A River Steward Extraordinaire from Marble, CO

Photo by Laurel Janeen Smith

Nestled amidst the pristine landscapes of Colorado, the small town of Marble boasts not only breathtaking scenery but an incredible small business owner and river steward, Jaime Fiske. 

“I’m passionate about connecting people with the great outdoors through our business, SUP Marble. Despite concerns about overcrowding and environmental damage, I believe that with proper education on safety and respect for nature, our landscapes can thrive,” she states.

Jaime co-owns SUP Marble with her mom, Cyndi. Renowned for her passion for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), yoga and commitment to connecting everyone to their waters, Jaime has become a true river champion. From advocating for equitable access to Beaver Lake in Marble, partnering with Forever Our Rivers, teaching students at Marble Charter School and sharing her SUP skills with the community, she has made a lasting impact on the region.

Discovering the River’s Magic

For Jaime, connection with water began at an early age when she started swimming lessons. She was competitively swimming by the time she was eight years old. Raised in a family that appreciated nature’s beauty, Jaime’s love for the environment blossomed into a lifelong passion. Her parents moved to Marble in 1996 and Jaime fell in love with the lakes and rivers of the  Crystal River Valley.

About 15 years ago, Jaime discovered the joy of SUP in La Ventana, Baja California, on the waters of the Sea of Cortez. Since then, she has ventured to and settled in the West, exploring rivers and lakes with her SUP skills. While on the vast ocean, she found the waves and unpredictable movements challenging, being pushed in various directions. Even though she had a lot of fun with that challenge, her passion has shifted to floating down rivers, where she finds solace in the unidirectional flow. Although the rivers can still be unpredictable, Jaime has developed an intimate connection with them, learning to read their currents and becoming one with the water. “In recent years, my bond with rivers has grown stronger. Everything feels better on the water. When I’m out on the river, I experience a profound sense of peace, happiness, and excitement,” Jaime expressed. “Riding the rivers fills me with so many positive emotions.”

Advocating for Our Lifelines

Driven by her determination to make a positive impact, Jaime wholeheartedly embraces the role of a river steward. Her commitment to river safety, restoration and sustainable practices has only grown stronger over the last couple of years. Sharing her experiences, she mentions participating in cleanups at Beaver Lake in Marble with her parents and picking up trash from the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers while fishing alongside her husband. Despite the progress made, Jaime knows there is still much to be done, and she eagerly anticipates continuing her efforts to benefit the well-being of our rivers.

Looking ahead, Jaime has aspirations to volunteer with RiversEdge West, where she hopes to learn about and actively remove noxious weeds from the riverbanks. Moreover, she encourages others to join in river clean-ups, weed removal and trail building with local organizations like the Roaring Fork Conservancy and the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. For those seeking a deeper connection with the lifelines of our communities, Jaime suggests delving into books like “The Emerald Mile” or “Where the Water Goes.”

SUP Marble: Voyage to Tranquility

In a quest to share their love of water and promote wellness, Jaime and Cyndi created SUP Marble in 2018 to share a “Voyage to Tranquility” in the Crystal River Valley. SUPing has become increasingly popular, and Jaime sees an opportunity to leverage this sport to make a positive impact on the rivers she cherishes. Their mission is to educate recreationists on water safety and the importance of sharing the water with the fish and wildlife that need rivers to survive. 

SUP Marble offers paddleboarding experiences, showcasing the beauty of the waterways and encouraging people to connect with nature responsibly. Through SUP rentals, classes, private lessons, and small events, Jaime also promotes mental and physical wellness, knowing that spending time outdoors is good for your health.

The Ripple Effect of Jaime’s Work

Jaime’s unwavering dedication and hard work have sparked a series of positive changes for Marble and its surrounding areas. Her efforts have not only strengthened people’s connection to rivers but also ignited inspiration for action, whether it involves donating to organizations like Forever Our Rivers, actively participating in restoration efforts, or seeking education about the rivers and wildlife that depend on them. “In one of our breakfast SUP events outside of Carbondale, we had an entire conversation about beavers! We talked about how they impact the area, their history and how they will shape the future of our watersheds. Of course, we also talked about the fun facts like their orange teeth and how their fat helps them float,” she said. “Then, after the event, we were sharing podcasts about them with each other. The learning continues!”

