Just Around the Riverbend: River Whisperer Tim Palmer Releases New Book Rivers of Oregon
“Rivers are the lifeline of the planet,” declares Tim Palmer while surrounded by pristine blue rushing water in a short film made by Freshwaters Illustrated. I last heard Tim Palmer speak about rivers at a Rogue Riverkeeper event in Ashland a couple of years ago. His obvious passion for the waters that move through the land was evident in his earnest, yet soothing tone as he spoke of humanity’s duty to protect them. This year, he released his 26th book, Rivers of Oregon, and I barely caught up with him through email transcription by his wife, Ann Vileisis, also an accomplished author, as he was away on yet another epic canoeing trip. He will be back on dry ground on October 17 to share a slideshow of his exquisite Oregon river photos at Standing Stone Brewing in Ashland.
Rogue Valley Messenger: What inspired you to write and photograph Rivers of Oregon?
Tim Palmer: Well, first off, I love rivers. Oregon’s rivers are so extraordinary. I wanted to know and understand them all so I first wrote, the Field Guide to Oregon Rivers as a useful handy reference guide. But because our rivers are so stunning, so drop-dead gorgeous, I thought that they deserved a more evocative and artful photo book, too.
RVM: How long did it take you to write it?
TP: I drew on experience that goes back many years, but it took about a year of focused work and travel to get the photos and complete the writing for this book.
RVM: What did you learn during the process of creating this book?
TP: I’ve been writing about rivers all across America for my whole career, but living here and working on the field guide and this book, I came to realize that Oregon’s rivers are really the best. Most start in our public lands, and so they are attractive, available and accessible to all for fishing, hiking, boating, and swimming.
RVM: What do you hope people take away from the book?
TP: I hope people feel a desire to make these rivers a part of their lives. Not only are our rivers great places for traveling and recreation, in the deepest sense of that word, but they’re also the centerpieces of our communities and, in fact, nourish all of life. I find that perspective has enriched my own life, and I’d like to share that.
RVM: You have written 25 books on nature and conservation. What makes this book unique?
TP: This is the first book that really presents rivers as “the essence” of Oregon. Though we have amazing mountains and coastlines, too, our state is foremost a land of rivers. In the book, I aimed to capture the tremendous diversity of our rivers—from the austere canyonlands of eastern Oregon to the lush and intimate coastal streams— and to show how fundamentally important rivers are to the entire landscape. Plus it’s a pretty little book that I hope will give readers a dose of beauty and river magic whenever they flip through its pages.
RVM: What advice would you give to aspiring nature writers?
TP: Be there, be there, be there. Go out and do, see, experience. Be inspired by the real thing. Then think about what it all means to you—and to society. And then be willing to sit at your desk for many, many hours.
RVM: What do think is the most important thing that people can do for rivers?
TP: Get to know your river, teach others, including children, about their values, join and support your local river conservation group, and become politically engaged.
RVM: Do you have a favorite river, and why?
TP: I don’t have one, but I have to tell you that here in Southwest Oregon, we have one of the most remarkable collections of National Wild and Scenic Rivers in America. The Rogue is a superb centerpiece flowing from near Crater Lake to the Pacific, but we’ve also got the Elk, Illinois, Chetco, and North Fork Smith. I love all of them for their boating, salmon runs, wilderness and clear water. These renowned rivers are a big reason that my wife and I have made Oregon our home.
Rivers of Oregon slideshow
6 – 8 pm, Monday, October 17
Standing Stone Brewing, 101 S. Oak Street, Ashland.
Sponsored by Rogue Riverkeeper.