“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”- Loren Eiseley

Go softly. The kingfishers are waking from the Halcyon Days. Did you notice? For seven days before and after the winter solstice, Aeolus (god of winds) calmed the stormy seas,  so his daughter Halcyon  (transformed into a kingfisher) might nest with her mate Ceyx upon a slumbering sea. Thus goes the ancient Greek myth.

In practice, this time of darkness heading to light may not be reliably tranquil. Yet, as we turn toward the promise of a new decade, I am ready to listen with even greater attention to the bird that is my muse–the belted kingfisher. The rush of ratcheting notes cascading above a wild river is a call to action: Kikikikikik! Kikikikikik!

Male belted kingfisher, courtesy of Charles Wheeler

At this pivotal moment in Oregon, we have an opportunity to heed the call–and nominate new Wild & Scenic Rivers for Senator Ron Wyden’s legacy bill  that he plans to introduce.  The deadline is approaching quickly– January 20th. if you have yet to speak up for your favorite rivers, here’s how to do it– learn more.

Attend. To be within earshot of a kingfisher is to be in the presence of fish-filled rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, marshes, bays, and even the ocean—all the places where our watery selves merge with a greater flow of life.  For me, the wild rivers are my favorite of all–originating in headwater springs, trickling downward, fed by tributaries, growing in strength, and pulsing with the heartbeat of the entire watershed, from wily trout to orchids, woodpeckers, bears, and yes–the kingfisher.

Imnaha closeup of water
Stones of beauty under glassy waters of the Imnaha Wild & Scenic River.

Awaken from our sleepy selves. Take action. This planet is calling for us. What will we do to save our wild rivers and wild lands that are under threat as never before?  In Oregon, we have a historic opportunity to speak up for the rivers and streams that nourish our souls and the water we drink.

The belted kingfisher teaches me that we each have our own call and our own way to make a difference. For all who live in Oregon, now is the time to test our wings.  Be brave. Be bold. Spread out maps. Look at photos and videos of favorite rivers and creeks.  Talk to friends. Share ideas.

Marina listening to a kingfisher
Listening to the chattering calls of a kingfisher on the Deschutes River last summer, before stepping on a paddleboard to seek the bird known for vanishing around the next bend.

In Oregon, there are 70+ designated Wild & Scenic Rivers, adding up to 2,173 miles of the 110,994 miles of rivers in the state–or just two percent. While celebrating the gift of designated rivers and streams that will be forever free-flowing, it’s clear that our work is far from done.

That’s why Senator Ron Wyden stepped up on the  51st anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2nd, to call for nominations, noting, “Whether you are a whitewater rafter, an angler, or simply an Oregonian who believes strongly in protecting the river of stream that provides safe drinking water to your community, I want to hear from you.”

Do you need more inspiration? Head to the closest waterway and listen to a wild song that is the signature of that place, different from any other. Close your eyes. Put your hand on your heart and feel how you are the flowing river–your arteries like tributaries of your own personal watershed.

If you are lucky, perhaps you’ll hear the kingfisher and watch the crested bird with the dagger bill hover and then plunge headfirst to scissor a tiny fish from the currents.

Ready for the dive? Submissions can be sent through Jan. 20, 2020 to rivers@wyden.senate.gov. Please thank Sen. Ron Wyden for his leadership and reaching out to his constituents so we may have our say.
If you need photographic and eloquent words for inspiration right in the comfort of your home, I highly recommend Tim Palmer’s books that are sitting by me as I write this blog next to the woodstove: Wild & Scenic Rivers, An American Legacy; and Rivers of Oregon.
For more background on nominating rivers, you might want to take a look at Andy Kerr’s excellent two-part series. 


Here’s a sampling of my Oregon river and stream photos that are inspiring me to finish my nominations this week. And for all of you who are far ahead and have done your part already–thank you!


Metolius River.jpgImnaha -high water.jpgwest fork wallowa wildflowers.jpgDeschutes pine reflections.jpgBreitenbush (name?).jpgbig pine on Deschutes River.jpgDeschutes River-Benham Falls.jpg