During the summer of 1982, the Vail (Colorado) Symposium invited Williams to perform at its “Water: Options for Tomorrow” conference. Coincidentally, he found out that an Oregon utility was intending to put several hydroelectric dams on his favorite trout steam, the North Folk of the Willamette River, near his home in Oakridge. At a pubic meeting, where the pros and cons of the issue were debated, he realized that the river itself was not able to speak in its own behalf. He decided to try to give the river a “voice” by presenting an entire concert of music inspired by “the river”. His motives were to draw attention to the local issues and, in a larger sense, to show that the river flows “not only through the land but through our hearts and minds as well.” He named the concert after a song by Pete Seeger titled, “Of Time and Rivers Flowing” and performed the show with Mason Williams & Friends band members, Art Maddox (piano), Amy Windus (cello), Jerry Mills (mandolin), George Relles (banjo), John Averil (mandolin), Dennis Caffey (drums), Thom Bergeron (woodwinds), Hollis Taylor (violin) with fellow river enthusiast, Jim Williams organizing and promoting the show (see Of Time & Rivers Flowing concert and band information pages 58-60).
After the premier of the concert at Vail, he continued to work on the concept. In 1983, Williams, in conjunction with the McKenzie Flyfishers, presented three sold out benefit concerts in Eugene. The money earned was used to successfully lobby the state legislature to make the North Folk of the Willamette River (one of Mason’s favorite trout streams) a protected waterway. In 1984, he released an album on his own label Skookum Records, “Of Time and Rivers Flowing” which featured music from the concert program.
The next three years saw Williams performing bluegrass festivals, symphony concerts and “river” shows. In 1987, author/storyteller Ken Kesey joined the river show band. That fall, Williams released his “Classical Gas” album recorded with Mannheim Steamroller on the American Gramaphone label. He ended the year performing with Kesey at the Grateful Dead’s New Years Eve Celebration at the Oakland Coliseum.
Over the next few years Williams played more of his “Of Time and Rivers Flowing” and “Bluegrassical Gas” concerts. In 1990, he received the Governor’s Award from the State of Oregon for his contribution to the arts.