Top 6 River Adventure Books (and One to Grow On)

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River Adventure Books

(Compiled by Michael Hughes/Northwest Rafting Co.)

With the pandemic cutting into shared time outdoors, now is the perfect time to start in on the reading list. Here are some of my favorite river adventure books to while away those times not on the water.

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK #1: THE LAST RIVER: THE TRAGIC RACE FOR SHANGRI-LA BY TODD BALF

A few early explorers adventured into Tibet in search of the mythical Himalayan utopia called Shangri-la. Stories of a great river and huge water falls enticed extreme whitewater boats looking for their next big descent. While often called the Mount Everests of Rivers, Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo River pulls in some of the worlds best kayakers. After years of planning and scouting trips 1998 was the year for Jamie McEwan, Roger Zbel, Doug Gordon, and Tom McEwan to tackle this first descent. (Purchase on Amazon)

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK #2: HELL OR HIGH WATER: SURVIVING TIBET’S TSANGPO RIVER BY PETER HELLER

Near the base of Mount Kailash, the Yarlung Tsangpo flows east through the Tibetan Plateau. Collecting snowmelt and rain before heading south though India and Bangladesh. A few years after the the 1998 expedition Scott Lindgren, Steve Fisher, Mike Abbott, Allan Ellard, Dustin Knapp, and Johnnie and Willie Kern make their bid at running this legendary river. Enjoy reading about the ups and downs of being an expedition leader while also trying to tackle some of the hardest whitewater on the planet. Once you have put the book back on the shelf check out Into The Tsangpo Gorge, a film Scot Lindgren made about the adventure. (Purchase on Amazon)

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK #3: THE EMERALD MILE: THE EPIC STORY OF THE FASTEST RIDE THROUGH THE HEART OF THE GRAND CANYON BY KEVIN FEDARKO

The Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is on every river runners list. What a romantic thought of spending weeks on end floating down a river not hearing from the outside world. This book takes you through the history of the canyon as well as the one fastest descents of the Grand Canyon. (Purchase on Amazon)

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK #4: THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG BY EDWARD ABBEY

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK: The Monkey Wrench Gang

The Post-War American West is changing, Hayduke and his friends plan on sticking it to the Man any way they can. I am sure you have heard folks talk about blowing up dams and ruining heavy machinery around the camp fire. Well this is the book that may have started it all. Edward Abbey weaves a tail of misfits looking to stop the southwest from development. (Purchase on Amazon)

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK #5: OWYHEE TRAILS: THE WESTS FORGOTTEN CORNER BY MIKE HANLEY

While this isn’t really a book about wild river adventures it is still filled with tales of the wild west.  As settlers moved west, they battle the elements, natives, and remoteness just for a place to call home. Silver and cattle ranching brought most of the people here, they just didn’t all stay for long. For sure check this book out if you have any adventures planned out in the Owyhee Canyonlands. (Purchase on Amazon)

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK #6: NEVER TURN BACK: THE LIFE OF WHITEWATER PADDLER WALT BLACKADAR BY RON WATTERS

This is the life story of legendary paddler Walt Blackadar. His first descent of Turnback Canyon on the Alsek River is among the most legendary trips of all time. (Purchase on Amazon)

RIVER ADVENTURE BOOK #7: And our Own Pick (from PaddlingLife’s own Eugene Buchanan): BROTHERS ON THE BASHKAUS

Brothers on the Bashkaus - Siberia rafting

From rafts made from old germ-warfare suits and felled logs to lifejackets stitched together from soccer balls and wine bladders, river running in the former Soviet Union has evolved much like Australian wildlife, completely free of outside influences. Brothers on the Bashkaus follows the exploits of one of the first groups of Westerners to experience this foreign style of rafting on a white-knuckled, 26-day trip down the Bashkaus River, one of the hardest whitewater runs in all Siberia. Armed with little more than former guiding experience and the prestigious Shipton/Tilman grant from W. L. Gore and Associates—the first of its kind ever awarded for a river expedition– four Americans stumble into a chance encounter with ten Latvians and soon find themselves on one of the wildest rides in the world. Along the way they deal with everything from language barriers to armed horsemen and rapids lined with memorials to those who perished before them. They battle the elements and fear starvation, finding sustenance in pork fat, sugar cubes, and fish-eyeball soup along the way. The book combines a fascinating study of a culture and history with a riveting play-by-play of the paddling maneuvers and survival skills needed to meet the day to day challenges in the canyon.Thrown together with a common mission, these men soon discover the bonding qualities of the river, a medium that dissolves cultural barriers as easily as sediment. The Bashkaus creates a common bond regardless of race, religion, or nationality—one in which strangers truly come together as brothers. Purchase on Amazon, or get signed copy here

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About the author:

Michael started with NWRC as guide and now as operations manager, he brings the discipline and desire to ensure that NWRC is not just a company that sends people down the river. He’s constantly working to make sure that the trips are run in the best possible way, that guests are well-informed about location and expectations, and that the rivers thrive for generations to come. Raised in Stewartville, MN, Michael grew up running around the woods behind his house which fostered an enduring love for being outside. Although many of his first jobs were in the outdoors, it wasn’t until a canoe trip on the Rio Grande during college, where he was pursuing Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies, that he realized he could adventure professionally.

Words to live by: “We were put on this earth to fart around, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

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