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New river stewards book offers rapids of fun for youth, families

A new children's river book created in Southwest Colorado is available for free. (Graphic by Gina Laiso of Integrita Productions)
Free book a collaboration of local water and outdoor groups

A new children’s book seeks to inspire appreciation and protection of the Animas and Dolores rivers, and all waterways.

The “Rising River Stewards” activity book and program are a collaboration between nonprofit organizations that wanted to help area youths, as well as youths visiting here for the summer, to become stewards of our rivers and watersheds.

The groups involved include 4Corners Riversports, Dolores River Boating Advocates, Mountain Studies Institute, The Powerhouse, San Juan Mountains Association and the Water Information Program.

The Southwestern Water Conservation District contributed $8,000 toward the project, and the City of Durango contributed support and funding as well.

“These groups worked together to create a fun and colorful activity book for children to use as a guide to our area’s rivers,” said Elaine Chick, project organizer and manager of the Water Information Program. “It’s been a fun project.”

Each organization provided information on various river topics. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe contributed information about rivers in their culture.

Of the 5,000 books, 1,500 have been given away. They are free, and will be distributed to area teachers. Rafting companies are distributing the book to children after the raft ride.

The book “Maggie the Mayfly” guides readers through various river topics, including maps, river uses, Indigenous perspectives, Leave No Trace ethics, geology, a riparian ecosystem scavenger hunt, river insects, how to make a raft, river safety, the water cycle and stewardship games.

"Rising River Stewards“ includes interactive activities for children to do with their families to engage with area rivers, including the Animas River, the Dolores River and wherever they find their own river.

The book provides directions to seek other area resources, such as field trips offered by organizations that partnered together to bring this book to life.

“From concept through completion, this project has been a great collaboration of experts to make this educational activity book come to life,” said Chick.

She explained that the Water Information Program usually produces an annual Children’s Water Festival on behalf of the Southwestern Water Conservation District.

Before the pandemic, about 1,000 fifth graders would attend the water festival held at Fort Lewis College.

But WIP has not presented the festival the past two years because of COVID, which led to the idea of the river activity book, Chick said.

“The ‘Rising River Stewards’ book as another great way to bring water education to our young students to learn about our rivers and watershed,” she said. “We’re grateful to Southwestern Water Conservation District for their sponsorship.”

The book is available for free at area raft shops, The Powerhouse, the Durango Public Lands Center, the Southern Ute Museum, the Southwestern Water Conservation District office, and from all the organizations that helped to create it. It will also be distributed to local area schools.

When children finish the activities in the guide, they can stop by Powerhouse to pick up a custom keychain of the “Rising Rivers” mascot, Maggie the Mayfly.

“We have really enjoyed this collaboration and think that The Powerhouse’s location on the Animas makes us the perfect natural laboratory for the young river stewards to explore from,” said Powerhouse Education Manager Emma Karsten.

The “Rising River Stewards” activity book made its first public appearances at the Animas River Days Festival and the Dolores River Festival, both on June 4.

For information about receiving or distributing the “Rising Rivers Stewards” book or for more information, contact Elaine Chick, Water Information Program, at elaine@waterinfo.org.

“Rising River Stewards” is published by Southwestern Water Conservation District. The design and formatting was done by Gina Laiso of Integrita Productions.