we asked folks to send us their stories and poems about the Cache la Poudre River. What happened was this: The stories poured in just like the Poudre pours down the canyon during the June Rise.

The result is a new book: "Pulse of the River: Colorado Writers Speak for the Endangered Cache la Poudre."

This is your book, about your river, written by your friends and neighbors, and it is an extraordinary book!

The Poudre, as we all know, is in serious danger. In Larimer County, more water projects are planned than anywhere in the Western United States, making the Poudre ground zero for the next generation of Western dam-building and water fights. One of these projects—the Glade Reservoir—is a massive monolith that will cost more than $400 million. Other dams are planned upstream and downstream, and cumulatively will nearly drain the Poudre, especially the stretch from the mouth of the canyon and out to Greeley.

Many of Northern Colorado's conservation organizations are uniting to address these threats to the Poudre, and "Pulse of the River" is helping, too.

We believe in the power of storytelling. We believe that change starts with a story, and we believe change can happen at the individual, community and societal level. Our thoughts turn into words, which turn into actions. The stories we tell ourselves become the lives that we lead and the actions we take as a community.

"Pulse of the River" gives Fort Collins and the Poudre Valley a new set of stories about the Cache la Poudre River that are far different than we usually read about in the newspaper. Gone are the stories about mastering nature and using the Poudre's water to feed never-ending population growth and development.

Instead, "Pulse of the River" offers different stories - personal stories that tell of a profound sense of place and passion for the Poudre River. The writers in this book know the Poudre - they've waded in it, stood by it, rafted it, fished it, ran alongside it and played with their children in it. The Poudre has healed them, taught them and restored them.

Thirty-four writers contributed to "Pulse of the River," most of whom live here in the Poudre Valley, all of whom have spent time along the Poudre. "Pulse of the River" contains stories and poems from young writers and old, from beginning writers to the well-published, including award-winning and best-selling writers.

We invite you to do this: Grab a copy of "Pulse of the River" and take it down to the Poudre. Find a nice spot where the sun is sprinkling through the cottonwoods and you can hear the river dappling over rocks. Lie down and prop your head up on a log. Point your head upstream and your feet downstream so that the river is flowing by you, head-to-toe, and then start turning the pages. We wonder if what happened to all the contributors will happen to you: The river first seems to flow by you, and then it seems to flow through you. It gets in your blood.

When you need a break from reading, walk down and stick your feet in the river. Feel the water curve around your toes, watch it make little eddies around your ankles - feel the pulse of the river.

It's not too late, if we try, if we care, to save the Poudre. And it all starts with a story—first with the stories in this book, and then with yours.


Gary Wockner, Ph.D., (www.garywockner.com) is a writer and ecologist in Fort Collins.
Laura Pritchett, PhD, (www.laurapritchett.com) is a writer living in Bellvue.