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By: Cami Williams
What is the power of a river? In Doctrine and Covenants 121:33 it says, “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge…” According to that scripture, it is amazing. Rivers can be and impassable barrier or an asset in transportation. In the case of a rainstorm in the desert, a life saving stream or a deadly flashflood could be created. Rivers provide an essential service in geological “progression”, carving deeper canyons. But spring runoff can be destructive force eroding hillsides and taking plant life with it.
At one time in history, transportation on rivers was limited to as long and as far as you could swim. As time moved on, it became how big of a log could be placed over the river to make a bridge. Perhaps one day as a bunch of people were placing a log over a river, it fell in. Most of the men in the group began mumbling and complaining that they had to now go find a new log, but one of those men most likely saw the log floating down the river and decided to hop on for a little ride. Soon everyone was floating down rivers on logs. One day as a man and his wife were floating down the river to attend a dinner party, the wife suggested to her husband, “Honey, what if we hollowed out this log so we didn’t always have to be wet at these parties?” (They lived in Alaska where it is cold when you are wet.) So the wonderful husband invented the boat. Over time, the boat got better and plastic was invented, and not long after that, the inflatable raft was invented and people began taking them down rivers, over rapids and waterfalls. A lot of people were getting lost and so along came people who get paid to take people down dangerous, powerful rivers safely.
There are also sections of river that are just right, you can sit in a canoe without encountering anything too life threatening—the current is strong enough to float you down river at a good speed, yet gentle enough to relax and enjoy the surrounding beauty.
Besides great recreation, rivers also provide a habitat for many plants and animals that would not be able to otherwise survive in the desert of southeast Utah. Take the tamarisk for example. It covers most of the shore of the Green River. To boaters it may seem to be an annoyance, making it nearly impossible to find a camping spot in many areas. But the tamarisk trees provide a home for many animals and food for fish.
The Canyonlands of Utah are now a desert, were at one time rich with flossing water taking the path of least resistance, which according to Spencer W. Kimball is “what makes men and rivers crooked.” Places where crooked rivers once flowed create exciting adventures for canyoneers. Many slot canyons have sections that curve more in the one hundred feet to the rim of the canyon then the next one hundred steps that will be taken, all because of the power of a river. It sure would be interesting to see time lapse photography of how a canyon was formed over the thousands of years: a small wash turns into a stream, then into a river, washing away sediment and plant life with it, slowly carving away a canyon becoming deeper and deeper each spring from the runoff.
In our lifetime it is impossible to see very much change brought to the landscape from a river, but the river is an often silent, constant force that cannot be stopped in its progression, even by a dam. Maybe in the next life, I will begin to understand the true power of a river.