American Whitewater is a national non-profit 501c(3) river conservation organization (EIN 23-7083760) founded in 1954 with approximately 7,000 members and 85 local-based affiliate clubs, representing whitewater enthusiasts across the nation. American Whitewater’s mission is to protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. The organization is the primary advocate for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States, and connects the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data to achieve the goals within its mission.

Our Mission

As a national river conservation nonprofit, our mission is to protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.

Our Vision

Our vision is that our nation’s remaining wild and free-flowing rivers stay that way, our developed rivers are restored to function and flourish, that the public has access to rivers for recreation, and that river enthusiasts are active and effective river advocates.

Our Impact

As a small organization (12 full-time staff) we pride ourselves in punching well above our weight. At American Whitewater, we put rivers first and use a science based approach to protect what we love — whitewater rivers that represent our nation’s headwaters.

Whitewater rivers face a range of threats from dams to water withdrawals to access closures. In pursuing our river stewardship goals, we aim to create the greatest possible impact for whitewater rivers and enthusiasts. Our conservation and restoration work is infused with recreational knowledge and enthusiasm, and our recreation work is driven by a deep conservation ethic. View the annual impacts of our stewardship efforts in the links below.

2022 Impact Graphic

2021 Impact Graphic

2020 Impact Graphic

2019 Impact Graphic

Our Values

Our conservation and restoration work is infused with recreational knowledge and enthusiasm, and our recreation work is driven by a deep conservation ethic. We call this integrated approach to our mission river stewardship and pursue it in three tracks: Protect, Restore, and Enjoy.

PROTECT To protect rivers, we celebrate public lands, champion Wild and Scenic and other designations, defend rivers from dams and diversions, and advocate for clean water. We treasure wild rivers and celebrate the wildness inherent in all rivers. We believe that free-flowing rivers should stay that way.

RESTORE To restore rivers, we negotiate new and improved flows at dams and diversions, and work toward dam removals where appropriate. We’ve proven that rivers are resilient and restoration works: often, just add water.

ENJOY To help the public enjoy rivers, we defend the right to paddle rivers, secure areas for public access to rivers, share information on rivers, host events, and encourage sustainable use and safety on the water through education. We’ve found that sustainable access to rivers benefits individuals, communities, and rivers.

View our strategic framework.

River Stewardship

bypass.jpgAmerican Whitewater works to protect and restore rivers, maintains a national inventory of whitewater rivers, monitors potential threats to whitewater river resources, publishes information on river conservation, works with government agencies to protect the ability of the public to have a voice in the management of rivers, advocates for legislation protecting our rivers and their aquatic resources, and provides technical advice to local groups regarding river conservation and management.

American Whitewater is working full-time to assure protection of whitewater rivers and the ability of the public to enjoy clean, free-flowing rivers. This includes our access program that focuses on protecting navigability on our nation's waterways and acquisition of lands that provide public access to rivers. To learn more about our river stewardship program go to the stewardship page.


American Whitewater has worked on whitewater rivers throughout the country of all sizes and challenges. Here are just a few things that we don't mind braggin' about:

  • AW members proposed some of the initial concepts for protection of Wisconsin's waterways that Senator Gaylord Nelson incorporated into the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This legislation was passed in 1968 and we continue to use this important tool for protecting some of our nation's most spectacular rivers.
  • AW has represented the public interest at over 100 federally-licensed hydropower projects restoring flows on rivers that have been dewatered for decades
  • AW has worked with a variety of agencies to remove over a dozen dams on rivers and we have several more scheduled for removal including some major projects in the West
  • AW was a founding member of the Hydropower Reform Coalition, now comprised of well over 100 organizations that represent the public interest in hydropower relicensing. Our coalition has significantly enhanced the ability of the public to have a voice in management of rivers impacted by hydropower development for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and people.
  • AW was a founding member of the Outdoor Alliance. The six membership groups of Outdoor Alliance have a long tradition of preserving public access to America’s Outdoors - making sure people have trails to hike, waters to paddle, mountains to ski and crags to climb.