By blending her passion for paddleboarding with wellness and the outdoors, Jaime has reached a broader audience, instilling a sense of environmental responsibility. She has shown that regardless of background, each individual can become a river steward and contribute to a sustainable future for generations to come.

Fighting For the Future of Rivers

Jaime’s story exemplifies the transformative power of passion, dedication and collaboration. Her love for the rivers in the West has led her to become an outstanding river steward, inspiring her community and beyond to join the fight for them. Through SUP Marble and her partnership with Forever Our Rivers, Jaime has showcased how one person can make a remarkable difference and inspire more people than you realize.

Jaime continues, “Once people feel comfortable SUPing on lakes, they like to step into the larger challenge of floating down rivers. I hope to connect with even more people and guide them on how to do it safely while inspiring them to protect these precious waters. As the temperatures of rivers warm due to climate change, moving into this space will connect and teach people about the importance of supporting rivers during this change. Hopefully, they will see how warmer waters do not support native trout and the species that rely on them like bald eagles and osprey and be moved to help.”

As more people meet Jaime, the ripple effect of her work will continue to flow. She’s nurturing a region where people are healthy and safe and the rivers will thrive.

Celebrating Colorado River Day all across the United States

July 25th is just around the bend, and guess what? It’s Colorado River Day! Time to celebrate the incredible natural wonder that is the Colorado River, a lifeline that quenches the thirst and fills the bellies of millions of folks across the country. 

Picture this: a majestic river originating way up high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, embarking on a 1,450-mile adventure through seven states that ends in Mexico’s Gulf of California in Mexico. Quite the journey, right?

Now, here’s a fun fact for you trivia lovers. The Colorado River didn’t always rock its current name. Nope! On July 25th, 1921, Congress decided to ditch the “Grand” and embrace the new identity as the Colorado River. And that’s why we gather on this special day to show our appreciation for this invaluable resource flowing right through the heart of the American West.

You might be thinking, “Well, I’m not one of those people relying on the Colorado River for my daily H2O fix”. Fair point. But pause for a moment and think about some of the delicious winter fruits and veggies you eat during the frosty months. Produce like leafy greens, apples, stone fruits, and tomatoes owe a debt of gratitude to this mighty river. Farms depend on the Colorado River to keep their thirsty crops hydrated when the winter drought hits. You can’t deny the impact this waterway has had on your taste buds.

But wait, there’s more! The Colorado River is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts—fishing, rafting, kayaking and hiking. If you’ve ever visited the West and dabbled in any of these activities, you’ve felt the river’s embrace firsthand. It’s a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

And, let’s not forget about our fellow river-dwellers—the wildlife! The Colorado River is a bustling metropolis for thousands of species. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Challenges like low flows, drought, and rising temperatures have created quite the rapids for some of our critters out there. We’re here to share three that are impacted by the Colorado River that we’d like to keep around.

First is the little brown bats. Now, these guys aren’t typically known for their direct Colorado River connections, but they’re insectivorous heroes found in forests, woodlands, and even urban areas. They rely on water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams for drinking and foraging purposes. Without sufficient water, the diverse insect buffet dwindles, and the bat population suffers. We’d like to keep them around to help balance out those pesky bugs that annoy us often in the summer months.

Next on the list is the cutthroat trout, a fish native to the Colorado River Basin. They’re all about clean, cold water with a side of gravel or rocky substrates for successful reproduction. A healthy river means a variety of aquatic insects, invertebrates, and other fishy delights for these trout to eat. The river also serves as a vital migration corridor, allowing cutthroat trout populations to mingle and explore different sections of the river system.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the Yuma clapper rail, an amazing bird on the endangered species list. These fine feathered friends rely on marshes, wetlands and riparian areas along the Colorado River for their habitat. The rail loves dense emergent vegetation like cattails and bulrushes, found in areas along the river. These lush spots provide the perfect environment for the rail’s favorite delicacy—the aquatic and semi-aquatic invertebrates. Bird lovers everywhere dream of catching a glimpse of this henlike beauty.

So, as July 25th approaches, let’s take a moment to reflect on the immeasurable ways the Colorado River nourishes us and our wildlife. No matter where you are in the States, this lifeline of the West impacts us all. Thankfully, organizations like Forever Our Rivers step up to the plate, working tirelessly to restore and protect the river’s health. It’s a shared responsibility—one that we should cherish and safeguard for present and future generations all across the United States.

Cheers, friends! Here’s to the Colorado River, a force of nature that keeps on flowing, connecting us all in its watery embrace. Wishing you a happy Colorado River Day on July 25th!

Happy National Rivers Month! We’re celebrating. Are you?

Photo by Paige Hahn

In the West, all communities depend on rivers for clean drinking water and crops, not to mention boating and fishing. Rivers are a way of life and a beautiful source of inspiration. But, we’re sure you already know this. 

Amy, our corporate partnerships manager, had a touching experience a little over a month ago that really demonstrated how important rivers are—to everyone.

“I was volunteering for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, picking up trash along the Colorado River. An unhoused man watched me working for just a moment, then immediately stepped in to help,” she said. “He mentioned that he didn’t like to wake up next to all the trash and that it made him sad to see rivers treated like that. The rivers were a safe space for him, a beautiful one at that. He continued to state how the rivers are for all of us, and that we should treat them with respect. I had to admit, I 100% agree with him”. 

Together they spent an hour picking up trash. “To see someone constantly on the go, who doesn’t have stable housing, giving his time to clean up our rivers touched my heart. We all need to judge a little less and love a little more. Perhaps we can all learn something from that,” she mentioned.

Together we’ve had a conservation impact of $2.2 million dollars—thank you, friends—with over 5,000 acres of riparian habitat restored. We’ve supported neighbors in need with educational trips on the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers, funded a new boat ramp in Delta, and helped construct beaver dam analogs at the headwaters of the Taylor River to reconnect wetlands and floodplains. Plus we’ve sent crews out to four tributaries of the Colorado River where they will spend 31 weeks removing invasive species and nurturing native habitat for hundreds of species. And we are not done yet! There are many more projects in the works and we look forward to watching the impact grow.

Outside of work, we’ve got plans! Ann, our executive director, is already systematic about collecting and reusing water as her shower warms up. This year, she will celebrate National Rivers Month by fully transitioning to native flowers in her garden. She removed her last few non-natives last fall and is looking forward to seeing the new blooms, and water savings, this month. “My mom is always hoping she can influence people to ‘natify’, a word she coined several years ago,” Ann states, smiling. Ann shares her love of native plants and trees. “Not only am I using little to no water, but I’m creating habitat for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and bats. Native plants make my pollinator and birdwatching better!”

Amy plans to stand up paddleboard and dive back into her photography hobby, starting with rivers as a focal point. At home, she pledges to shorten her showers and reuse vegetable-steamed water for all her plants!

How do you plan to celebrate? One easy way is just to educate yourself. To get you started, we’re sharing five facts we found interesting.

  1. In 1948, to improve riparian habitat in Idaho’s backcountry, Fish and Game captured 76 beavers and parachuted them to a roadless area in the Chamberlin Basin. All but one survived and got right to work. 
  1. The Snake River flows through Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. It is famous for Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America. It’s also one of two rivers in the United States that flows north!
  1. Twenty countries in the world do not have permanent, natural rivers. 
  1. The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States, flowing about 692 miles. It starts in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, passes through Montana, and eventually joins the Missouri River.
  1. In 1900, under the cover of night, the Sanitary District of Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River, increasing its flow from Lake Michigan and doubling the size of the Illinois River. 

