Have you ever wondered about the importance of becoming an American Whitewater member and how impactful your membership can be? The roar of Steelhead Falls on Washington’s White Salmon River reverberates off the basalt walls of the deep canyon with a thundering roar: this is what the impact of American Whitewater feels like.

American Whitewater (AW), founded in 1954, is a nonprofit conservation organization working tirelessly to protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities for people to enjoy them safely. Here on Washington’s White Salmon River, it is easy to see the extensive impact of American Whitewater, but the organization is also active across the United States, preserving the places we cherish and love to explore, as well as the lesser-traveled tributaries forming larger rivers that we all know.

Steelhead Falls in the Narrows of the White Salmon River

Steelhead Falls in the Narrows of the White Salmon River.

American Whitewater has been speaking on behalf of American waterways and outdoor resources for sixty-five years. Some noteworthy accomplishments include:

  • Representing the public’s voice at over 100 hydro-power projects across the country to restore water to de-watered river beds.
  • Removing dozens of dams, including the Elwha Dams on the Olympic Peninsula and the Condit Dam here on the White Salmon River, enabling Wet Planet guests and thousands of others to enjoy the White Salmon Narrows every year.
  • Creating the Hydropower Reform Coalition aiming to strengthen the public voice in hydro-power re-licensing, and the Outdoor Alliance aiming to preserve public access to the American outdoors.
  • Maintaining and updating the National Whitewater Inventory, which provides river descriptions, flow, and safety information on americanwhitewater.org.
  • Creating a phone app, making it easier to find information on rivers across America using a google maps like interface.
  • Forming the Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition, aiming to protect more rivers under the Wild and Scenic Act.
  • More dams to be removed.
Elwha River Rapid

A kayaker paddles a section of the Elwha River that opened after the removal of the dams.

American Whitewater has invaluably improved the White Salmon area for its countless visitors and locals.

The White Salmon River is visited by globe-trotting whitewater kayakers and rafters, commercial rafting guests, and those simply wishing for a photo of a beautiful river; AW has impacted them all through:

  • Helping to purchase land for the BZ Corners launch site, which provides public access to the river, and transferring the land into public ownership in 2001.
  • Protecting 27.7 miles of the White Salmon River under the national Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
  • Helping to remove the Condit dam in 2012, which returned water to miles of de-watered river bed, returned the river to a free flowing state, and re-opened 33 miles of Steelhead and 14 miles of Chinook, Chum, and Coho salmon habitats and spawning grounds.
  • Lobbying Congress alongside the Outdoor Alliance to ensure the passage of the most expansive public lands package of the last decade. This bill includes the permanent re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helped to purchase the BZ Corners launch site.   
BZ Corners White Salmon River Access

BZ Corners White Salmon river access

Below BZ Falls on the White Salmon River

Below BZ Falls on the White Salmon River

Todd Collins and Jaco Klinkenberg paddle the White Salmon River Narrows

Todd Collins and Jaco Klinkenberg paddle the White Salmon River Narrows soon after the Condit Dam removal

AW has ongoing projects in the Pacific Northwest and many more projects across the country as they work to preserve our natural resources.

We can thank the Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director, Thomas O’Keefe, and the AW Board, including past Wet Planet Guide, AW President Susan Hollingsworth Elliott, for their continued efforts to protect the rivers we love.

American Whitewater is a small organization making huge strides.

Looking at all the accomplishments of this esteemed environmental group, it is easy to assume they have thousands of employees sauntering around, speaking on behalf of our interests; wrong. AW has eleven paid staff members while the rest of the support comes from people who volunteer their time, effort, knowledge, and money because they care for the future of our country. These eleven stewards do their best to represent our nation’s waterways, but we, the ones who use the rivers and cherish them, need to raise our voices alongside them.

American Whitewater is a membership organization, meaning that it gets its morals, power, interests, and authority from its members and in return we have a platform to pursue our endeavors. If you are a paddler, you know that people who are not whitewater enthusiasts know very little about how incredible these places are, and the only way they will ever know is if we show them. American Whitewater began on the shoulders of whitewater paddlers, is currently sitting on the shoulders of the next generation, and will always be on the shoulders of those who call rivers their happy place.

How can you get involved?

If you enjoy playing in rivers, fishing, paddling whitewater, or exploring natural areas, then it is in your best interest to become a member of American Whitewater. The steps are simple and affordable, while the impacts are massive and lasting:

  1. Go to the American Whitewater Membership page.
  2. Fill in all your information.
  3. Give anywhere from $35 – $2,500 for varying levels of memberships and benefits (you can donate less without becoming a member).
  4. Watch as your very important contribution protects the places you love.
  5. Volunteer to have an even greater impact, because that is what really matters.

Becoming a Member of American Whitewater

Becoming a member of AW will undoubtedly have a positive impact but volunteering your time can be an even greater way of contributing to the causes you care about. If you have spare time, are between jobs, or have a school project you need a topic for, then AW is a great place to spend your time. Help yourself and the river you love by addressing access problems, dam release notification issues, or potentially harmful practices by getting out there and doing something about it. American Whitewater is here to help us, but they also need us to help them.

Your membership is going to help AW accomplish its goals of preserving our watersheds, and it is going to have a meaningful and positive impact on the future. If you cherish our rivers, then please sign up for a membership and/or volunteer. Thank you, American Whitewater, for all that you do and thank you to all those unnamed volunteers that helped give American Whitewater its name!

Originally from Vermont, Jair Cruikshank travels far and wide to kayak on the river and in the ocean. He is currently a Jackson Kayak regional team kayaker, living every day having as much fun as possible. Jair is also an International River Rescuer, Wilderness First Responder, certified Wildland firefighter, strong singer, and overall fun person to hang out with.

You can join Jair and Wet Planet for rafting on the White Salmon Riverbeginner kayak instruction, or advance kayaking classes including our boofing and creeking clinics. If you’re interested, request to work with Jair!

wet planet whitewater kayaking and raft guide jair cruikshank

Jair play-boating the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon