UP ON THE RIVER by John Madson


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An affable, folksy, freewheeling guide to the Upper Mississippi (from St. Louis to Saint Anthony Falls) by an old-fashioned but highly literate (scientifically and otherwise) outdoorsman. Unlike Jonathan Raban in Old Glory (1981), Madson doesn't float down the river observing the curious individuals along its banks; he hangs out with the river rats (commercial fishermen, wildlife biologists, grizzled Field and Stream types) and fishes, fishes, fishes. However much they may admire his lively, sensuous prose, readers not interested in, say, the fighting qualities of the walleye vs. the smallmouth bass, the different varieties of catfish (flathead, blue, channel, ""mad tom,"" etc.), or the explosive spread of the introduced ""German"" carp, will have to wade through some longish stretches. Madson, though, talks about a lot more than the lifetime he has spent angling on the Mississippi. He can dramatically summarize the river's geological and human history; recount its long use and misuse by lumberjacks, shell-gatherers (to make buttons, in the days before plastic), freight carriers, and the Army Corps of Engineers; and pour out river lore on every subject from the virtues of a johnboat to the way a seine works to the deadly Armistice Day storm of 1940. Though Madson shies away from anything like ecological preaching for most of the book, he eventually bridles at plans to dig a 12-foot channel in the Upper Mississippi, and acknowledges that this latest technological outrage might just be the last. A bit self-conscious in its hearty, matey style, but a rich, vivid, informative log.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: Schocken