Exploration comes in all forms, and usually it takes time for experiences to settle into our souls and change our perspectives.

We tend to revel in most striking and dramatic things, but I’ve found it true that months and even years after the fireworks have quieted, one starts hearing the subtle things, which speak in a quiet voice of much greater truths. My friend Phil DeReimer, a superlative kayaker, instructor and guide, paid me what I consider to be a very nice compliment by saying, “For most people the run is over at the take out, but for Doug it is just beginning.”

Learn And Change

To me, life is all “in the works” rather than in particular feats or accomplishments. As long as we live, we continue to learn and change.

I have a large number of writing and film projects that are in the works. Below is a partial list of what I’m working on right now, all of which should be completed soon. Those that have been completed or published are marked.

Books to come:

  • The Science of the Disaster (companion book to A Darkness Lit by Heroes – the astonishing scientific story of the systems collapse in the Speculator Mine Disaster)
  • The Stikine (currently being rewritten and re-edited)
  • Blending with Nature: Essays on Adventure Philosophy (currently being edited and essays added)
  • Wildwater Interviews 
  • The Run (science fiction story of kayaking the biggest flood in history!)


  • Intimacy with Death (a film on the personal side of the Stikine)
  • The Stikine (Finished – Award winning film by Olaf Obsommer, script by Doug Ammons)

Articles & Columns [Already Published]

  • Rapid Magazine
    • Why the Mastery of Skills can Never be Rushed
    • Seen and Unseen skills
    • Learning and the River
    • The Psychology of the Horizonline
    • How Going Bigger Can Make the World Smaller
    • From Living the Dream to Reality
  • Kayak Session:
    • 10 Whitewater Philosophy Columns
    • The Legend of the North Fork of the Payette River
    • The Thule Bheri River in Nepal
  • Canoe & Kayak Magazine:
    • Clark Fork River Reborn
  • Coast Mountain Culture 
    • Are We Fooling Ourselves?
    • Risk and Danger in Adventure Sports
  • Distinctly Montana
    • Doug Ammons: Profile in Water

More information about the books:


This fall Water Nymph Press will publish its third book, on the legendary Grand Canyon of the Stikine River in northern Canada. For at least four generations of river runners, the descent of this 60 mile stretch has been a major objective and the whitewater equivalent of climbing a major Himalayan peak. It has been described by long time expedition kayaker Phil DeReimer as “the ultimate test piece,” and by Rob Lesser, who did the first descent and is probably the greatest expedition paddler in the history of the sport, as “the purest of river expeditions.” It has continued to mesmerize, threaten, and inspire kayakers as a touchstone.

The first section of the book recounts the history of the attempts to run the Canyon’s whitewater. A set of excellent, high quality photos shows the kayakers who took part in the various attempts to open up this run and later expeditions. Most of all, I attempt to express and show the beauty of the deep, threatening gorge and its impressive whitewater. The middle section is the story of my solo descent of the canyon in 1992. I’ve avoided talking in public about this for the last 18 years because the experience was so intensely private. And, there are some things that just take time to understand. To the best of my ability, I tried to do the hardest thing I could conceive of, in the purest style possible. In the epilogue of the book I talk about the commonalities between those who seek the ultimate challenges in any sport and the possibilities that every one of us holds inside.

Because I hadn’t ever talked publically about the descent or the other solos that preceded and followed it, it was a great surprise in 2010 when Outside Magazine listed me as “one of the top ten game changers in adventure since 1900” emphasizing the Stikine solo which they characterized as “the supreme test of commitment and perseverance” in the sport. They added “What Reinhold Messner did for alpinism, Ammons did for kayaking”. You never know what others might think of what you do, and such things were not on my mind when I originally went in there. To me, the Stikine and other great rivers are testaments to the grand sweep of nature, and it is a gift that we can learn the skills to enter and experience such places. I’m deeply thankful for that opportunity.


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BLENDING WITH NATURE: Essays on Whitewater Philosophy and Adventure

This is a continued exploration of what we learn from rivers and the natural world, and how these experiences change us. In the book there is a core of about 15 “hard core” essays that have (or will have been) published in kayaking and adventure-related magazines. These are analyses that explore experiences specific to whitewater. In addition, there are some 15 more essays that are unpublished and deal with a progressively broader set of ideas. Among these, I have tried to compare and extend the ideas to other adventure sports, as well as to music, art, science, and spirituality.

The overall theme is expressed in the title: the adventure sports allow us techniques and ways to blend with the powers of nature. Within our culture this is nearly always framed as “fun” and “recreation” for most people, while for many of the most serious athletes it also segues into hip commercialism, which includes being a sponsored athlete, professional risk taking, competition, and providing media entertainment. However, I believe these materialistic things actually hide what is really going on at a deeper level.

Culturally we don’t even have the means to express what this deeper level is. You can find this quickly any time you start pressing people a bit about why they do the sports – there is an unarticulated but powerful undercurrent; even though they often use clichés, simplistic assertions, or even dismiss the questions, they will defend doing the sport as if it is life itself. The essays delve into what that is so. While Red Bull and Mountain Dew and all the other sponsored and commercialized branding is going on, the sports themselves are far more than mere sports for practically everybody who does them.

One way of expressing all this, is the compelling experience of blending with nature. At its core, this is a deep and profound step into a new modern “dao” – the intimate awareness and understanding of the forces that shaped our planet. Despite our culture pushing in almost the opposite direction, and despite many of the athletes having no predilection to being spiritual, thoughtful, or wanting anything other than the immediate adrenaline fix of paddling, this is an ongoing evolution of the human spirit, paradoxically wrapped up in “hey dude!” We can keep the discussion trivialized like it has been, taken over by materialism and bullshit, or we can look a bit farther.

Essays currently to be included in Blending with Nature:

  1. Introduction: Why a philosophy of adventure and water?
  2. The Future of Kayaking
  3. Why there are no limits in kayaking
  4. Is kayaking only a sport?
  5. Kayaking as a Martial art
  6. The Last Great Problem
  7. Are We Fooling Ourselves?
  8. Accidents and risk (with Will Gadd)
  9. Adding death (new version)
  10. Monty and friendship
  11. Design and progression (Physical gear, technique, and psychological changes in intent, skill, understanding)
  12. Professionalization and kayaking
  13. Cheapness, Bullshit, and Mindfulness
  14. The Line
  15. In praise of the unknown
  16. Films and flow
  17. Mountaineering and Kayaking
  18. Why are waterfalls special?
  19. Fear and the fundamental truth of rivers
  20. Artificial whitewater redux
  21. A Reminder
  22. The Games kayakers play
  23. Beyond kayaking games
  24. Of time ice and rivers
  25. Zen and Flowing Water
  26. Water and Music
  27. Art and Adventure
  28. Thule Bheri – geography and culture
  29. Spirituality and the natural world


Interviews from the people involved in making the film Wildwater, including filmmaker Anson Fogel and Doug Ammons, interviews with paddlers Fred Norquist, Erik Boomer, Darcy Gaechter, Don Beverage, Melissa Newell, Fred Coriell, Ryan Casey, Tristan MacLaren, as well as Doryman Ron Nash (65 times down Colorado’s Grand Canyon), Robert Sickler, and others. Excellent photos will be included.

Photography by Mike Leeds and Erik Boomer