Whatever you decide to do, have fun, learn lots and enjoy the rivers! We hope your month is full of many amazing memories. Share your river experiences with us online using hashtags #ForeverOurRivers and #NationalRiversMonth. We’d love to see how you chose to celebrate!

Visit your rivers in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month

Have you ever experienced a moment when you feel like your head is so full of thoughts that it feels like it’s going to explode? Do you have a difficult time remembering the timeline of your memories? If you live with neurological conditions such as anxiety, depression or even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the world feels like that—loud and chaotic—almost all of the time. 

Many people think that mental health is all about what’s going on in your brain, but the truth is that it’s also about what’s going on with your body. When you feel good physically it can help you feel good mentally, and vice versa. Many studies demonstrate that spending time in nature helps you feel better. But did you know that spending time along bodies of water, like rivers and streams, can induce a meditative state that makes us smarter, happier and healthier, calmer—and even more creative? 

“When I lived in Vail, I used to hike up and journal next to the creeks. It was a traumatic time in my life with the passing of my mom. After that, it was as though my mind became harder to navigate. I was in a dark place. However, I’d sit next to the creek and it’d help soothe me and clear my head,” says CJ, river enthusiast from Glenwood Springs, Colorado. “While all bodies of water are uplifting, the moving water is representative of clearing things out— moving things along. I find peace in that.”

The mere sight or sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart, and relax us. They can also help take us away from our busy lives for a little while. Plus, they’re beautiful! Whether you’re looking out over a river from a boat or just walking along its banks, there’s something about the way it flows and sounds that helps settle your mind.

CJ was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. After reflecting upon that news, she found it made sense. Throughout her life, her brain felt like a computer screen with too many tabs open. Rivers and streams have always been her happy place but she has felt even more connected to them in the last year since finding out. They bring her peace in the midst of chaos. “I need the rivers and will always follow them. If they cease to exist here, I will go to where they are,” she mentioned.

That’s exactly what has been done throughout history. Our ancestors lived near rivers because they provided water, food, transportation and other necessities for survival. But they also provided something else— peace. 

When we are near a river, we can feel at peace with ourselves, our surroundings and the world around us. “It’s about letting your cares flow away,” CJ continues. “When I’m river rafting or paddleboarding, my brain quiets down and all of my thoughts are pushed aside because I have to be present in the moment. I can’t afford not to be.” 

When you think about it, rivers are like a metaphor for the health of our minds: if they’re healthy, we’re healthy; if they’re polluted or running dry, we suffer. That’s why keeping rivers healthy and flowing is so important—they’re not just naturally beautiful; they’re also powerful allies in one’s quest for mental health.

I think people living with mental health concerns have a heightened awareness of the benefits nature provides,” CJ concludes. “We need people, and organizations like Forever Our Rivers, to care deeply for our rivers. In this loud, crazy world, we can’t afford to lose another natural resource that provides the benefits of healing, safety and peace.”

A little fish with a big reputation: the Colorado River cutthroat trout

Even if you live in the West and fishing isn’t your passion, it still seems likely you’ve heard of cutthroat trout, swimming throughout the waters of the West. The Colorado River cutthroat trout is one of three subspecies of cutthroat trout and is native only to the Green and Colorado River basins in the Western United States. This small but mighty fish has been an icon of the region for centuries. It is an important source of food for many species of birds, as well as bears and river otters.  Fly fishing anglers from all over the states flock to Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming to experience the colorful spotted beauties. 

A beautiful, distinctive fish that’s a gem to see.

The Colorado River cutthroat trout has been called one of the most beautiful fish in North America—and we agree. Their identifiable markings include a bright yellow-gold body, often with greenish-brown on its back and darker spotting on the sides. The belly is pale and the fins are reddish or orange. The trout also has a reddish stripe under its lower jaw, distinguishing it from other trout species.

The average size of these trout is around 8-10 inches in length, but they can grow up to 18 inches. A trout that size is rare because they mostly live at high altitudes where the growing season is short and much of their habitat has been degraded.

