The South Yuba River, although designated Wild and Scenic, is a constructed environment. Its flow is affected by several dams. During the California Gold Rush, its surrounding hills were blasted by the environmentally devastating practice of hydraulic mining and the effects of that are still evident today. It is a river that I grew to know and love intimately by whitewater kayaking and swimming in its waters and hiking and camping along its riverbanks throughout the seasons and years. I recognized the way the water tasted and smelled, and felt its various moods and characters at different water levels. It felt a part of me.
Like the South Yuba River, a stretch of the McKenzie River is also Wild and Scenic and is also affected by several dams. Riverbanks lined with riprap confine the water to protect a highway and homes. The history of logging has drastically altered the ecosystem.
My relationship with this watershed is different. Constructing Water creates a bridge and an invitation to construct a new relationship with this river. And now devastating fires have made the McKenzie River almost unrecognizable. A familiar relationship with the river was instantly rendered strange and uncomfortable. It presents an invitation to construct new relationships by listening to the land and its waters. This is an ongoing process, one that had been evolving as I learned the history, character, and moods of the river throughout the seasons and years. Now the process includes healing from recent traumas from fire and preparing for the inevitable changes that will continue to occur. It is a process of relearning, letting go of the past, and accepting change.
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