Email this review


The prolific author of this study of the Mississippi has written many books about his travels in many parts of the world; here he combines guide-book and personal narrative with a condensed biography of Old Man River. Starting with the so-called source of the Mississippi in a Minnesota lake (the exact source is open to dispute), the author and his wife traveled by canoe and car, river steamer, towboat and plane to its mouth in the spreading deltas beyond New Orleans, a journey of some 2500 miles. Writing of the past glories of the luxurious side-wheelers and the disasters that befell them, the author tells also of now almost extinct showboats; houseboats and storeboats and shantyboats; above all, he writes of the modern ""towboats"" which push instead of pull the fleets of barges that form the bulk of today's enormous river traffic. Writing briefly of riverside towns and cities, he tells in greater detail of the work of the Army Engineers: building and maintaining levees and dams dredging and straightening channels, clearing the river of snags and sandbanks. There is a dual market for this:- those who know the Mississippi and those who wish to fill in their background. With the wealth of material available, this is unique in its scope, but bears little comparison with the classic account La Salle left of his canoe voyage in 1681, or with Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, or Bissell's neglected masterpiece of the towboat, A Stretch on the River. Recommended as a source for more detailed study.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1962
Publisher: John Day