For all it gives, the river also takes. In high school the famed Yellowstone River took my childhood friend and didn’t give him back for several days, when his body was found washed up miles downstream near a popular fishing access. But of course, the river never really gave him back.
I know of many others who died in the Yellowstone. This will never deter me from using its waters, or those of other rivers. The river’s flow is eternal, but we are not. Understand that before leaping in.
Fishing with friends, floating in rented tubes, bridge jumping, campfires on sandy banks – the river has given me all of this. Rivers shaped my childhood, much as they shaped many of the valleys in which I’ve spent my life, though Flathead residents can thank glaciers and geological faulting for their valley. Some of my favorite valleys were formed by flowing water that cut through seemingly impenetrable mountain ranges. The river cuts hard.
The Flathead is a mighty river. It runs turquoise and deep, its meandering body far thicker than the Yellowstone’s. I don’t know yet if the water is as volatile as Yellowstone’s, which has sporadic and dangerous eddies, like the one that sucked down my friend. Nevertheless, I will treat it with the same respect.
By no means should people fear the river. They only need to respect it. Some people don’t and they open themselves up to tragedy. Others pay the utmost respect and still succumb to the river. We must concede some losses to natural forces if we are to enjoy our rivers.
Recently on the South Fork of the Flathead a Georgia woman tipped her canoe and drowned. The waters where she died are known to be particularly torrential and precarious. A man died in the same stretch two years ago.
We know what the river gives us. We cherish that. Like anything, though, the river can’t only give; it takes too. With much summer fun left, we must respect that.
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