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Living River of Words

Artwork by Evelyn Allen - LROW 2020 FinalistPima County invites local youth (ages 5 to 19) to explore the wonders of water and express their creativity by entering the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest.

This website provides ideas and resources for teachers, parents, club leaders, or anyone in the community to engage young people in a mixture of art, science and nature. By participating in the Living River of Words (LROW), young people can:
  • Learn about water resources.
  • Develop a sense of place by getting to know the Santa Cruz River and their own local watershed.
  • Sharpen the skills critical to both art and science:
  • Share their learning and creativity with the community by entering the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest (deadline: April 2, 2021).

Pick up a free, bilingual Living River of Words Nature-to-Go kit at your local Pima County Library branch! Supplies are limited, so call ahead. Each kit includes: 
🎨 Supplies to create a watercolor masterpiece;
📸 Tips and techniques for poetry, visual art, and photography;
💧 Ideas to explore, enjoy, and reconnect with the natural world around us;
🔬 Prompts to help you think like a scientist and an artist; and
✉ An invitation to share your creative work through the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest.

Download the tips and activity ideas from the kit in English and Spanish!

Need some inspiration to get started? Check out our these video tutorials!


Download the 2020-21 Entry Form and Rules:
Brochure with Entry Form (English) | Printable 8.5x11 Entry Form (English)
Folleto con la Planilla de Entrada (español) | 8.5x11 Planilla de Entrada (español)

Drop-Off Locations for Art and Poetry Entries:

Woods Memorial Library - 3455 N 1st Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719
Santa Rosa Library - 1075 S 10th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701
Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library - 7800 N Schisler Dr, Tucson, AZ 85743
Joyner-Green Valley Library - 601 N La Cañada Dr, Green Valley, AZ 85614
Ajo Community Center - 290 W 5th St, Ajo, AZ 85321
Pima County NRPR Main Office - 3500 W River Rd, Tucson, AZ 85741 (Drop-off or Mail)

Photography Entries May Be Emailed
To enter your original photography in the Living River of Words contest, please send up to three photos (at high enough resolution to print at least 5x7 inches) to: with the subject line "LROW Photo Entry - [Your Name]." Please also attach a completed, signed entry form or your photos will not be considered in the contest.

Teachers and Group Leaders: 
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be offering the structured LROW field trip and residency program during the 2020-21 season, but we are still here to help! Please explore these resources and contact us if you have questions, need help engaging your students, or would like to arrange a time to drop off contest entries: Pima County Environmental Education | (520) 724-5375 or

Living River of Words is a regional coordinator providing local support for River of Words®.

Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Exhibit 2020

Due to library closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibit featuring the winners of the 2020 Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest is unable to travel in the community this season. During the late fall and early winter, the beautiful, award-winning artwork and poetry was on display in the windows of the Pima County School Superintendent's Office in downtown Tucson. Thank you to all the community partners, teachers, schools, families, and students who helped make that bright spot in our community possible during these challenging times.

Now, you can e
njoy the wonder of our local waterways and wild places through the eyes of these talented young poets and artists online. Download the digital version of the exhibit book in PDF format or browse the gallery of finalists and winners on the Pima County NRPR Facebook Page.

2020 LROW Cover 2020 LROW Digital Gallery
photoLiving River of Words Partners with the Living River Project
Since it began attracting people to the region more than 12,000 years ago, the Santa Cruz River has undergone a series of dramatic changes. Initially a flowing life force teeming with fish, frogs, and other wildlife, the river all but dried up over the last century as groundwater pumping increased along with the human population and its ever-growing demand for water.

Today, however, thanks to the release of effluent — or highly treated wastewater — into the river, certain sections of the Santa Cruz River again flow year-round. This practice is not only re-creating our flowing river heritage, but is also supporting important wildlife habitat and building a valued community amenity. As effluent helped create a thriving river ecosystem along this corridor, the community responded by building numerous river parks and The Loop recreational trail ( to provide easier access to this river bounty.

Effluent in the Lower Santa Cruz River is not new; two wastewater treatment plants have been operating on this section of the river since the 1970s. What has changed is the quality of the effluent being released. In its largest public works project ever, Pima County upgraded two wastewater treatment plants in 2013. The upgrade significantly improved the quality of water released into the river, a key ingredient for a healthier river. The river now attracts walkers and bikers and is a popular birding destination from the Sweetwater Wetlands to the Marana Flats.

The Living River Project aims to gauge conditions of this valuable ecosystem and track the impacts of our community investment. All Living River reports and associated documents for the Lower Santa Cruz River are available for download on the Sonoran Institute website at

In 2014, EPA grant funding for the Living River Project allowed for a pilot project to bring student groups on field trips to the flowing portions of the lower Santa Cruz River. Through this partnership, Pima County was able to expand environmental science, poetry, and art residencies for students to prepare entries to the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest. Each year since then, hundreds of students have visited the Santa Cruz River and shared their creative reflections with the community through art and poetry.

LROW is also a partnership with the Regional Flood Control District.
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Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation

3500 W. River Road
Tucson, AZ 85741

(520) 724-5000

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