The River Keeper

Colorado River guide, photographer, and biologist Amy Martin will always call the Grand Canyon home There’s a mesmerizing quality to Amy Martin’s photographs that can be hard to describe—an interplay of angles, intensity, and light that imbue the canyon with a honeyed glow that makes it feel warm and inviting. The viewer is sometimes behind an oar, peering downriver, or in a raft, watching the river reflect on the canyon walls. One eye-level shot of the river’s emerald green waters is so evocative you can almost feel the cool breeze rising off the water. The Flagstaff resident continues to work the river, rowing National Park Service science and educational trips, volunteering for the nonprofit Grand Canyon Youth, and guiding three to six other trips per year. She also photographs for the nonprofit American Rivers, advocates for migrant workers, and does environmental justice work on the Navajo Nation. Taking pictures, of course, wherever she goes. Her favorite place to take pictures, and the source of her creative inspiration, is Northern Arizona. “The canyons here are like no other,” says Martin. Like Martin, she sees an immense opportunity to connect people to nature through guiding and art. “As an Arizona native, I have lived with the paradox of water and desert for as long as I can remember,” she says.

Colorado River guide, photographer, and biologist Amy Martin will always call the Grand Canyon home

There’s a mesmerizing quality to Amy Martin’s photographs that can be hard to describe—an interplay of angles, intensity, and light that imbue the canyon with a honeyed glow that makes it feel warm and inviting. The viewer is sometimes behind an oar, peering downriver, or in a raft, watching the river reflect on the canyon walls. One eye-level shot of the river’s emerald green waters is so evocative you can almost feel the cool breeze rising off the water. “I have a powerful bond with the Grand Canyon,” says Martin. “When I’m away, the pull is so strong it seeps into my subconscious.”

Martin’s images reflect an intimacy with her environment a lifetime in the making. She first visited Grand Canyon while in utero, as her mother Sue gently hiked to the canyon floor. Sue took her again less than a year later, when Martin was only six months old. Growing up in Tucson, Martin summered at her grandparents’ Sonoran Desert ranch, taking long family hikes on Sundays.

Martin enjoyed them so much that she made walking the desert her vocation. After studying art and biology in college, she took a job with the National Park Service in Grand Canyon. From a remote post, she’d patrol a 60-mile stretch of wilderness, checking campgrounds and performing search and rescue. Whether ferrying research biologists, guiding tourists, or exploring nearby Glen Canyon, Martin always found time to take pictures.

It wasn’t until 2008, when Martin joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in the Dominican Republic working…

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