Hey you, beautiful river. It’s been a while since we’ve been together, but I can’t keep you off my mind.
I’ve been dreaming about letting my boat drift through your green water and digging my feet into your sandy beaches again. Because if I’m honest, river? I love you.
I love the way the sun funnels into your dark canyons and reflects on your water, even when it sunburns my chin. I love your Black Canyon where granite points its fingers into the blue Idaho sky. I love how your water, chaotic and frothing, cradles my boat around rocks and into the calm pools below.
I love all your little secrets, river. Like the small eddy below Bathtub Hot Spring that I pull into on rainy afternoons so I can let the spring’s hot water work through my tired arms and relax my bones. Or the yew grove, where a tight gorge holds just enough moisture and shade for trees and understory not normally found in the Idaho desert to grow.
I love hiking through your tall grasses and plucking dark fruit from hidden blackberry brambles. I love rowing around the bend to the deep black waters at your confluence with the South Fork of the Salmon River. Fishing a streamer fly through that pool under the Idaho sunshine is nothing short of bliss.
I love how you swell from high water to low water, the seasonal cycle uninterrupted by us humans. You might not realize it, Salmon River, but your undammed beauty is something rare and special for rivers like you.
You bring out the best in me, river. You make me feel strong, centered and vibrant. You help me play and remember that eight-year-old I used to be.
But you also push me. You shove me underwater when I need a lesson. You lead me in the direction of the adult I hope to become.
Norman Maclean, who I suppose pioneered the love letter to a river, wrote, “Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it.”
I’ve read those words and always felt I didn’t quite understand his metaphor. Then I realized, when everything in my life merges into one, a river runs through it. And that river is you.