What Rivers Mean to Me: IRU Development Director Anna Buschbacher

Why I love a river is deeply rooted in me and has a turbulent but heartwarming path. 

As a young girl, I was introduced to the river by my grandma. She took me to the river often to walk, talk and skip rocks. I remember searching for perfect flat sided rocks. We splashed in the water or sat on the bank enjoying the sights and sounds and each other’s company. My grandma also taught me about giving back in my community. She did not have much herself but always was willing to help someone else, clean up our community or volunteer. During the holidays as a family we volunteered at the Mission to serve food and wrap gifts for the homeless. As a native Idahoan these traits deeply guided my beliefs, education and spirit.  

Growing up in Boise one of my favorite pastimes with friends was floating the Boise River. On a hot summer day or night we would round up black inner tubes, most terribly lopsided and worn, head out in denim cutoffs and tennis shoes, and scrounge together $3 needed for Barber park parking. One car would be dropped at Ann Morrison and then a mass of teens and inner tubes would pile into an overstuffed Subaru like a circus attraction and head to the river put in. We never used sunscreen and didn’t have life jackets. We made rope swings along the way and jumped from every bridge – well the boys jumped.  It was carefree summer fun at its best.

As a young adult I was invited to join a work group on some bigger rapids and float the South Fork of the Payette. It sounded like a great time, and we had several seasoned rafters along. We had proper gear and good intentions, but my first whitewater trip proved fatal for a dear young co-worker—and life-changing for all of us. I vowed not to be so careless and to never float another river. I looked at water with a new perspective. It had power and needed to be treated with respect.

Several years later, I returned to Idaho knowing it was my home: the mountains, the peacefulness, the smaller towns, the wild and scenic views. I still loved adventures of hiking and backpacking in Idaho’s great outdoors and somehow still always ended up admiring water. Then I met Ben, my husband. He was an avid kayaker who was mighty cute and very sweet. He wanted to share his love of the water. He wanted to help me understand its power and to forgive. 

He built a cataraft that would keep my new water adventures upright and secure. He talked me through each rapid, teaching me how to read water and work with the flow. Since then I have been re-introduced to the water, she has become my ally. She gives me peace when I canoe on the lake, she is full of laughs when I SUP with my little boys on the pond, she challenges me to overcome my fears when I take on white water rapids, and her song revels in me, reminding me to keep coming back.

After many personal adventures on the water I took a position with a small non-profit that promotes cancer survivor healing and personal strengthening through river and outdoor adventures. What amazing transformations I was able to witness and be a part of.  Now Idaho Rivers United gives me the opportunity to help protect these amazing resources in my home state. The rivers are worth protecting, and I am thrilled to be part of an organization that works tirelessly to protect, restore and preserve Idaho’s impressive waterways.