The more habitat these fish can reclaim, the better.

The trout are found mostly in the Green and Colorado River basins. Historically, they inhabited the Colorado River and its tributaries from the headwaters in Colorado and Wyoming down to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. However, the population has declined significantly over the years due to human activity and introduced non-native species.

Today, the remaining populations of the Colorado River cutthroat trout are found in small, isolated streams and lakes in the higher elevations of headwaters. These fish require cold, clear water with high oxygen levels and gravelly or rocky stream bottoms for spawning.

They are another native species, threatened and declining.

The 1800s did not fare well for the Colorado River cutthroat trout. They were overfished and brought to the point of near extinction. Though their population has declined by over 90%, restocking of cutthroat and removal of nonnative species has helped. The trout are now listed as threatened versus endangered. The primary risks include habitat destruction, overfishing, water diversions and withdrawals, and the introduction of more non-native fish species.

Water diversions disrupt the natural flow of rivers and streams, affecting the trout’s ability to spawn and access their habitat. When non-native fish such as brown and rainbow trout were introduced, it opened up a whole new danger, as they prey upon the cutthroat. Climate change, wildfires and droughts also limit and degrade their habitat.

You can help this iconic fish live on.

Photo courtesy of Rick Lafaro

Efforts to conserve the trout have been ongoing for decades, including the restoration of diverse yet well-connected streams with boulders and large, downed trees that provide cover from predators. Also critical are fish passage projects, the reintroduction of native trout populations, and the removal of brown and rainbow trout from where they don’t naturally live.

Organizations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies, are working together to protect and restore the Colorado River cutthroat trout and its habitat. These organizations also educate the public about the importance of conservation and responsible angling practices. While the cutthroat faces numerous threats, ongoing conservation efforts offer hope for its long-term survival.

Anglers can do their part by practicing responsible fishing practices, such as catch-and-release and avoiding fishing during spawning periods. Others can volunteer or give to organizations, like Forever Our Rivers, which works hard to restore aquatic and riparian habitat within and along rivers, crucial for the trout’s survival. The more habitat the better, and by working together, we can ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to experience the beauty and majesty of this remarkable, reputable fish.

$158,000 grant improves river health in the Colorado River basin

With a $158,000 grant awarded by Forever Our Rivers Foundation, conservation crews have a head start on their annual quest to improve the health of the Colorado River basin.

Crew members will monitor, treat and prevent non-native species like tamarisk—one of the most invasive plants in the Colorado River basin—and nurture native species in Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

When harmful invasives are removed and replaced with native plants, the resulting increased biodiversity allows ecosystems to thrive and become more resilient to a changing climate.

“Combating invasive species is essential, and not only for protecting our unsurpassed hiking, fishing and boating experiences,” said Ann Johnston, executive director of Forever Our Rivers. “Rivers and streams are far more important than the water running through them.”

Conservation Legacy of Durango, Colorado, will lead the crews in partnership with watershed groups in the Dolores, Escalante, Verde and Gila Rivers of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Their Southwest Conservation Crews will work directly with local nonprofits in the individual watersheds.

“The funding not only progresses the vital restoration efforts of the watershed partnerships, it educates youth by engaging them directly with the work and helps build the next generation of land stewards,” said Nate Peters, Conservation Legacy’s watershed programs manager.

Healthy rivers provide clean water, store carbon, and serve as a buttress against the impacts of climate change. Introduced in the 1950s, Russian olive and tamarisk quickly choked waterways with dense growth that outcompeted native vegetation such as cottonwoods and willows, leading to severe channel narrowing. Preliminary research shows a significant decrease in channel width following the Russian Olive and tamarisk invasions, and a beneficial increase in width after treatment. In other words, treatment not only allows for the recovery of native vegetation but also restores more natural river geomorphology and meander. It also lowers fire danger and improves river access. 

Conservation Legacy and the Southwest Conservation Crews will continue this important work throughout the summer and fall of 2023.