Water Trust Writing Contest: Honorable Mentions

We hope you enjoy these Writing Contest submissions that received honorable mention!

60% Water

Laura Belanger

We’re 60% water
Is that why we’re so drawn to it?
Like attracts like?
Joy, comfort, appreciation, peace
That water brings in natural form
Creeks, streams, lakes
All feel like coming home

About the Author: Laura lives in Golden, Colorado with her husband John and black lab Daisy. She is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Healthy River Programs at Western Resource Advocates where she spends her days working to advance municipal water efficiency and protect and restore streamflows (including working with the Water Trust on our new Slater Creek Project). Originally from the northeast, she grew up enjoying the lake in her hometown, streams in the woods behind her house, and the occasional ocean visit. Water has always been a driving force for her so when our contest was announced, she was motivated to write her first poem ever – in honor of H20.


A Yampa River Song

Maryanne Evans

I squinted into the sun’s glare, searching the brown water. Can I feel it? My submerged fingers, translucent in the cold, were blindly navigating the gillnet. In the distance, a song of mating cranes drifted in the frosted air, over the cattails.

I paused, listening. Then whispered, “I love you”, into the dark water. Both feet sinking into the mud, I stood tall and shivering, imagining each word like heavy, silver rings drifting past my fingertips, out-of-reach and silent.

And then? I fell.

It was routinely comical, honestly. His firm grip caught my upper arm, keeping me upright and preventing my waders from breaching – again. I tore away from his grasp, cheeks flushing with hot pink. Our audience? A silent Northern Pike, blinking against the black nylon of the gillnet, eating my imaginary rings.

Later, I clambered aboard our small aluminum boat; my gaze glued to my worn laces. This insignificant detail, fraying laces, would normally go unnoticed. But today? The unravelling material was everything. I will never be listening to morning music, watching glowing water, here with him, ever again.

The outboard roared to life, propelling us into the main channel.

“I love this place”, I said loudly, casting a longing glance at the frothy backwater. The Yampa grew big and swift, spraying against the deafening sound of the engine. My stomach was churning with the waves.

“Did you hear the cranes?” I asked, words disappearing again, this time to the wind. Beside me, he smiled, his eyes watching the same changing river. “Yes, I heard them,” he replied.

About the Author: Mary Evans currently resides in Carbondale, Colorado. After ten years of seasonal field work and 4-years of graduate school, Mary is now a full time Environmental Scientist.This story was a short piece from her lived experience as a fisheries technician working on the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. During her twenties, Mary exclusively worked on seasonal wildlife and fisheries jobs, often in remote landscapes. She has dedicated years of her life to rivers from as far north as Arctic Alaska to reaches of Southwestern Colorado, focussing on research and conservation. Writing has always been her calling, keeping her company in isolated fishing cabins on Kodiak Island, and across the northern tundra. She cares about the wild, and what is more wild than an untamed river surging with time and life?


The South Platte and Me

Travis Jimenez

As a Denver kid, the South Platte River was the longest body of water that I knew. Trips to the Children’s Museum and Elitch Gardens were even more memorable with views of the rushing, urban river from the west bank or on top of the rickety Mr. Twister. From up-top the Tower of Doom ride, the curving body of the river below serves as a reminder of a once wild Denver, which is now toppled by skyscrapers and freeways. Memories of lunches along the river trail are filled with sunshine, laughter, lunchables, and favorite classmates. And being the adventurous kid, I always wanted to jump in the water to cool-off. 

As a teenager, the awe of the South Platte River did not dissipate. Class trips were replaced by friend meet ups at the Downtown skate park, and we cruised along the river with just our boards and the little money we had for snacks and drinks. Skipping stones along the river and conversations about the limitless future were special times. And seeing the occasional people fishing the river made us want to try for ourselves, and we joked about the fish and other things you might catch. 

As an adult, the South Platte River serves as a gentle remainder of simpler times. In the summer, the sounds of the rushing water and rays of sunshine on the trail bring back memories of care free days. Now with a car and money of my own, I look forward to spontaneous trips downtown and taking a promising date for a stroll along the city river, while we talk about life, passions, and our upbringing. And in the back of my mind, I wonder if someday my children too will share the joys, excitement, and mystery of the South Platte River.

About the Author: “I live in Southeast Denver. Growing up in the city, we didn’t have to drive far to enjoy the views and sounds of the South Platte River! Whether it was a family outing or a school field trip, getting to spend time along the South Platte trail, with its rushing waves and the sun shining down, was always the best! The setting of a river in downtown Denver is welcoming for citizens and tourists wanting to get a taste of nature. My childhood connection with the South Platte River inspired me to write a submission for the competition, because I believe caring for and restoring Colorado rivers should be a priority for future generations to enjoy!”


