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PBS Special: Five Rivers, Five Voices

Five Rivers Five Voices is a PBS documentary that follows the five great rivers of the West: Salmon, Yellowstone, Rio Grande, San Juan and Colorado (the latter three are in the Southwest). The stories are told by river guides, Robert Redford, author Terry Tempest Williams, and legendary conservationist Martin Litton. Each river, and a corresponding wilderness or park, has its own journey – and effect on people.

The Salmon and Frank Church River To Nowhere Wilderness area found protection in 1968, thanks to the tireless efforts of the man for whom the area is named. This river, located in Idaho, travels through mountains and canyons. It is a haven for trout fishing—the film focuses on the undammed Middle Fork.

The Yellowstone runs through the nation’s first national park and is part of “America’s Serengeti”. It contains some of the most diverse – and endangered – animals in North America. This tributary of the Missouri River is the longest undammed river in the lower U.S. It is also a painter’s and a photographer’s paradise.

Often embroiled in controversy, the Rio Grande is an international border that separates the U.S. and Mexico. Flowing through the Chihuahuan Desert, this 1900-mile long river is often reduced to a trickle due to over-use, and it experiences long, seasonal droughts. The movie stresses the need to save the area surrounding Big Bend National Park, including the river.

The San Juan is one of the most scenic rivers, although it lacks the mighty rapids of its peers. This tributary of the Colorado River meanders through “Goosenecks”, and into Lake Powell. Some of the biggest attractions are the historical ruins of Pueblo and Anasazi tribes found nearby.

The Colorado River, first mapped by John Wesley Powell in 1869, is a record keeper of Earth’s history over the last 65 million years. The snow melt from the Rockies makes its way to the Gulf of California, passing through the spectacular Canyonlands National Park. The river doesn’t make it to the ocean every year as a result of over-use–during the drier years it simply dries up in the deserts of Mexico.

Find this special on your local PBS station.

What is your favorite environmental documentary?

*Image © WXXI World Productions

Lane & Juliet

The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.



When was this aired?? I’ll have to youtube it for sure! Thanks for sharing. Speaking of the Colorado River, I noticed American was recently acknowledged with an award and their video on the Colorado River was featured. Fantastic video:

The Duo

PBS runs this frequently in our area. You would have to check with your local station. There’s a station finder at


Thanks.. will do.

Michael Rosenthal

I’ve seen the video but cannot seem to locate a DVD of it that is available. Any suggestions?


The Duo

It seems you are not the only one. Here’s a link: Regarding a DVD release, it states, “Not all films are available for purchase, as video distribution is at the discretion of the producer and the costs for clearance rights are often too high for independent filmmakers’ budgets.”

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