The Rio Grande River is very near and dear to me. As a South Valley native, my family and I knew only of its water as a means to irrigate our family garden. When I was a young child, the only time I spent near water was at the ditch bank when it was time to put in the gate and raise the levels to water the garden. From there, my siblings and I would race sticks down the watering canals and follow them through to the various tomatoes and chiles growing in the yard. The myths of La Llorona and the lack of swimming lessons kept me away from the river – it just wasn’t something my family of 12 ever had a chance to enjoy. The only time I remember as a child seeing the river were the weekly trips driving over the Rio Bravo Bridge into the city. At the age of 47, I took my first kayaking lessons and have since had a chance to get to know the river first hand. I am amazed that I spent so many years in my city and never had a chance to play in its water and enjoy the beauty that others close to the river engage in daily and weekly. The beauty of the golden cottonwoods, geese roosting, beavers splashing in the water, the early morning mists, balloons splash ‘n dashes are wonders I get to enjoy regularly now. This is a picture of my daughter, Rhea, kayaking for her first time during the balloon fiesta this year. It’s been amazing having the chance to connect with my daughter on the river and to have an active group of paddlers in the Albuquerque Community willing to assist. As a single mom, it has been more difficult getting my children into the outdoors and now I’m blessed with a paddling community that does just that! I have helped assist with a Youth Outdoor Leadership kayaking programing last year with attendance from the South Valley Charter Academy, NACA, and Bosque schools. I hope to be a part of more of these types of events in the future to help reconnect our youth with the outdoors!