First Date

Wendy Oliver

“I don’t think beavers exist.”

I thought the guy was joking. He seemed a real outdoorsy type, happy sleeping rough with one blanket, protein bars and stream water (ick!) for every meal. How could he have not seen beaver?

But he was serious.

“Come on. I know where they live.”

He chugged his beer and ambled to my little Impreza. We drove up the dirt pass, and I wedged the car into a wide spot.

We forced our way through the willows, temperature plummeting as the sun set. A dreadful whine filled my ears. Drat. I forgot the mosquito spray. Slapping at my arms, I sank ankle-deep in the mud and darned-near lost my shoe. More willow. More mud. More mosquitoes.

Our path opened up on the shore of a quiet, pink pond. I plopped on a boulder. “By the way, what’s your
name? I’m Chloe. From Denver.”

“Jeff. From LA.”

“Pleased to meet you.” I pointed across the pond. A stick hut protruded from the shining water. “There’s your beaver lodge.”

I shuddered in the evening shadow and rhythmically slapped mosquitos. Soon, a ripple disturbed the surface. I scanned the pond. Aha! A black nose pushed through the water.

A second wedge appeared from the dam and drifted closer. Jeff gasped and jumped up.

Smack! Two beaver tails spanked the water and they dove.

“Shoot. I’m sorry.” He sat, dejected.

I waved my hand and pointed. Both dark noses popped out.

One beaver waded onto shore and rustled around. It re-appeared dragging an aspen branch in its hard orange teeth. It churned through the pond, dragging the branch to the dam.

We sat in the dusk, mesmerized.

Back at the car, Jeff turned to me. “Thank you.” And he smashed another mosquito.

About the Author: Wendy Oliver’s favorite outdoor activities are stargazing, listening to water, and exploring. She’s worked for a variety of parks and museums, and currently works for the US Forest Service in Salida, Colorado. She hopes her writing can inspire love and increase protections for our natural spaces. Her website is woliverbooks.com


Where We Must Go

Shelli Rottschafer

Have you hiked along the shoreline,
where sandy-bottoms expose?
Cottonwoods bare root systems
intertwine in finger-like intimacy

Have they caressed eroded spaces,
hollowed out to shelter?
The shadows leech and ebb, surge and lap
A lubb-dubb cardiac-song humans no longer hear.

Have you felt the rains
that thunder ushers in?
Whose echoes bounce the red rock timpani
as girasoles bend

Have they, in their saturated submission
bowed to a contra-tiempo?
That grows in elevation
baton poised toward four directions

Then you have crested
a wake of repetition
Colonized extraction now self-sustained
It is calling – those mahogany mountains

A whispered night wind asking:
Can you resurrect it?
Let us – plant it rose-hued
Let us lead – that semidesert kingdom come

Because the wild keeps on calling, it’s a calling
where we must go…

About the Author: Shelli Rottschafer is an advocate for natural spaces, which also include our water sources. Rivers are especially dear to her ethos. As the saying goes, you never step in the same river twice for its running waters continually renew. Shelli embraces this journey of renewal. In 2005 she completed her doctorate from the University of New Mexico in Latin American Contemporary Literature. From 2006 until 2023 Rottschafer taught at a small liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a Professor of Spanish. Summer 2023 Shelli returned to graduate school to begin her low residency MFA in Creative Writing at Western Colorado University. Shelli’s home state is Michigan, yet her wanderlust turns her gaze toward her new querencia within the Mountain West where she resides in Louisville, Colorado and El Prado, Nuevo México. Shelli’s fiction has been published in Cutthroat: A Journal for the Arts and Chamisa: A Journal of Literary, Performance, and Visual Arts of the Greater Southwest. Her poetry has been published in New Mexico Poetry Anthology 2023 and MALCS: Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social – A Journal of Chicana/Latina Studies.


Water’s Memory

George Wallace

What do we remember from all days past,
From all these days – which memories last?

When wrapped in warm meander, water memories seem to hold.
True as well for rapids dousing, the shock of water fast and cold.
Waters that cascade, lap or eddy cleanse the mind, beckon our touch,
Senses stored and better kept, than what passes by  most days as such.

We fondly remember pants rolled up, laces tied, slung over shoulder’s bone,
Teetering balance, steadied with blow-down branch or Alder staff in hand,
Pampered feet feeling their way over slippery pebbles and stones,
Till cold, blue, bruising,  wet grace recovers on a far-side patch of sand. 

Nor can you forget how, as the pack string crosses the Laramie that blistering
August day, with hat held high, your partner yips n’rolls into a green, mid-river pool.
Leaning low to pick up the floating reins, you gather his horses with your own,
Righting the saddle, you splash past, with a puzzled grin – the silly old fool.

