To some, it sounds pretty odd to strap on a snorkel, stretch into a wetsuit, and flop into a 50 degree river. But once you're there, fingers frozen and lips blue, you'll understand what all the fuss is about.
Lots of sportsmen and sportswomen spend countless days on, in, and around rivers. Whether fishing, hiking, duck hunting, or swimming, rivers are central themes to many of the outdoor pursuits we write about on this site. But how well do we really know and understand them?
We're separated from these central themes in our lives by the magic of hydrogen bonds, or the weak attractions established between the negatively charged oxygen atom of one water molecule and the positively charged hydrogen atoms of a neighboring water molecule. These bonds create surface tension, and surface tension is the reason we're able to dead drift fur and feathers and the reason that water forms droplets on your sunglasses. It's also the reason we can't effectively see below the surface of streams, rivers, and lakes.
Enter into the underwater world of rivers and your whole perspective shifts (literally). Everything looks 30% bigger than it does above water. What you perceive to be barren bedrock from your terra-firma perspective is in reality a sea of life; caddis fly larva, algae, and rainbow parr fill every crack and cranny, every break from the river's relentless current. Sculpin dart out from under rocks as fumble your way upstream. And in the Coast Range of Oregon, with a little intuition, experience, and some exploring, its possible to snorkel with unicorns.