Our network of volunteers under the direction of our small river stewardship staff is working on well over 100 rivers across the nation. In addition we are working at the state and federal level to protect our bedrock environmental laws and preserve the ability of the public to safely enjoy clean, free-flowing rivers. To find out more information about our work in your back yard click on your region's page:ausable.jpg


safety_cards.jpgAmerican Whitewater promotes paddling safety, publishes reports on whitewater accidents, and maintains the internationally recognized American Whitewater Safety Code. This safety code includes the International Scale of Whitewater Difficulty, the class I-V rating system for whitewater rivers that was developed by our membership in the 1950's. Today this system is widely used by paddlers and safety personnel throughout the world. For important safety updates and additional safety resources check out our safety page.


American Whitewater reaches, serves and engages members, volunteers, sponsors and organizational partners in a variety of ways. The bi-monthly journal has been our primary communication tool and member benefit since the organization’s inception. The journal has recently been augmented by our website, now seeing 84,000 page views daily.

American Whitewater events are coordinated and organized as grass roots platforms on which to raise awareness, volunteerism and funds for river conservation and access. American Whitewater has hosts the annual Gauley River Festival in Summersville, West Virginia, the largest gathering of whitewater boaters in the nation. American Whitewater also plays a lead role in the Deerfield River Festival (MA), Gore Canyon Festival (CO) and Feather River Festival (CA).

Organizational History

oldshuttle.jpgThe American White Water Affiliation (AWWA) was formed in 1954, and incorporated in 1961 when it became known officially as the American Whitewater Affiliation (AWA). The name was later shortened to American Whitewater (AW). Upon its founding the purpose of American Whitewater was to:

  • Encourage the exploration, enjoyment, and preservation of America’s recreational waterways for human-powered craft;
  • Protect the wilderness character of waterways through conservation of water, forests, parks, wildlife, and related resources;
  • Promote and celebrate safety, proficiency and responsibility in all aspects of whitewater activities such as the navigation of moving water, teaching, teamwork, leadership, and equipment design, by publishing and demonstrating our support for instructional development in these and related fields;
  • Promote appreciation and respect for the value of wilderness activity and whitewater sports.

We continue our work to meet the objectives our founding members had when local paddling clubs from across the country came together to form a national organization to promote safe enjoyment and protection of our nation's whitewater resources. To learn more about American Whitewater's storied history browse through our complete online Journal Archive from 1956 to today in our online journal archive.


To finance its projects, American Whitewater seeks memberships, member gifts, corporate and foundation support. In addition, revenue from events, advertising and branded products support stewardship efforts. Individual memberships are crucial to American Whitewater and our goal is to remain an organization of whitewater enthusiasts funded by and ultimately representative of the interests of those to whom the health and enjoyment of our nation’s rivers is a priority. Currently American Whitewater receives support from over 6,000 dues paying members and 100 affiliate paddling clubs.

American Whitewater was incorporated under Missouri non-profit corporation laws in 1961 and is tax exempt under section 501c(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Annual Reports and IRS 990 Forms

At American Whitewater we value clear and truthful communication with our donors, members and partners. To help achieve this goal our independent audits, IRS 990 forms, and annual reports over the last three years are posted below.

Annual ReportIRS 990
2021 Impact Report2021 Form 990
2020 Annual Report2020 Form 990
2019 Annual Report2019 Form 990
  • Independent Auditor’s Report and Financial Statements for 2021 are available for download at: 2021 Audit.
  • Independent Auditor’s Report and Financial Statements for 2020 are available for download at: 2020 Audit.
  • Independent Auditor’s Report and Financial Statements for 2019 are available for download at: 2019 Audit.

Impact graphic for 2021

Impact graphic for 2020

Impact graphic for 2019

Get Involved

How can you help American Whitewater fight for river access and conservation?

