DOWNRIVER: A Yellowstone Journey by Dean Krakel

DOWNRIVER: A Yellowstone Journey

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A personal narrative of the author's journey down the Yellowstone River--the last, major free-flowing river remaining in America. Krakel, a contributor to such journals as National Geographic, Audubon, and National Wildlife, is also author of Season of the Elk. His journey, spread over 10 years, began at the river's headwaters in Wyoming's Absaroka Mountains and included rafting, hiking, and exploring its entire 700-mile length to the river's confluence with the Missouri River in North Dakota. The reader relives Krakel's experiences, including the pains of the fierce Western winters, sleeping under the stars in weather so cold that his breath froze. The reader shares also his fears of the grizzly bear, always a potential hazard in the region. Indeed, conditions are so bad sometimes that one wonders what sort of inner discipline kept Krakel obsessed with his personal mission. But persist he does, and along the way, he has a larger story to tell--for, as he writes, ""The entire odd pageant of the West passed up the Yellowstone and played to a climax within its basin."" Krakel recounts much of that pageant as he passes areas of note, giving us vignettes of Lewis and Clark, General Custer, Calamity Jane, John Colter, and General Sherman (""who said that every buffalo hunter ought to be given a medal: 'every buffalo killed is one less an Indian would eat. Annihilate the source of life--break the people's spirit.' He'd learned a few things marching through Georgia. . .""). Always, too, there is a piquant sadness underlying Krakel's story as he fears that the Yellowstone is doomed. ""It's the river's misfortune to flow atop the largest strip-minable coal formation in the world."" Unlike similar books in the genre, such as Jonathan Raban's Old Glory, Krakel avoids the towns as much as possible. Indeed, he seems to evince a carping animosity toward civilization that is this book's only major failing. A well-written look at an unusual journey.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1987
Publisher: Sierra Club--dist. by Random House