But six fidgeting horses convey jealous approval of the smiling swimmer,
Who stumbles ashore, trying to warm up with shudders and hoots,
Then, sits on a rock shivering, laughing, pouring water out of his boots,
Pulling hard over wet socks to sheath packer’s feet – so  pink and tender.

I know you remember the surface of shimmering streams – each a canvas in waiting,
For nature’s brush, the winged release then the soft boils of color that follow.
You carefully match, touching lightly with small fly and soft cast – soft cast,
You follow the speck, a drifting spell – until broken by streaking shadow and silver flash,
The artist’s reward, that rainbow rise and riffle run, bright image that indelibly lasts.

And you still clearly see that six-inch German Brown flopping on the ground,
As, ten miles from the river, you cut ditch water to thirsty alfalfa and oats.
After a quick dip to fill your hat, you scoop him in, jog to the pond close by,
Rub tummy and fins, till his tail begins, away he swims – too young to die.

Such wanderlust, the feisty fry, little aquanaut, trusting the flow, how could he know?
You map his run from the river, the big canal, two siphons, then long laterals
With many weirs and gates. Now, with passenger consigned, these waters move on slow,
Into hay with oats, some filtering down to dark sands, then creeping long to rivers below. 

Many here will readily recall, the current, whirlpool or hole, that refused to let them go,
Until it finally did, leaving fear and fatigue gasping on wet sand. We all so easily
Summon the sounds of Water’s Power – boulders tumbling inside a flood, or
Water’s Peace, the drip and trickle of lullabies sung as streams are born onto glacier’s till, 

The elders treasure the times and such places, you could drop to all fours and drink your fill.
But then, we are made of water, so seeking same, these files are easy to find, yours and mine,
Among the dusty drawers and hum drum clutter of a brimful mind. 

Such are the memories of water, from all the days past,
From all the long days we live, water’s bright memories last.

About the Author: George Wallace farms and ranches north of Fort Collins. He started writing poetry at age 75 to provide some glimpses of an interesting life.  He has since published (Wolverine Farm Publishing) three books which can be Googled at a basic website www.agropoetics.org. He has been an invited artist at several poetry gatherings including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko NV and other events focused on conserving farm and ranchland and water. He enjoys writing poems and essays that attempt to cross the urban/rural, red/blue divide.


Living in the Colorado River

Pax Gregory (3rd Grade)

HELLO! I’m Bluby. I live in the Colorado river and every day I have lots of visiters, people who live there, and guests. One day someone came to the river and had a picnic, played around in the sand and water, and they littered all of their trash in it. AND IT MADE ME GO SO SO CRAZY!!!!!! So I told my crab friend Jerry to the people on land to STOP LITTERING PLEASE! And the next day they did.

A couple years later me and Jerry got some new visitors and we didn’t know them so I asked Jerry to go say “Hi!” and he said yes! So when he got to land there was a little kid and SHE TOOK JERRY! So I sent Jerry’s sister to go tell the little kid to let go of Jerry and do not touch the
animals and nature . And she did.

A couple more years later a dude came and he was fishing. And he caught 16 fish and then the 17th looked like it was going to be another fish but IT WAS ME AHHHH! So then I got pulled out and then… Jerry came onto the surface AND BIT THE FISHERS LEG AND THEN HE SCREAMED OWWWWWWWWWWWWW! And said PLEASE DO NOT FISH IN THIS RIVER! And that day Jerry became SO famous for his biting. And nobody ever came back to fish again because of the story of Jerry.

Just that minute a kid came and stole me, Jerry, and Jerry’s sister. And I GOT SO SO SO SO SO MAD!!!! because I could NOT BREATH! So I tried to squirm and it didn’t work and then Jerry bit them and we got out and lived happily ever after.

The End!


Rafting Part 1 & 2

Emily Thompson (5th Grade)

Rafting through the lake
On a shiny summer day
The paddle clenched in my fist
As I wated birds fly through the air
Water splashes on my face
It makes my blood race
My friends yell my name
Kids jump on rocks as their mothers yell
“Don’t You Fall”
Kids splash with glea
The time has come I must go home
On this sunny rafting day

In the future so far away
15 years from this day
I will bring my kids
To see this sight
I hope it’s still there
It would bring them much delight
So perfect the river
For the future
So they can have delight

About the Author: Emily lives in Ridgway, CO. Her 5th grade class was writing different kinds of poems for poetry month and her teacher challenged several of the students to enter the Water Trust Writing Contest. Emily has always loved all water and doesn’t mind the cold Colorado lakes and rivers. Her favorite river activities are paddle boarding, swimming, and tubing.