“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Idaho is a national treasure in terms of its resources, massive expanses of wilderness and public lands,” said Christopher Swain, New York water-quality advocate, during a recent phone interview.
Swain’s 100+ mile swim of the Boise River is well underway, and he’s quickly understanding why Idahoans are so proud of their land.
“Beautiful blue-green water, alpine meadows, incredible colors, and the jagged edges of the Sawtooth Mountains … it’s just all jaw-droppingly beautiful,” he said, recalling his days at the Boise River’s source in Spangle Lake. He began the journey on Thursday, Aug. 8 and is swimming all the way to Parma, where the Boise River meets the Snake. The undertaking is aptly titled: “Boise River: Source to Snake.”
Since early August, Swain has been in Idaho promoting his message: fishable, swimmable, and drinkable water for all. He has always been a supporter of human equality and environmental awareness, and throughout the years, he’s found that actions speak much louder than words, which is precisely why he began doing such long and dangerous swims in the first place.
“You have to do something that people will remember,” he said. And what’s more memorable than plunging into frigid waters all over the nation, swimming thousands upon thousands of miles in a single lifetime?
While the quality of the Boise River is not nearly as bad as some of the swims he’s done, Swain said there is a cause for concern in our precious water.
“You can smell and taste the difference once you get into the more agricultural areas and when you are within the city limits. Fertilizer runoff, animal waste, roadway runoff, trash in the streets … it all ends up in the river. And you can definitely tell,” said Swain.
Swain has a crew of people behind him, testing the water at various points along the river. Melissa O’Berto and Natalie Little from College of Idaho, alongside Dick Jordan with Idaho Business for the Outdoors and Doug Stan from Preservation Idaho, help form the Wilderness Crew that accompanies Swain on his endeavor. O’Berto and Little have been gathering water samples and will soon make the data publicly available.
“Another thing I have noticed about Idaho is the willingness of the people,” said Swain. “They will just walk right up to me and introduce themselves. And it seems the one thing that everyone agrees on: they all care about the river,” Swain explained, as he described all the smiles, waves, and friendly faces he’s encountered along his water adventure.
After the swim, Swain will spend time working with nearly 20 schools across Idaho, promoting environmental education and water quality awareness.
Swain and Idaho Business for the Outdoors would like to remind us all that every action counts. After Swain leaves Idaho, it is up to us to keep the momentum going.
“I can shine a light on this, but I don’t live here,” Swain said. “I just want to make the river more friends along the way.”
And there are plenty of ways that we, as individuals, can get involved and keep the dialogue going. IBO has formulated a free app to track environmental actions (i.e.: “pick up trash” and “drink from a reusable bottle”) and their goal is to hit 5,000 actions this summer. The “Boise River: Source to Snake” app is available for free in the iPhone app store and Android Playstore.
Be responsible for your own waste, pick up trash when you see it, and be an advocate for the earth.
For more information, visit idahobo.org.