Flatwater is the section of a river flowing smoothly downhill over the bed of its own creation, broken by obstacle or turbulence. Though the term is also used to describe water in lakes and reservoirs, flatwater to a boater is the river cruising. Steep-gradient rivers can lose elevation by a repeated physics of pools and drops. Flatwater is often described as any “pool” between the drops, or rapids. Nevertheless, much goes on along flatwater’s laminar flow. The river’s velocity is checked, its flow a “garment of motion,” in James Dickey’s poem “Inside the River.” The surface may seem glassy and sluggish, the current not discernible, but it is there in the deepest channel, gentle and resolute.

Ellen Meloy