Rivers for Change, 12 Rivers in 2012 campaign set out to paddle 12 critical California rivers from Source to Sea to engage communities in stewardship and conservation of the state’s rivers. We aimed to invoke a spirit of adventure while exploring these threatened rivers in order to inform and inspire individuals and communities to take positive action in addressing the root issues that their watersheds face. We set out to marry scientific observations and stewardship, with the individual stories of these rivers and the adventures of the people who partook in the journeys down them. The diminishing health of California’s watersheds and ecosystems, our critical water usage, and the interconnectedness and interdependence of our state’s communities on this precious resource was at the heart of our journey.

Interactive Watershed Map

This is what we did:

  • ~ The RFC Team paddled down 9 rivers and over 1,600 miles from Source to Sea. (We have less than 250 miles yet to paddle on 3 partially completed rivers, and are just waiting for flows or legal clearance to finish them).
  • ~ We engaged individuals, paddlers, and communities across the state through paddle days and events.
  • ~ We presented environmental issues to elementary classrooms and engaged people in conversations about rivers.
  • ~ We collected algae samples for scientific researchers monitoring global climate change.
  • ~ We assisted the Native Plant Society in discovering populations of six rare plant species in the San Francisco Bay Delta.
  • ~ We gained the support of and partnered with other nonprofit organizations focused on preserving and improving the health of our rivers and building community collaboration.




How we did it:
With a lot of heart and determination of our teams and volunteers. We sent out two core groups of paddlers on the rivers throughout the year. The Headwaters Team began at the highest runnable section and travel down the Class IV and V+ whitewater during the spring and summer runoffs. The Mainsteam Team picked up where the Headwaters Team left off (usually around the first major reservoir) and traveled the remaining length of the river to the ocean.

Rivers for Change worked with Adventure Scientists  to gather scientific data for Mike Deas of Watercourse Inc., a freshwater ecologist who has been studying flow, temperature, and water quality in many of these rivers.   The 12 Rivers team collected water samples for Deas to analyze, and algae samples which can provide important information on climate change as well as determine the presence of various pollutants dissolved in the water column.

In addition Rivers for Change collected geo-tagged photos for the non-profit Below the Surface to share images from the 12 Rivers expedition for the Streamview projects.  Streamview is a nationwide web database, provide a permanent photo map and a living legacy of Americas Waterways.

Rivers for Change worked with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, American Whitewater, The Klamath Riverkeeper, The Foothill Conservancy, The Russian Riverkeeper, The Sacramento River Preservation Trust, The Monterey Coastkeeper, The Tuolumne River Trust, South Yuba River Citizens League, The San Joaquin River Stewardship Program, Friends of the River, and Below the Surface.


Paddling 12 rivers in California source to sea during 2012. We worked with local watershed non-profits in an effort to inspire change and engage communities across the state and nation for the protection, health, and revitalization of our rivers.

Los Angeles
San Joaquin



A big thank you to our sponsors!