The Freeflow Podcast

a media project of Freeflow Institute



On the Green River, Leeanna Torres finds connection to her writing and to her own history.


“It’s Sunday morning – the day that I should be in mass, in church – as the water goes from smooth into wicked rapids, I wonder which of these rocks is the one named Lucifer. And I think about how again this is Sunday, the time of mass, and how it’s this collision of opposites, always. The world is laid out brilliantly in front of us every day, and how it’s a curse and a blessing all at once.”

photo by Nicole Qualtieri

As a young woman, Leeanna Torres worked on the rivers of the Southwest as a fish biology technician. She spent spare moments on those rafts scribbling thoughts and observations in a pocket notebook. In 2021, she had the opportunity to merge her passions for rivers and words on Freeflow Institute’s Gates of Lodore writing workshop on Utah’s Green River. On the river this time, as a committed writer with a very specific focus, Leeanna explored concepts of identity, belonging, craft, and connection.

Leeanna came to Freeflow’s Gates of Lodore Workshop last autumn as the Southwest Emerging Artist scholarship recipient from American Rivers. She had with a very specific project in mind – a revisitation of the Gila River, in her native New Mexico, 15 years after she last worked there as fisheries biological technician focused on stream restoration. She wanted to return to the Gila with her little boy, her five-year-old son, to observe what has changed in the landscape – and what has changed within her. So on the Green River, 700 miles from the Gila, Leeanna honed the skills she’d need to tell stories of rivers like the Gila, and stories of the ways her own life has intersected with rivers.

Read Leeanna’s essays:

Listen to Leeanna’s interview on The Center for Western Priorities’ “The Landscape” podcast.

Check out First and Wildest: The Gila Wilderness at 100, from Torrey House Press, to which Leeanna contributed her prose.

Learn about American Rivers’ efforts to protect the Gila River.

Check out Freeflow’s Southwest Emerging Artists Scholarship, funded by American Rivers.


Thanks to Dinosaur River Expeditions for outfitting Freeflow courses on Gates of Lodore; to Mike Fiebig at American Rivers for supporting emerging artists in the Southwest; and to the Environmental Studies department at the University of Montana for continuing to partner with Freeflow to create valuable outdoor learning experiences.

Our theme music is by Nate Heygi and Wartime Blues.

Stephanie Maltarich and Mary Auld produced this episode.

The Podcast is made possible by support from The Prop Foundation.

Stephanie Maltarich, a producer at The Freeflow Podcast,is an independent audio producer and writer based in Gunnison, Colorado. She loves a good story that allows her to explore issues related to the environment, the outdoors, and social justice. Her public radio stories have aired on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Here and Now, Colorado Public Radio, Alaska Public Media, and more. She’s also produced podcasts for outlets like The Dirtbag Diaries, Climate One, Out There, and Duolingo. Prior to working as a storyteller and journalist, Steph’s work included a slew of interesting jobs: a commercial fisher(wo)man, adaptive ski instructor, Outward Bound instructor, international trip leader, English teacher, and hand-washing spy. 

Mary Auld (she/her) is an audio journalist and teacher in Missoula. She grew up in the boreal forests in Interior Alaska and the hay fields of upstate New York. Her favorite projects use sound to tell intimate stories about the human experience of environmental issues. Mary’s work has been featured on public radio stations and podcasts around the West. She has a master’s in environmental journalism from the University of Montana. You can find more of her work at

The Freeflow Podcast is made with love in Montana, near the storied Blackfoot River.

Arlo, on the banks of the Blackfoot, during the summer months when weathered sticks, sunshine, and warm, flat rocks define his days.

Would your organization or brand like to support The Freeflow Podcast? Get in touch. We are excited to explore new and innovative partnerships.