Over its 1,450 mile length, the Colorado River winds through seven states, nine national parks and two countries while supplying drinking water to 36 million people. Along the way it supports 230,000 jobs and generates $26 billion of economic impact annually. The Colorado River, however, is in serious trouble. Owing to drought, mismanagement and climate change, the Colorado was named the most endangered river in the country by American Rivers. Now, a collection of fishermen, business owners and other stakeholders have banded together under the group Protect the Flows to preserve on of the greatest waterways on the planet. It won’t be easy to save the Colorado, but working with government, water users and other conservation groups, Protect the Flow hopes to keep the Colorado flowing from its source in the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California.

“Zeke Hersh may not have known every damning fact about the Colorado River in July 2011. But as a flyfishing guide and outfitter in the heart of the Colorado River basin, he knew the forecast was grim when Molly Mugglestone walked into his Main Street fly shop in Frisco, CO.

Mugglestone had recently cofounded an organization called Protect the Flows (PTF), an advocacy group composed of more than 900 businesses with a mission to make sure the Colorado River doesn’t disappear. She was in the middle of in-the-trenches outreach, walking door to door and introducing her plight to business owners who have a vested interest in the Colorado’s future, notably those in the recreation industry. Hersh happened to be wearing a T-shirt from a bike race two hours south in Gunnison, where Mugglestone lives, and they got to talking about PTF’s broader goals. Signing a letter and pledging support, as Hersh did that day, was fine. But for a man who has spent much of his life relying on rivers to live, it was just a start.

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