The best books about rivers

Tim Palmer Author Of America's Great River Journeys: 50 Canoe, Kayak, and Raft Adventures
By Tim Palmer

The Books I Picked & Why

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

By Kevin Fedarko

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

Why this book?

I read everything I find about rivers, and I can honestly say that this book completely blew me away. Illuminating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon as never before done, Kevin Fedarko combines a breathtaking quality of lyricism and a gripping drama of the river's most suspenseful flood event ever. Throughout, he captures the thrill of river travel and conveys a remarkable sense of beauty and perfection in flowing water. He produced not only the best river book ever written but—in my humble opinion—the best book I've ever read! I continue to delight in every paragraph of this American masterpiece.


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Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

By Marc Reisner

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

Why this book?

In a class by itself, Marc Reisner's life-work here is the ultimate story of water in the West. It's an understatement to say that this seasoned author made history accessible. He made it compelling and fascinating, conveying an urgent sense of its importance to us all. Disclaimer here: this is not a book about the essence of rivers, but rather about the development of them for irrigation and water supply in the West. Along the way, however, the dots get connected between what we must cherish in flowing water and what we have done to eliminate it.


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The Infinite River: A Biologists' Vision of the World of Water

By William Hopkins Amos

The Infinite River: A Biologists' Vision of the World of Water

Why this book?

This forgotten gem squarely focuses on the essence of rivers and the complex life systems and creatures they support. With a special perspective on the Northeast, biologist Amos brings to life the intricate connections between water, plants, and animals found in rivers and tells us in narrative style why they are essential to everything around them.


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Salmon Without Rivers: A History Of The Pacific Salmon Crisis

By James A. Lichatowich

Salmon Without Rivers: A History Of The Pacific Salmon Crisis

Why this book?

Biologist Lichatowich draws on his lifetime of experience studying and working with fisheries to reveal both the persisting wonder and the ongoing shortcomings of fish-and-wildlife agencies' mismanagement of salmon that migrate up our rivers to spawn and then return to the ocean for most of their life cycles. Striking to the heart of a critical but under-recognized issue affecting rivers today, he explains why fish hatcheries that were sold to the public as a way of compensating for fish-killing dams have actually harmed wild fish further, and he urges all who are responsible to avert an ongoing tragedy.


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Recovering a Lost River: Removing Dams, Rewilding Salmon, Revitalizing Communities

By Steven Hawley

Recovering a Lost River: Removing Dams, Rewilding Salmon, Revitalizing Communities

Why this book?

This compelling profile of the Snake and Columbia Rivers of the Northwest and Northern Rockies makes a motivating case for removing unnecessary dams and restoring some of the most magnificent runs of fish ever to grace the North American continent. Hawley manages to find humor amid the outrage and chaos, and plants in readers' minds the vision for a better future that's within grasp, if only we had the political will to make the necessary changes. 


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