North Fork


Noble North Fork, meandering Snake,

Unaware of your greatness and beauty,

You mix melting snow and mountain rain

To obtain a life of your own.


While pressing against the clouds,

Sawtell Peak, the old Indian,

Watches your never-ending birth

As you spill out of Henrys Lake.


As lightly as a Canadian goose on the wing,

You slide over the mountain floor

And touch against the cool, wet rocks

Which line your grassy shore.


While antelope graze in the meadow,

And aspen whiten the ridge,

You slip slowly under Osborne Bridge

And whisper, "Everything is okay."


Starting a drop at a time,

And swelling from a thousand springs,

You gather more strength, bringing water

From the Buffalo, Warm, and Fall Rivers.


Yet these placid beginnings are deceptive.

Coming of age and showing a mind of your own,

You'd move lodge pole pine, Douglas fir, and stone

To follow your million-year-old destiny.


Near Bear Gulch at Upper Mesa Falls,

Where the canyon walls are high,

You stand upright and roar like a grizzly.


Your dark waters tumble, turning foam-white,

A million prisms reflect the light.

Grey, volcanic rocks grow slowly green

As mist nourishes the mossy sheen.


Falling one hundred and fourteen feet onto yourself,

You smash with a heavy crash against the boulders below.

This powerful magic creates its own wind

Where an upside down smile, a rainbow,

Hangs on the air with promises of a pot of gold

To all who ponder your beauty.


If an unwary fish, flashing like a shadow,

Gets too close to your violent implosion,

She'll take the ride of her life.


Downstream your flow washes and renews our towns.

Shimmering fountain, quivering and dancing in the sun,

You also spread green joy to a thousand farms along the way.

Our crops, potato, wheat, and hay, know your benediction.


At South Butte near Menan,

You join your royal sister. Oh, what a relationship!

The genealogy of this branch is as rich as your own.


Then you stretch your wet arm west across Idaho to bless Oregon,

To help the Locksa, Clearwater, Salmon, and Selway

Cut the Columbia River Gorge.


Magnificent River, beautifier of the plain,

Restricted yet free, wild yet tame,

You do it all:

You spin turbines which turn darkness to light.

You refresh Franklin-planner men and women

Who have forgotten the might and fragrance of a pine.

You fill reservoirs where our children glide over the waves like water skippers.


God spoke the truth when he pondered his rivers and streams

And proclaimed, "It is good."

Creative Snake, when I see how well you do what you do,

I want to be better too.


Allen Hackworth 2000