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River Notes

A Natural and Human History of the Colorado

Outdoors & Nature, Nonfiction (Adult)
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Plugged by no fewer than twenty-five dams, the Colorado is the world's most regulated river, providing most of the water supply of Las Vegas, Tucson, and San Diego, and much of the power and water of Los Angeles and Phoenix, cities that are home to more than 25 million people. If it ceased flowing, the water held in its reservoirs might hold out for three to four years, but after that it would be necessary to abandon most of southern California and Arizona, and much of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. For the entire American Southwest the Colorado is indeed the river of life, which makes it all the more tragic and ironic that by the time it approaches its final destination, it has been reduced to a shadow upon the sand, its delta dry and deserted, its flow a toxic trickle seeping into the sea.

In this remarkable blend of history, science, and personal observation, acclaimed author Wade Davis tells the story of America's Nile, how it once flowed freely and how human intervention has left it near exhaustion, altering the water temperature, volume, local species, and shoreline of the river Theodore Roosevelt once urged us to "leave it as it is." Yet despite a century of human interference, Davis writes, the splendor of the Colorado lives on in the river's remaining wild rapids, quiet pools, and sweeping canyons. The story of the Colorado River is the human quest for progress and its inevitable if unintended effects-and an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and foster the rebirth of America's most iconic waterway.

A beautifully told story of historical adventure and natural beauty, River Notes is a fascinating journey down the river and through mankind's complicated and destructive relationship with one of its greatest natural resources.

Wade Davis is Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. An ethnographer, photographer, filmmaker, and writer, he is author of the international bestsellers Into the Silence, Light at the Edge of the World, One River, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Shadows in the Sun, and other books. His articles have appeared in Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Scientific American, and many other publications.

Advance Praise

River Notes is both a love song and a paean of regret to America’s most spectacular river. Wade Davis weaves his own story of running the river with history, geology and quotations from those who knew it in its free days. This is also a warning about how easy it is to lose America’s precious landscape.” Denver Post

"[A] beautifully concise history of the Colorado River." Men's Journal

“With hard facts and river adventures rendered in gorgeous prose, Davis exposes the vulnerability of the Colorado in our time of drought and global warming in the hope that his findings will inspire the restoration and protection of this crucial river.” Booklist

"In short, River Notes is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Colorado and more....If you’ve ever pondered a trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon it’s definitely worth a pre-trip read. When the time comes, you’ll appreciate the journey all the more. And those who have had the great opportunity to travel by way of the river will cherish having this book by their side so they can slip back into the canyon and down the river whenever they feel the urge." River Currents

"River Notes: A Natural and Human History of the Colorado is both a requiem for a river lost and a tale of a river rebounding. Wade Davis floods our imagination not just with facts but stories, the kind of stories that enter our bloodstream with the memory of red water and the force of erosion. River Notes is a literary and historical testament to change, one that believes in the sustaining power of reciprocity over greed, while giving us an adventure story through time. The first six pages of this book will break your heart. The remaining pages will repair what has been broken." Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge and When Women Were Birds

"Wade Davis' River Notes engagingly draws the reader in from the very first page—creating the perfect primer for Grand Canyon river guides, passengers, and arm chair adventurers. He eloquently captures and distills the broad sweep of the Colorado River system's geologic and human history. His words flow smoothly as he highlights the destruction of spectacular Glen Canyon and then weaves Major Powell's historical journey though the canyon with his own river experience." George Wendt, Founder and President, O.A.R.S.

"In this slender meditation, Wade Davis deftly interweaves the past, present, and future of the greatest of all American rivers. Although I've explored the Colorado myself, Davis opened my eyes to many a new and surprising fact or insight. It's dazzling to see an author wield comprehensive erudition with such a light and masterly touch." David Roberts, author of Finding Everett Ruess

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