  • Follow issues that are important to you and the places you enjoy, write a letter to support our work or attend a meeting, and encourage your friends to take an interest also.
  • Most importantly be a river steward yourself! It's easier that you would think, here are just a few of the ways you can act as a steward of your rivers:
    • Treat our natural resources with respect
    • Pick up litter that you find on local waterways
    • Attend a local river cleanup and restore your river's natural beauty
    • Be mindful of local residents and their community
    • Use good judgment, paddle with safety as a focus

Organizational Governance

AW’s day to day operations are led and managed by an Executive Director, who reports to the Board of Directors. In addition to the Executive Director we currently have 9 full-time and 2 part-time professional staff members including a national stewardship director, regional stewardship directors, and administrative staff.

American Whitewater is governed by a 12 member Board of Directors. The Board provides strategic direction, fiduciary oversight and governance of the organization’s operations. Directors are elected by the general membership. American Whitewater’s President, Vice President and other Board Officers are elected by the Board.

American Whitewater’s Bylaws and Constitution empowers the organization’s Board of Directors to provide ongoing governance and leadership.

Organizational Policies

Privacy Policy

Because American Whitewater places the highest importance on respecting and protecting your privacy, we would like to share our privacy statement with you. This statement applies to all communication channels American Whitewater uses online or offline, and covers members, donors, subscribers to our online newsletter and website users. We simply do not share any donor information, including phone number, email, physical address.

  • We value our relationship with you and want you to feel confident when using our web site and entrusting your personal information to us. We do not sell, share or rent your personal information to anyone.
  • We will not sell, share or rent your email/mail address with anyone outside of American Whitewater.
  • We will not sell, share or rent your phone number with anyone outside of American Whitewater.
  • We will not sell, share or rent your physical address with anyone outside of American Whitewater.
  • We will not share your membership status with anyone outside of American Whitewater.

American Whitewater (AW) fully respects your right to privacy. We collect information that you voluntarily provide, such as when you send us an email message or submit information through one of our on-line forms. We only use this information in accordance with the purpose for which you provided it. In particular, AW will not share your email address with any third party. With the exception of the technical information described below, we do not collect any information about you on this website unless you voluntarily provide it. This website uses cookies that enable your web browser to remember which pages you have already visited. Most of this site will function properly using a browser that has cookies disabled. However, pages that require visitors to log-in may not work with cookies disabled. For statistical purposes AW collects technical information on visitors to this website. This technical information collection captures the following types of information:

  • The IP address of a visitor’s web server.
  • The visitor’s top-level domain (for example .com, .org, .net).
  • The website address from which each visitor came to this site, including any search terms used to find this site.
  • The type of web browser used by each website visitor.

The American Whitewater websites contain links to other websites. AW has no control over the privacy policies or content of those sites.

American Whitewater website terms of use are posted at http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Wiki/aw:tos.

Harassment Policy and Notice of Nondescrimination

American Whitewater's Harassment Policy and Notice of Nondiscrimination, including instructions on how to file a complaint, will be posted at our home office in North Carolina, and available to anyone upon written request to info@americanwhitewater.org

Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities & Persons with Limited English Proficiency

American Whitewater is committed to providing equal opportunity and nondiscrimination to all individuals, including persons with disabilities, who participate in our programs and services as well as our staff, contractors, volunteers, and board. We will ensure that no person is excluded from participation or denied benefits on the basis of their disability or English language proficiency. American Whitewater is committed to providing meaningful access to our programs and services to individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). We will ensure that language barriers do not prevent LEP individuals from participating in our programs and services. If you are a staff, partner, volunteer, board member, or member of the public at one of our events and would like to request reasonable accommodation, please contact us in writing to info@americanwhitewater.org or by contacting your organizational contact, supervisor, or event organizer. You can also request a copy of our Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities, and Meaningful Access for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Individuals policies in writing at info@americanwhitewater.org

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!