Silence is Golden on Park Rivers

I ran across this essay yesterday that fits well with the topics I've been covering on Park Remark recently. In his essay "Shattering the Solitude", the author describes experiences floating different rivers of the west and the role that all types of sound and noise play on his trips. Instead of talking his essay to death, I'll just post some of the key points that resonated with me. I encourage you to check out the whole article (1400 words).
[On the last night of a river trip with a group of high-school students,] the same boy who shook my hand at Trin Alcove spoke about how profoundly moved he was by the incredible silence of the canyons and the music that seemed to emanate from the canyon walls. He spoke about how violated he felt by the noise of a solitary motorcycle roaring up and down a dirt road paralleling the river as we floated between Hey Joe and Spring Canyons. He could see himself riding such a motorcycle at home in the city, proclaiming to everyone within earshot how "cool" he was. Now, the irritating whine of one motorcycle echoing off the canyon walls drove him to anger bordering on rage. He likened it to listening to a chainsaw in a cathedral.
It's a common refrain. Others may not state it so eloquently, but for almost 30 years, I've heard people speak as frequently about the sounds as they do of the stunning scenery. Many are amazed when they can hear a conversation one-quarter mile away. And, they express their dismay when motorcycles, ATVs, jet boats, and helicopters shatter the solitude.
At any given time in mid-summer, a couple of dozen groups comprised of several hundred people might be floating the Lower Salmon River, separated from each other by days and miles and scarcely aware of each other's presence, sometimes even floating past another group in camp unnoticed. By contrast, a single jet boat with just a couple of people can roar past and leave behind its unwelcome audio imprint upon literally hundreds of people within a matter of hours.
Whenever federal land management agencies raise the possibility of restricting motorized use, whether it's overflights in the Grand Canyon, snowmobiles in Yellowstone, jet boats in Hell's Canyon, or off-road vehicles just about anywhere, groups representing these motorized users make almost as much noise in the halls of the land management agencies as they do in the backcountry. Invariably, they argue for shared "multiple" use, equal access for everyone, and claim to bring economic benefits to surrounding communities. These arguments are appealing because they are clear and simple.

... Where it's unregulated, motorized use literally drives away non-motorized use as the few expel the many, and the concept of multiple-use allows the achievement of the lowest common denominator.
We can build more cathedrals, but as the late Dave Brower commented, we can't make another Stanislaus River or another Grand Canyon. We ought to treat these places with at least the same respect and reverence that we treat a cathedral.


The Ozarks National Scenic Riverway (the Current River) in Southern Missouri doesn't permit motorized boats. Actually, the water is usually too shallow for that. But, people bring their boomboxes in their canoes and disturb the peace and serenity. A paddler who wants to see the heron, the mink and the deer have to get a very early morning start. By mid-afternoon, the place becomes a floating honky tonk.