Follow the Rivers

Follow the Rivers is an exploration and celebration of Oklahoma’s free-flowing rivers that resulted in a feature article for Oklahoma Today Magazine, due to come out in late fall of 2017.

For this feature, I teamed up with award-winning writer and photographer Susan Dragoo. She wrote the story, and I sketched and painted as we went. Our collaboration became a year-long road trip and adventure, with Susan’s tough, custom off-road Toyota Tacoma the third member of our party.

Follow the Rivers began as a personal observation of the contrast between my home state California’s rivers: channelized, rip-rapped, diverted and otherwise abused- and Okahoma’s mostly natural, free-running waterways.  They seemed to be rivers of the spirit as much as of the land.

For our study, we followed two of Oklahoma’s iconic river systems: the South Canadian’s sandy, braided meander and the Kiamichi’s rocky, upland torrent. We took side trips along Oklahoma’s wildest river, the Glover, and spent a long hot day walking the 14 mile concrete sluice box of Norman’s Imhoffe Creek, a native stream turned town drainage ditch; the Los Angeles River in miniature.

Our travels took us from one end of the state to the other. We followed the Canadian from Norman, where we joined biologists seining the water for Arkansas River shiners, hiked dry canyons overlooking the Canadian near Arnett where it flows across the western edge of the state and mule deer replace white tails. We followed the Kiamichi’s stony banks from a mountain gully near Arkansas to the cottonwood thickets of Texas, where it widens out and splashes into the Red River. We learned about freshwater mussels, interior least terns, shiners, and most of all, some of the issues that bubble up when you have a confluence of water, land, and people.

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