The vast Colorado River collects water from the highest Rocky Mountain peaks and traverses the widest plateaus, the deepest canyons, and the lowest deserts before emptying into the delta of northern Mexico. This austere land and mighty river resist exploration, settlement, and description. But in the hands of one of the West’s great writers, Frank Waters, the history and lore of its past make irresistible reading and a resounding case for mankind’s respect for the environment.
"This canyon world where water yearns toward the ocean is a place so large I can’t take it in. Instead, I am taken in, traveling a near dream as we journey by water, contained by rock walls. In order to see this shorn-away world, I narrow my vision to the small and nearly secret. Never mind the stone’s illusion of permanence or the great strength of water. I look to the most fragile of things here, to the plant world of the canyon. The other river travelers seem taken in by stone, time, and water, and do not see the small things that tempt my attention, the minute fern between stones, the tiny black snails in a pond of water. I am drawn in by the growing life and not by the passing."
- from 'Plant Journey' by Linda Hogan
The mystique of the Colorado River is no less enduring and powerful than is its physical presence in the landscape of the West. Little wonder that narratives about the Colorado still arouse and intrigue readers, or that the river continues to inspire new writing among contemporary authors. What is surprising is that no anthology offering a comprehensive introduction to these works existed - until now.
A Colorado River Reader spans hundreds of years and many cultures and voices to capture an array of responses to this mighty river and tributaries. The collection opens with a Paiute creation myth set in the Grand Canyon and progresses through time, encompassing the Spanish and American exploration narratives of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and culminating in the adventure and nature writings of the twentieth.
This is a book that deserves a place next to every armchair and in a pocket of every backpack.
The Colorado River is a vital resource to urban and agricultural communities across the Southwest, providing water to 30 million people. Contested Waters tells the river's story-a story of conquest, control, division, and depletion.
Beginning in prehistory and continuing into the present day, Contested Waters focuses on three important and often overlooked aspects of the river's use: the role of western water law in its over-allocation, the complexity of power relationships surrounding the river, and the concept of sustainable use and how it has been either ignored or applied in recent times. It is organized in two parts, the first addresses the chronological history of the river and long-term issues, while the second examines in more detail four specific topics: metropolitan perceptions, American Indian water rights, US-Mexico relations over the river, and water marketing issues. Creating a complete picture of the evolution of this crucial yet over-utilized resource, this comprehensive summary will fascinate anyone interested in the Colorado River or the environmental history of the Southwest.
In 1923, America paid close attention, via special radio broadcasts, newspaper headlines, and cover stories in popular magazines, as a government party descended the Colorado to survey Grand Canyon. Fifty years after John Wesley Powell's journey, the canyon still had an aura of mystery and extreme danger. At one point, the party was thought lost in a flood.
Something important besides adventure was going on. Led by Claude Birdseye and including colorful characters such as early river-runner Emery Kolb, popular writer Lewis Freeman, and hydraulic engineer Eugene La Rue, the expedition not only made the first accurate survey of the river gorge but sought to decide the canyon's fate. The primary goal was to determine the best places to dam the Grand. With Boulder Dam not yet built, the USGS, especially La Rue, contested with the Bureau of Reclamation over how best to develop the Colorado River. The survey party played a major role in what was known and thought about Grand Canyon.
The authors weave a narrative from the party's firsthand accounts and frame it with a thorough history of water politics and development and the Colorado River. The recommended dams were not built, but the survey both provided base data that stood the test of time and helped define Grand Canyon in the popular imagination.
Although John Wesley Powell and party are usually given credit for the first river descent through the Grand Canyon, the ghost of James White has haunted those claims. White was a Colorado prospector, who, almost two years before Powell's journey, washed up on a makeshift raft at Callville, Nevada. His claim to have entered the Colorado above the San Juan River with another man (soon drowned) as they fled from Indians was widely disseminated and believed for a time, but Powell and his successors on the river publically discounted it. Colorado River runners and historians have since debated whether White's passage through Grand Canyon even could have happened.
Hell or High Water is the first full account of White's story and how it became distorted and he disparaged over time. It is also a fascinating detective story, recounting how White's granddaughter, Eilean Adams, over decades and with the assistance of a couple of notable Colorado River historians who believed he could have done what he claimed, gradually uncovered the record of James White's adventure and put together a plausible narrative of how and why he ended up floating helplessly down a turbulent river, entrenched in massive cliffs, with nothing but a driftwood raft to carry him through.
John Wesley Powell was an American original. He was the last of the nation's great continental explorers and the first of a new breed of public servant: part scientist, part social reformer, part institution builder. His work and life reveal an enduringly valuable way of thinking about land, water, and society as parts of an interconnected whole; he was America's first great bioregional thinker.
Seeing Things Whole presents John Wesley Powell in the full diversity of his achievements and interests, bringing together in a single volume writings ranging from his gripping account of exploring the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon to his views on the evolution of civilization, along with the seminal writings in which he sets forth his ideas on western settlement and the allocation and management of western resources.
The centerpiece of Seeing Things Whole is a series of selections from the famous 1878 Report on the Lands of the Arid Region and related magazine articles in which Powell further develops the themes of the report. In those, he recommends organizing the Arid Lands into watershed commonwealths governed by resident citizens whose interlocking interests create the checks and balances essential to wise stewardship of the land. This was the central focus of John Wesley Powell's bioregional vision, and it remains a model for governance that many westerners see as a viable solution to the resource management conflicts that continue to bedevil the region.
Throughout the collection, award-winning writer and historian William deBuys brilliantly sets the historical context for Powell's work. Section introductions and extensive descriptive notes take the reader through the evolution of John Wesley Powell's interests and ideas from his role as an officer in the Civil War through his critique of Social Darwinism and landmark categorization of Indian languages, to the climatic yet ultimately futile battles he fought to win adoption of his land-use proposals.
Seeing Things Whole presents the essence of the extraordinary legacy that John Wesley Powell has left to the American people, and to people everywhere who strive to reconcile the demands of society with the imperatives of the land.
In this heavily illustrated book, Mike Milligan has captured the still developing story of one of those remote, but no longer secluded, corners of the Colorado Plateau.
Upstream from Moab on the Colorado River, near the Colorado state line, there is a relatively short, deep canyon that has become one of the most popular river-running destinations in America. The canyon is known as Westwater. Its popularity is largely due to the thrill provided by one of the most dangerous and challenging stretches of white water on the Colorado---Skull Rapid.
Near the head of the canyon are the remnants of the tiny town of Westwater, which has had an interesting and eventful history of its own, partly because of the river and canyon, partly because of the railroad that passes through it, and partly because of its remoteness. It has attracted over the years more than its fair share of colorful characters---government explorers and agents, boosters and get-rich-quick dreamers, cattle and sheep men, outlaws and bootleggers, and, of course, river runners.
Mike Milligan, who came to know the area as a river guide, has written a thorough history of this out-of-the-way place. While it has a colorful history that makes its story interesting in and of itself, Westwater's significance derives more from a phenomenon of the modern West-thousands of recreational river runners. They have pushed a backwater place into the foreground of modern popular culture in the West.
Westwater seems to represent one common sequence in western history: the late opening of unexplored territories; sporadic, often unsuccessful attempts to develop them; renewed obscurity when development doesn't succeed; their attraction of a marginal society of misfits or loners; and modern rediscovery due to new cultural motives, especially outdoors recreation, which has brought a great number of people into thousands of remote corners of the West.
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