Nonprofit Spotlight: American Whitewater

Outdoor Prolink partners with nonprofits every year to give back to organizations we align with. To honor these amazing nonprofits, we’re spotlighting each one and sharing why you should care about their missions too.

American Whitewater started with the goal of protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers and they’ve been doing just that for over 60 years. I had a chance to chat with Evan Stafford, American Whitewater’s Communication Director, to get the scoop on the organization and learn more about the important work they’re doing.

What’s the story behind American Whitewater?

The story is that rivers are sacred, essential pathways for clean water, essential to our health, communities and economies, and no one knows this more intimately than boaters. In 1954, a small group of like minded whitewater enthusiasts across the country came together with the idea of giving rivers a voice and providing the community with a forum to share information, ideas, and actions on river conservation, restoration, access, and safety. 

Our mission has remained steady over the course of nearly seventy years: to protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. 


What makes American Whitewater unique?

Our conservation and restoration work is infused with recreational knowledge and enthusiasm, and our recreation work is driven by a deep conservation ethic. We’re all whitewater lovers and people who have spent a lot of time on rivers. We care about our work and are strategically woven into the river community we represent, as well as connected to and respected by the policy leaders and river managers who hold the fate of protecting and accessing our nation’s rivers at different levels. We call this integrated approach to our mission river stewardship: Protect, Restore, and Enjoy. 

What are some upcoming initiatives American Whitewater is working on?

I’m glad you said “some upcoming initiatives.” We always have a lot on our plates and river stewardship projects tend to be long running campaigns. We’re celebrating the Clean Water Act‘s 50th anniversary this year by working to solidify the definition of which waters in the United States are protected by the law and by designating a number of new rivers as Outstanding Resource Waters, a designation that is similar to Wild and Scenic but at the state and tribal level and is authorized under the Clean Water Act. We’ve got a big package of new Wild and Scenic River and public lands protecting legislation we hope to cross the finish line with this Congress at the end of the calendar year. In Northern California we’re deep in the process of the largest dam removal in history on the Klamath River, where we’ve been leading the charge on ensuring the future of river recreation and access up and down the watershed. 

How can the people of the outdoor industry support the work American Whitewater is doing?

There’s so many ways the outdoor industry can support river stewardship and American Whitewater, and it really just starts with engagement. Finding out what’s going on in your local watershed and staying informed with the work American Whitewater and our partners are up to is where it starts.


We put out action alerts asking our community to weigh-in on issues important to rivers with their representatives and the public lands managers who serve them. It only takes a moment of people’s time but can make a huge difference when policy gets set for our rivers, public spaces, and the enjoyment of them. We’re also a member driven organization and joining American Whitewater is a cost efficient way to make a difference for rivers and strengthen our voice in advocating for whitewater recreation, plus it comes with 5 issues annually of our full-color Journal. You can Join today here.

If American Whitewater was an ice cream flavor, which flavor would it be and why?

It’s got to be Chocolate. When rivers flood or are just running strong from hard rain for snowmelt, oftentimes they become filled with sediment and resemble a chocolate milkshake. For the skilled whitewater enthusiast this can be the best time to get out there and ride the chocolatey goodness. Sometimes it’s referred to as “stout water,” and I’ve definitely seen some boutique ice cream shops with a Chocolate Stout flavor, so that’s probably our best fit. 

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro

Kelly Knauf leads the marketing team at Outdoor Prolink. She is a mountain lover, outdoor enthusiast, and professional snack packer. By day she answers emails and writes content, by night she's plotting her next camping trip or snowboarding adventure.

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