The Great River

The Making and Unmaking of the Mississippi

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Pub Date 11 Jun 2024 | Archive Date 31 May 2024

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Description

A sweeping history of the Mississippi River—and the centuries of human meddling that have transformed both it and America.

Over thousands of years, the Mississippi watershed was home to millions of Indigenous people who regarded “the great river” with awe and respect, adorning its banks with astonishing spiritual earthworks. But European settlers and American pioneers had a different vision: the river was a foe to conquer. In this landmark work of natural history, Boyce Upholt tells the epic story of human attempts to own and contain the Mississippi River, from Thomas Jefferson’s expansionist land hunger through today’s era of environmental concern. He reveals how an ambitious and sometimes contentious program of engineering—government-built levees, jetties, dikes, and dams—has not only damaged once-vibrant ecosystems, but may not work much longer, and explores how scientists are scrambling to restore what’s been lost. Rich and powerful, The Great River delivers a startling account of what happens when we try to fight against nature instead of acknowledging and embracing its power.

About the Author: Boyce Upholt is an award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in the Atlantic, National Geographic, Outside, the New Republic, and Time, among other publications. 

A sweeping history of the Mississippi River—and the centuries of human meddling that have transformed both it and America.

Over thousands of years, the Mississippi watershed was home to millions of...


Advance Praise

"The Great River is easily one of the best books ever written about the Mississippi. It brings depth of scholarship to everything from geology to history to current politics, all of it elegantly written." - John M. Barry, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

"With tributaries of history, geography, engineering, and environmental science, Boyce Upholt’s The Great River brings clarity and cohesion to a topic that intermixes complex stories across, quite literally, a million square miles. Using elements of travelogue and including fine maps, this compelling book takes readers through the making and unmaking of the Mississippi River, and leaves them with a hunch that, in the end, the river will remake itself." - Richard Campanella, Associate Dean for Research, Tulane University School of Architecture and author of Draining New Orleans

"From mound-builders to levee-makers, Boyce Upholt gives us a Mississippi both wild and engineered, life-giving and furious—a river as full of contradictions as the country that has tried and failed to tame it. Impossible to stop reading, The Great River is a deeply felt meditation on the ways people have lived with nature's changes, and how we might live differently in the future." - Bathsheba Demuth, author of Floating Coast

"Rivers are the lifeblood of an ecosystem and the Mississippi is North America’s jugular. With masterful research and reporting, Boyce Upholt makes a compelling case that, despite our centuries-long efforts to control its unpredictable pulses with concrete, steel and earthen berms, the river in many ways remains wild as ever. And he shows us why that is good." - Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

"Few books have ever chronicled a landform as beautifully as The Great River, a thorough and wise meditation on the United States’s mightiest watershed. Like a savvy riverboat captain, Boyce Upholt expertly pilots his narrative across shoals of history and through oxbows of science; like the Mississippi itself, his book braids and bends, carrying its readers from deep time to the Anthropocene on a swift current of reportage. What emerges is a river neither wholly natural nor entirely conquered by engineers—a basin at once enchanting in its own right, and a fitting exemplar of all we've done to nature." - Ben Goldfarb, author of Crossings

"The Great River is easily one of the best books ever written about the Mississippi. It brings depth of scholarship to everything from geology to history to current politics, all of it elegantly...


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780393867879
PRICE US$29.99 (USD)
PAGES 352

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