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Help Protect Colorado’s Western Slope Rivers this Valentine’s Day

Posted: 02/09/2021
By: Kestrel Kunz

American Whitewater is asking the paddling community to step up this Valentine’s Day to help protect rivers like the Taylor, Oh-Be-Joyful, and San Miguel rivers in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) in Colorado. This Valentine’s Day and for the whole month of February we are collecting LOVE LETTERS from you to your favorite river in the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests. We want to hear directly from you about why you love these rivers and why they are worth protecting. We have made this easy-to-use form to submit your letter to us! 


Why are we collecting your love letters? We are going to submit them to the U.S. Forest Service as evidence that numerous rivers on the GMUG National Forests should be eligible for addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Rivers and creeks like the Daisy, Upper East, Anthracite and Ruby Fork, and the Uncompahgre Gorge should be recognized for their outstanding paddling opportunities, their important ecological, scenic, geologic, and historic values, and their free-flowing waters. 


The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests are in the process of revising their forestwide management plan. The management plan acts as a blueprint for all lands and waters within the forest. This plan revision process provides an important opportunity to secure interim protections for free-flowing rivers that have outstandingly remarkable values. Such rivers are considered “eligible” for designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, however the Forest Service often doesn’t acknowledge their eligibility status unless the community speaks out in support. 


American Whitewater has identified the following rivers and creeks in the GMUG National Forests that we believe have outstanding river recreation opportunities and are eligible for Wild and Scenic River protections. You can also view these rivers on Outdoor Alliance’s GIS mapping tool for the GMUG. Please choose one (or more) of the rivers below to write your love letter to! If you would like to accompany your letter with a photo, please email photos directly to


List of Rivers: 


Whether you are single, chasing a crush, or in a committed relationship, you can still have a river valentine! You and your partner can even write the letter together if you’re looking for a fun Valentine’s Day activity. 


If you need some inspiration, American Whitewater staff, Kestrel Kunz, wrote her own love letter below to the Upper East River. Use this form to submit your unique love letter. Sit down with a beverage of your choice and have fun with it! 


Photo credit: Josh King




Love letter example: 


Dear Upper East River, 


I dream of your fast moving water and stacked ledge drops, of Gothic Mountain towering majestically above you, and of the dainty wildflowers blooming in the meadows around you. I love the rush that I get the first time we are reunited in the spring and the confidence that builds when I successfully navigate your rapids time and time again. You gave me confidence to paddle your neighboring creeks, like Daisy Creek, and you have provided an important opportunity for other kayakers looking to progress their skills. 


I’ll never forget that you were the first run that I paddled in Crested Butte. I made my first friends in the valley that day and was immediately convinced to move here. I wouldn’t have chosen to call this place home without you and you are certainly part of the reason that I have stayed for so long. Your swirling eddies have led me to make new friends and have brought me closer to my existing friends. I quite literally would be a different person without you. 


Through getting to know you and falling in love with you, I’ve realized that I want to protect you and that you deserve to be protected. You are a life-blood artery to the local community and you are beloved by paddlers locally and from afar. I believe that you should be determined eligible under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act so that your values and free-flowing waters can be recognized and protected. I want you to be protected so that others have the opportunity to fall in love with you too. 






Kestrel Kunz

Full Profile

Associated Projects

Forest Planning (CO)

AW is involved in a number of different Forest Planning efforts in Colorado, working directly with the public and the United States Forest Service to secure better protections for rivers.

Associated Rivers

Anthracite Creek, Ruby Fork CO
Oh Be Joyful Creek CO
San Miguel CO
Taylor River CO
Taylor River CO
Uncompahgre River CO
Uncompahgre River CO


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