But I’ve been blessed to see a lot of the Yellowstone’s 692 miles, from its headwaters in the Absaroka Range on down. I’ve fished and floated from Mallard’s Rest, swam the mighty river on a scorching August day below Columbus, caught big rainbows below the mouth of the Boulder. Last summer, working a river mapping job on the Missouri, our crew stopped for lunch at the mouth of the Yellowstone (the mouth is just upstream from the boom-bust town of Williston, North Dakota), wading with reverence in deep mud and clouds of mosquitoes at what certainly must be the epicenter of the history of our American West, from the first people to see it after the ice age to the Native American nations to the fur trappers and steamship pilots and outlaws of the 19th and early 20th centuries (there is a heck of a channel catfish hole there now.) The Yellowstone is America’s river, and one of the truly great rivers of the world. How we treat it, respect it, use it, is a metaphor for how we view our nation and ourselves.