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The Gearboat Chronicles

The 25 Best Naturalist Quotes from our 5 Favorite Naturalists

Here at Winding Waters River Expeditions, we’re constantly inspired by the wisdom of naturalists from yesteryear. On all of our trips through the Pacific Northwest’s finest rivers, we develop an almost spiritual relationship with the natural world around us. Preeminent naturalists spoke to this relationship and inspire outdoor enthusiasts to this day.

In this post, we’ll talk about some of our favorite naturalists and the best naturalist quotes that encapsulate their wild spirits.


John Muir

Perhaps, the United States’s most influential naturalist-explorer, John Muir is known for his explorations through California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The Scotsman wrote about his experiences and conviction to conservation in his writings focusing on the appreciation and protection of the natural world.

Known as “The Father of National Parks,” Muir’s writing and advocacy has helped protect countless natural areas in the United States. Some notable parks he directly helped protect through his writings include:

Often called “John of the Mountains,” his spirit lives on throughout the country in public wild spaces to this day.

Our top 5 favorite John Muir quotes

  • • “The power of imagination makes us infinite.”
  • • “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”
  • • “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
  • • “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
  • • “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”


Henry David Thoreau

Is there any naturalist who blended the natural world with the American spirit quite like Henry David Thoreau?

Known for his seminal work, Walden Pond, and his deeply influential essay Civil Disobedience, Thoreau truly embodied the Naturalist spirit. The former detailed his 2 years living on a remote pond in Concord, MA, and the latter detailing his philosophy that government shouldn’t force you to make moral compromises.

Disobedience was written shortly after coming back from Walden Pond, and was a direct response to both slavery and imperialism shown in the Mexican American war.

This combination of works show us how a life guided by the natural, free world is something more than just a recreational pursuit, but one guided by a philosophy of respect and connection with the wild.

Our top 5 favorite Henry David Thoreau quotes

  • • “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
  • • “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
  • • “All good things are wild, and free.”
  • • “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
  • • “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”


John James Audubon

James John Audubon is one of the premier American ornithologists. Audubon identified 25 new species of birds and completed the masterwork, The Birds of America.

The volume contains 435 true-to-life sized watercolors of birds from across the country engraved on plates. In completing the book, Audubon traveled the country with nothing but his gun, art materials, and his assistant to discover and capture the electric energy of the nation’s birds.

While he did not found the organization, the Audubon Society is committed to continuing his legacy through the protection of birds and their habitats.

Our top 5 John James Audubon quotes

  • • “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his father, but borrowed from his children.”
  • • “I feel I am strange to all but the birds of America.”
  • • “But Hopes are Shy Birds flying at a great distance seldom reached by the best of Guns.”
  • • “Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I knew not, and cared naught about them.”
  • • “In my deepest troubles, I frequently would wrench myself from the persons around me and retire to some secluded part of our noble forests.”


Theodore Roosevelt

To those who love the modern conservationist spirit of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt needs no introduction. As president, Roosevelt enacted a series of conservation measures, including:

  • • The creation of the United States Forest Service, of which he named 150 National Forests
  • • Creation of 5 National Parks
  • • The 1906 Antiquities Act, which proclaimed 18 US National Monuments
  • • Establishment of 51 bird reserves and 4 game preserves

All in all, Teddy placed 230,000,000 acres under public protection, most of which was done under executive order.

This conservation-minded approach to land management irked many members of his own party from western states, including Oregon’s own Senator Charles Futon. Eventually, Congress limited Roosevelt’s ability to set aside land through executive order, but not before he established 21 forest reserves immediately before the restrictions went into place.

Our top 5 Theodore Roosevelt quotes

  • • “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”
  • • “The lack of power to take joy in outdoor nature is as real a misfortune as the lack of power to take joy in books.”
  • • “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm.”
  • • “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased; and not impaired in value.”
  • • “The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.”


Gifford Pinchot

The inaugural chief of the National Forest service and the 28th Governor of Pennsylvania, Pinchot was in Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation circle and an important figure in the era’s conservation movement.

As the leader of the National Forest Service, Pinchot was the de-facto leader of much of the Western United States federally-owned land. Under his leadership, the Forest Service established a more conservation-minded approach to land management. He also established better practices to forest management and was a large proponent of what he called conservation ethic, which called for scientific methods in forestry management.

Our top 5 Gifford Pinchot quotes

  • • “Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men.”
  • • “The earth and its resources belong of right to its people.”
  • • “Innovations never happen as planned.”
  • • “Unless we practice conservation, those who come after us will have to pay the price of misery, degradation, and failure for the progress and prosperity of our day.”
  • • “The outgrowth of conservation, the inevitable result, is national efficiency.”


Pining to find your own naturalist spirit?

At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we lead river journeys down some of the most wild and scenic rivers in the entire country, The Salmon River, The Snake River, and the Grande Ronde River. Many of our trips will guide you through multiple days in remote sections of wilderness where you can truly get away from it all.

Read about our rafting and fly fishing trips that will help you explore not only our beautiful rivers, but your own naturalist spirit. Contact us to learn more about how to get more in touch with the wilderness.