Colorado River Reader

"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.

Richard Fleck is a retired English Professor. He has edited several volumes of writing by naturalists, including John Muir: Mountaineering Essays (University of Utah Press, 1997).

Table of Contents:

Paiute Indian Legend – Why the Grand Canyon WSilvestre Vélez de Escalante – From the Domínguez-Escalante Journal
John Wesley Powell – From the Grand to the Little Colorado
Robert Brewster Stanton – Cataract Canyon
John C. Van Dyke – Silent River
Frederick S. Dellenbaugh – A Wonderland of Crags and Pinnacles
Frank Waters – Its Delta
T. H. Watkins – The River-Runners
John McPhee – Encounters with an Archdruid
Georgie White Clark – Conquering Glen Canyon
Phillip L. Fradkin – Canyon Country: The Ultimate Ditch
Edward Abbey – Down the River with Henry Thoreau
Bill Beer – Rapids, Icewater and Fire
Ellen Meloy – Gravity in a Fluid Medium
Ann Zwinger – Badger Creek and Running Rapids
Colin Fletcher – Big Drop
Linda Hogan – Plant Journey
Suggested Reading


Praise and Reviews:

"Few anthologies can be both so action-packed and respectful toward nature as is Richard Fleck's choice of narratives. Here for the adrenaline addict are walloping-good rides down Cataract Canyon, as well as craftily informative nature writing on canyon rattlers, cottonwoods, otters, and datura blossoms. The naturalist and river runner in me found these pages turning themselves."—Reg Saner, author of Reaching Keet Seel

"The anthology, by turns analytical and lyrical, will interest both those with intense personal experience of the river and those with an appreciation of the intrinsic interrelatedness of natural phenomena."—New Mexico Historical Review

"Fleck has masterfully drawn together seventeen pieces that bring to life the explorers and adventurers of the Colorado River.... A comprehensive, well-balanced book that is perfect for armchair travelers and history buffs."—Library Journal