27 of your favorite rivers – a crowdsourced list

Updated 10:49 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014

Story highlights

CNN compiles a list of "your favorite rivers" from submissions

The list includes the Tunga, in India; the Arno, in Italy; and the Hue, in Vietnam

iReporter Sandi Kubbs: "Who I became is intrinsically tied" to the Little Wabash River in Illinois

What rivers are we missing? Nominate your favorite waterway at CNN iReport

Editor’s Note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and creator of CNN’s Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. E-mail him at ctl@cnn.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) —  

Leave it to an old naturalist to make rivers sound sexy.

“The rivers flow not past, but through us,” John Muir wrote in the 1870s, “thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.”

If only we still felt that way in 2014.

Today, rivers aren’t thrilling much of anybody. They’re invisible. We don’t travel by river, rarely visit their banks. We don’t know their stories.

John D. Sutter
Edythe McNamee/CNN
John D. Sutter

That’s most of us, at least. I’ve discovered as part of my reporting on rivers for CNN’s Change the List project, that there remains a vital sect of pleasantly anachronistic River People. They’re folks who don’t mind smelling like mildew; who affix clips and carabineers to everything in sight; and who still value adventure over efficiency.

Related: My trip down ‘Apocalypse River’

I learned many of you are among them. When I put out a request for readers to send in photos and stories about their favorite rivers, I wondered if anyone would respond – if anyone still took photos of rivers, still cared about them. But, to my delight, 89 people have submitted stories on CNN iReport – and dozens more have uploaded images to Instagram.

You’re people like Darren Palm, who sent in black-and-white photos of his grandfather catching salmon on California’s Kings River; like Julee Khoo, who wrote that her trip on the Yangtze River “will forever link me to my grandmother who was born and raised in China”; like Maureen Moore, who’s photographed the Hudson River in New York when it’s covered in ice and when it’s teeming with boats; and Sandi Kubbs, a Polio survivor, who wrote that, “who I became is intrinsically tied up with my life rowing up and down the Little Wabash.”

If anyone is going to save our rivers, it’s you.

The good people at CNN iReport have compiled these submissions into a list of “Our favorite rivers.” This list isn’t clickbait, nor is it nature porn. For many, it’s nothing short of a protest – an assertion that a river-first view will lead to a better world. As rivers have become invisible, they’ve started to dry up – and without much public alarm. The Colorado, the Rio Grande, the San Joaquin (which I recently spent three weeks kayaking). These mighty waters often fail to reach the ocean.

And many others are gunked up with pollution. The Mississippi – which one of you, Neal Moore, traveled from source to sea – dumps so much fertilizer into the Gulf of Mexico that it creates an aquatic dead zone the size of Connecticut. We’ve strangled that river with so much concrete that it can’t bring enough life-giving sediment to the coast. A football field of wetlands floats away each hour.

We’re trashing our rivers, but there is an antidote: Telling their stories.

Thanks to all of you for honoring these precious waterways. And, if you see one that’s missing, there’s still time to tell us about your favorite river.