New Book | River Notes

River Notes
A Natural and Human History of the Colorado


“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.”



"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."

The Denver Post



Washington, D.C. (October 17, 2012)—The Colorado River holds a special place in the American psyche. “The American Nile” is the lifeblood of the Southwest, and it built the Grand Canyon, one of the best-loved and most-visited places in the United States, but few Americans know its story. Over the past century, we have increasingly exploited the river; it has been years since it reached the sea, and its once-verdant delta has become a barren desert.


Bestselling author Wade Davis tells the story of the Colorado in his new book, River Notes: A Natural and Human History of the Colorado. From the Native American cultures that developed on the banks of the river to the Mormon explorers in search of a new Zion and the farmers determined to turn the arid Southwest into a lush green breadbasket, Davis tells the story of the generations of Americans who have turned to the Colorado.


As Davis reveals, the Colorado and those who love it have paid a steep price for its place in the American West. Glen Canyon Dam flooded one of the most pristinely beautiful places in the country. Explorers looking for thrills have lost their lives to the river’s rapids. And the river has lost itself to the West’s thirst for water and energy; 25 dams now plug the Colorado. But there is hope for the Colorado if those who love it take the necessary steps to save it.


River Notes offers readers a new appreciation of the river at the heart of the American West and the people who have made it famous. As the book meanders along the course of the Colorado, it offers an entrancing armchair guide to the river and the landscape through which it flows.



Wade Davis is Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. An ethnographer, photographer, filmmaker, and writer, he is the author of the best sellers Into the Silence (2011), Light at the Edge of the World, One River, and The Serpent and the Rainbow, as well as Shadows in the Sun (Island Press) and twelve other books. His articles have appeared in Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Scientific American, and many other publications.



Praise for the bestselling Into the Silence (2011):

“Brilliantly engrossing….A superb book. At once a group biography of remarkable characters snatched from oblivion, an instant classic of mountaineering literature, a study in imperial decline and an epic of exploration.”

The Guardian

“Mr. Davis’s research is extraordinary, the scope of his book ambitious….his writing sensitive and graceful, and the storytelling entertaining.”

The Wall Street Journal

“Davis is a fine storyteller.”

The Boston Globe

“Davis has a fine eye for the memorable detail….His account of the 1924 expedition is succinct and compelling.”

The Washington Post

“Assiduously researched, this defining and exhaustive book is not for the faint of interest. Set aside a season for this extraordinary expedition.”

The New York Times