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.
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.
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.
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!
Twenty countries in the world do not have permanent, natural rivers.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please meet one of our river partners, Casting for Recovery. This incredible organization helps breast cancer survivors enjoy authentic, therapeutic connections with nature. Breast cancer has an impact on us all—our mothers, sisters, wives, partners and pals! It’s beautiful to see that rivers can help them both physically and mentally.
Our initial round of community grants helped support Casting For Recovery’s 2.5 day retreats designed to help survivors facing new challenges. Did you know that many women who undergo diagnosis and treatment experience symptoms of PTSD? Or that the gentle motion of casting is helpful for increasing mobility in the arm and upper body?
Many worthy causes apply for our community grants. Sadly, more than we’ve been able to fund. You can help us grow our capacity to help important organizations like Casting for Recovery by donating here.
Rafting, hiking and happiness go hand in hand
Sadly, kids are spending much less time in nature than their parents did in their youth, mostly thanks to technology. According to the Child Mind Institute, the average American child spends just four to seven minutes a day in unstructured play outside, and over seven hours a day in front of a screen.
Fortunately, our river partner and 2022 grantee Colorado Canyons Association helps thousands of kids and adults connect with nature—in part with funds donated by Forever Our Rivers. Focused on McInnis Canyons, Dominguez-Escalante and Gunnison George National Conservation Areas in western Colorado, their impact is impressive. For more than a decade, they’ve used these stunning landscapes as outdoor classrooms. One program is called Nature Knowledge Days and is aligned with Colorado’s curriculum standards. Another offers full day and overnight rafting trips, many of which serve students at Diné College, a public tribal land-grant college. For some, it is their first-time rafting. For others, the educational component strengthens their knowledge of rivers and the challenges they face.
One interesting study quantified that one must spend at least two hours in nature to receive its benefits. However, those 120 minutes could be accumulated all at once or over several visits. But you don’t need studies to tell you how nature can make you happier and healthier— get out while the leaves are turning and discover it yourself! The next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, go take a hike! You’ll see firsthand that even a little time in nature can give you a big dose of happiness.
Rivers vital for self-care
Encouraging self-care is all the rage these days and for good reason—we need it. Self-care doesn’t need to be expensive. The answer can be simple. Visit the river.
Most of us can recognize the calming effect of a walk by the river. While being near water promotes physical activity, it also reduces stress hormones and boosts mental health. Birds chirping, a gurgling river or even the sounds of leaves falling will improve your outlook and increase relaxation and happiness. While scientists continue to study this effect, we’re just happy that it happens.
The Roaring Fork Conservancy’s science and policy work help decision-makers tackle river health issues, their education programs help every local kid take on the great outdoors.
One of the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s founding pillars is education. While the Conservancy hosts programs for adults and environmental professionals, it reserves its biggest impact for local kids. “Every student in the Roaring Fork Valley will have a meaningful experience with us before they leave eighth grade,” says Christina Medved, the Conservancy’s Director of Community Outreach. “Most of them will have multiple points of contact, even during one school year.”
The Conservancy has had audacious educational goals from the start. Their school programs reached 100,000 students during their first 20 years (1996-2016) and over 6,000 students and community members in 2018 alone.
If you’re wondering what the kids are learning the answer is anything and everything to do with rivers. Classes cover topics as diverse as snow science, watershed mapping, wildlife, water law, river ecology, and water chemistry and quality. Students learn about river science, then tie it to daily touchpoints like how river flows affect food production – making local peaches possible in July and August and growing grapes in September. Other topics, like social studies, economics, art, and math are all woven into overarching storylines about how the world runs around water.
The Conservancy has a knack for helping students connect to the material. They even made one particularly charismatic Roaring Fork Valley songbird a storybook worthy mascot. The American dipper is North America’s only aquatic songbird. Yes, it is a songbird that swims for it’s super, kind of like a flying, singing trout.
After 20 years of raising local kids to be environmental stewards, the Conservancy is seeing results. “We don’t need to have every student that goes through the program to become a scientist,” says Medved. “We need informed citizens.” But they’re certainly turning out some scientists along the way.
Dozens of children who participated in the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s programs as kids are now building environmental careers. Two of them came back to Basalt as seasonal employees along the way.
Mike Schuster worked with the Conservancy’s water quality for four summers while earning a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management at Western Colorado University. The work he did with the Conservancy helped him land a job with the City of Glenwood Springs right out of school.
Matthew Anderson attended a Conservancy course in the third grade and returned as a college student to serve as the Water Quality Program Associate for three summers. He’s now in his senior year at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he’s studying Environmental Science and Resource Management.
The Science of Outdoor Education
Natural spaces are important to children, period. Research shows that time outside helps kids learn, improving attention, self-regulation, cognitive abilities, and executive functioning. It is especially beneficial if some of this time is structured, with an adult or educator along. Young people pay attention to the adults in their lives, and if grownups care about protecting the environment, kids are likely to follow suit. Conservation professionals can often trace their career focus to a childhood spent exploring the outdoors with a trusted adult.
Medved says there is evidence that children decide what they want to do professionally by the fourth grade. If they’re not comfortable in the outdoors at that age – intimidated by spiders, ticks, bears, and sunburns like so many of us are – they may miss out on a number of exciting career paths. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is making sure they don’t miss the chance.
A River Science Education
Just steps away from the Roaring Fork, the 3,800-square-foot River Center makes it easier than ever for the Conservancy to get kids and the community outside. The nonprofit moved into the new facility in June 2018. By December, they’d hosted 700 kids there, teaching them everything from river ecology, water quality, and macroinvertebrate life cycles and adaptations, to art.
“It’s been neat because we never had programs on site before,” says Medved. Paths wrap around Old Pond Park, providing fishing, strolling and teaching opportunities. Most of the teaching goes on outside. If students can’t make it to the center, the staff brings lessons to them.
A lot goes into the Conservancy’s classroom-based or River Center educational programs including staffing, preparation time, driving time, materials. The Conservancy relies on grants and donations to help keep costs low and accessible to classrooms. Last year, Forever Our Rivers joined the cause.
“You guys become partners with us, helping students get out to explore their own watersheds,” says Medved. “Having this type of funding helps us give everyone the opportunity to have meaningful experiences with their local waterways.” Every grant they get helps kids and adults learn about river health. All together it adds up, to every single kid in the Roaring Fork Valley.
About the Roaring Fork Conservancy — The nonprofit’s mission is to protect the Roaring Fork and connect the community to its namesake river. It does so by pairing these education programs with science and policy work, including river and habitat restoration, stream management, regional watershed planning, and water resource initiatives.