A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices


Chrissy Zeltner

Chrissy paddles through whitewater

Photo by Michael Sawyer

Chrissy Zeltner didn’t start kayaking until she moved to West Virginia after college in 1993, but in the past 26 years living in the Mountain State, kayaking has become a passion and is the reason she stays in the area. The Cheat River watershed, the Tygart watershed, and the Gauley watershed are some of her favorite places to paddle.

“West Virginia has just got some of the prime, most spectacular whitewater in the world,” Zeltner says. “The rivers and the scenery here in West Virginia parallel some of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in the world.”

Zeltner has recorded over 200 days of overnight kayaking across five countries, including kayaking the entire Grand Canyon portion of the Colorado River five times, the challenging Green River in Colorado and Romaine River in Canada among many others. In addition to her kayaking resume, she also has an impressive role as an advocate for the rivers she loves.

In 2006, a fellow kayaker asked Zeltner to join the board of directors for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, an organization founded by paddlers and whitewater enthusiasts to advocate for clean water for drinking and recreation. She has been an active member of the board for the past 13 years and is now chair of the board of directors.

According to Zeltner, her recreation interests originally brought her to the group, but her experience on the board opened her eyes to other water issues.

“I realized how clean water is a human right and how we need to fight for it,” she says.

Currently, West Virginia Rivers Coalition is involved in efforts to update the state’s water quality standards to follow federal recommendations for acceptable levels of pollutants that harm human health. After industry groups argued that complying with these stronger water quality standards would be too costly, the state legislature passed a bill that delayed the timetable for any changes.

“We’re doing a lot of action alerts and trying to get people calling their representatives,” Zeltner says.

The bill requires the state environmental agency to accept public input until October 2019 and to submit a new proposal for public review before April 2020.

“We can’t stop now,” Zeltner says. “We have too much momentum and there’s too much of a need to stop.” — By Eric Halvarson

Back to The Whitewater Spirit: Women making a difference


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2019 — June/July

2019 — June/July