Every writer comes to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon with a unique point of view. Ann Zwinger's is that of a naturalist, an "observer at the river's brim."
Teamed with scientists and other volunteer naturalists, Zwinger was part of an ongoing study of change along the Colorado. In all seasons and all weathers, in almost every kind of craft that goes down the waves, she returned to the Grand Canyon again and again to explore, look, and listen. From the thrill of running the rapids to the wonder in a grain of sand, her words take the reader down 280 miles of the "ever-flowing, energetic, whooping and hollering, galloping" river.
Zwinger's book begins with a bald eagle count at Nankoweap Creek in January and ends with a subzero, snowy walk out of the canyon at winter solstice. Between are the delights of spring in side canyons, the benediction of rain on a summer beach, and the chill that comes off limestone walls in November.
Her eye for detail catches the enchantment of small things played against the immensity of the river: the gatling-gun love song of tree frogs; the fragile beauty of an evening primrose; ravens "always in close attendance, like lugubrious, sharp-eyed, nineteenth-century undertakers"; and a golden eagle chasing a trout "with wings akimbo like a cleaning lady after a cockroach."
As she travels downstream, Zwinger follows others in history who have risked—and occasionally lost—their lives on the Colorado. Hiking in narrow canyons, she finds cliff dwellings and broken pottery of prehistoric Indians. Rounding a bend or running a rapid, she remembers the triumphs and tragedies of early explorers and pioneers. She describes the changes that have come with putting a big dam on a big river and how the dam has affected the riverine flora and fauna as well as the rapids and their future.
Science in the hands of a poet, this captivating book is for armchair travelers who may never see the grandiose Colorado and for those who have run it wisely and well. Like the author, readers will find themselves bewitched by the color and flow of the river, and enticed by what's around the next bend. With her, they will find its rhythms still in the mind, long after the splash and spray and pound are gone.
The Grand Canyon: Intimate Views
Edited by Robert C. Euler and Frank Tikalsky; Foreword by Ann H. Zwinger University of Arizona Press, 1992 Library of Congress F788.G747 1992 | Dewey Decimal 979.132
Your personal tour of the Grand Canyon by the folks who know it best! Geology and biology, Indians and explorers, rafting and hiking—it's all here in this one handy guide written by five people whose years of hiking, river running, studying, and simply contemplating the Canyon have given them an intimate knowledge of its wonders that few others can match.
Foreword, by Ann H. Zwinger
1. The Geologic Record, by Stanley S. Beus
2. The Living Canyon, by Steven W. Carothers
3. Grand Canyon Indians, by Robert C. Euler
4. Historical Explorations, by Robert C. Euler
5. The Canyon by River, by Kim Crumbo
6. Hiking the Canyon, by Frank Tikalsky
John Xántus was a bit of a charlatan; of that there is little doubt. He lied about his exploits, joined the U.S. Army under an assumed name, and managed to alienate most of the people he met. Yet this Hungarian immigrant became one of the Smithsonian Institution’s most successful collectors of natural history specimens in the mid-nineteenth century, and he is credited with the discovery of many new species in the American West.
From his station at Ft. Tejon in California’s Tehachapi Mountains, Xántus carried on a lengthy correspondence with Spencer Baird at the Smithsonian, to whom he shipped the specimens he had trapped or shot in the surrounding sierra and deserts. A prolific letter writer, Xántus faithfully reported his findings as he bemoaned his circumstances and worried about his future.
Working from Smithsonian archives, natural history writer Ann Zwinger has assembled Xántus’s unpublished letters into a book that documents his trials and triumphs in the field and reveals much about his dubious character. The letters also bring to life a time and place on the western frontier from which Xántus was able to observe a broad panorama of American history in the making.
Zwinger’s lively introduction sets the stage for Xántus’s correspondence and examines the apparent contradictions between the man’s personal and professional lives. Her detailed notes to the letters further clarify his discoveries and shed additional light on his checkered career.
The Nearsighted Naturalist
Ann Haymond Zwinger University of Arizona Press, 1998 Library of Congress QH81.Z94 1998 | Dewey Decimal 508
Seeking out wildflowers and whitewater, Ann Zwinger has called many places home. The Nearsighted Naturalist brings together work from more than two decades in her career as one of our most distinguished natural history writers. From the Indiana landscape of her youth to her Colorado mountain retreat, from Arizona's Aravaipa Canyon to New Zealand's Kapiti Island, Zwinger leads an ever-widening armchair tour of natural places both ordinary and astonishing. Whether anticipating the first day of spring or seeing the elegance of the subtle hues of a moth's papery wings, Zwinger's trademark eye for detail brings the landscape alive. Her travels trace her evolution from a home-centered wife and mother to a wandering adventurer, an evolution that has taught her to be at home in nature no matter where she is. Sprinkled with Zwinger's own charming pen-and-ink drawings, The Nearsighted Naturalist reminds us of the power of the very best nature writing. It is an invitation to wander, to travel to faraway places, to revisit your own backyard, to chase dragonflies, and to experience the healing power of a sea-smoothed pebble. With the author, readers will embark on a fascinating exploration into distant deserts of the mind and hillsides of the heart.
The Green River runs wild, free and vigourous from southern Wyoming to northeastern Utah. Edward Abbey wrote in these pages in 1975 that Anne Zwinger's account of the Green River and its subtle forms of life and nonlife may be taken as authoritative. 'Run, River, Run,' should serve as a standard reference work on this part of the American West for many years to come." —New York Times Book Review
Lively, readable nature writing. As she details several treks through the beautiful, rocky canyons, [Zwinger's] feel for the animals and plants native to this arid region enhances the precise sketches which punctuate the text. Readers interested in ancient Indian cultures of the Southwest will also find fascinating reading, as Zwinger describes their campsites and lifestyles. —Library Journal