Native Waters – Rio Grande is one of 20 films that will be shown as part of the two-night’ world-renowned Wild & Scenic Film Fest 2017 in Buena Vista Friday night and in Salida on Saturday. GARNA and Central Colorado Conservancy partnered to bring these inspiring films to Chaffee County.
Native Waters revolves around Taos-area river guide Louie Hena.

Executive Producer Sinjin Eberle said, “It became obvious that (Louie) was the best subject for this film, with his family relationships, economy and spiritual connection to the river.” Eberle explained that when they first started working on the film, their focus was on fellow river guide Cisco Guevarra, a “very accomplished storyteller and local citizen.”

Guevarra told the filmmakers about the nearby Taos Pueblo and other tribes who had brought back endangered species to the river. Much of their culture involved the health and celebration of the river, Eberle said. Through Cisco the filmmakers met Louie, who was doing similar things with the nearby Tesuque Pueblo.

“Cisco and Louie are both part of the Los Rios River Runners company, an outfitter on the Rio Grande, and the more we heard about Louie,” Eberle said, “the more intriguing and compelling he became.”

When the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was established in 1968, the Rio Grande was one of the original eight rivers protected, Eberle said. There are nearly 3 million miles of rivers in the United States, but the Act only protects about 13,000 miles.

“Clean drinking water, wild river and a healthy environment, all of which depend on water (especially in the West), are issues that everyone should care about and take action to promote,” he said.

In 2018 the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act will celebrate 50 years. Eberle said American Rivers is striving to collect 5,000 stories about rivers from people all across the country, as well as protecting 5,000 more miles of rivers. Eberle is also the communications director for American Rivers ad encourages people to share their stories at He also urges people to contact their state and local representatives to let them know “rivers are critical to sustainability in western Colorado and beyond.”

Be sure to catch one or both nights of the film fest – each night will feature different films. The first night of films will be presented at the Buena Vista Community Center March 17 and includes Native Waters.

“What I love the most about this film is that it is a subtle yet powerful and visually beautiful portrait of a people who are often overlooked yet are truly those who are most connected to the land and rivers and have the history of thousands of years, not just hundreds,” Eberle said. “They are the people who have the deepest connection to the places we all enjoy and depend upon for life, happiness and our futures. They should be listened to and respected above all else.”

Dominique Naccarato, GARNA development director, said they’ve partnered with the conservancy to bring this film fest to the county for four years. She said she first got involved with the festival while serving as an Americorps VISTA volunteer. “Since then, we’ve felt it was important to continue the film fest because attendees get to take a trip around the world and learn about all sorts of socio-environmental issues through stunning cinematography.”

Doors on both nights will open at 6:15 p.m., with films starting at 7 p.m. The Saturday night showing will be held at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center and includes a pre-show VIP event which features two additional films, Defendant 5 and Forget Shorter Showers beginning at 4:45 p.m.

“This year, I’m most excited about our VIP event on Saturday evening,” Naccarato said, “which will end with a filmmaker panel called Filmmaker Change Agents – What is the Role of Film in Activism Today? The panel will feature local filmmakers Ben Knight and Rob Dubin in addition to filmmaker Jenny Nichols, who’ll be presenting her film Elk River later that evening.”

Nichols said she was invited to be the filmmaker in a “multidisciplinary project” with scientist Arthur Middleton, photographer Joe Riis and contemporary painter James Prosek. “Being conservation-focused with an adventure angle, it was really my kind of project. I was also drawn to the collaborative and multi-disciplinary nature of the project with its potential to get the message out beyond ‘the choir,’” she said.

In addition to the film, the collaboration led to an exhibit at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., and an article in National Geographic, which included images and scientific data. The exhibits and article carried the reach of the project “far beyond what any one of these disciplines could accomplish individually,” Nichols said. 

Wild & Scenic awarded Elk River with Most Inspiring Adventure Film. Nichols said it also recently won People’s Choice at Les Bois Film Festival in Boise, Id.

In Buena Vista, Eddyline Pizza will be available for purchase; in Salida, Moonlight Pizza and popcorn will be available. Tickets start at $10 with a membership incentive. Tickets for kids 18 and younger are $5. Purchase tickets at the SteamPlant Box Office, the GARNA office or

Tickets have sold out in the past, and the price increases on the day of each event. Naccarato advised purchasing early.

To see the full list of films and synopsis, go here for Buena Vista and here for Salida.