This beautifully written and deeply personal collection of essays paints a progressive view of the American West as seen by a geologist. Ellen Wohl traces her twenty years of living and conducting research in the natural landscapes of the West as she investigates the conflict between environmental history and widely held romanticized views of the region. Wohl grew up in Ohio, subscribing to a common perception of the American West as an unchanged frontier. Moving to Arizona, she became enthralled with how the landscapes and ecosystems of the West have undergone change, both through geologic time and during the historical era of European settlement. These essays tell of her early training as a geomorphologist and provide a memorable account of her research in the rivers of the West. As the lessons accrue, Wohl gives us the benefit of her experience and shows how years of studying and living in the Colorado Rockies have enhanced her understanding of landscape change through time. Building on the literary tradition of Joseph Wood Krutch, Terry Tempest Williams, and John McPhee, Wohl provides an up-to-date portrait of the West and brings a new urgency to the call for conservation of the region's land, water, and resources.
List of Illustrations
Part 1. Discovering the West
The Western Reserve
A Sense of Space
River Days: Paradise Found
River Days: Paradise Lost
The Delicate Strength of Rock
The Western Rampart
Where the Winds Live
Part 2. Inheriting the Past
Let It Snow!
What Is Natural?
The Disillusioned Angler
Poisoning the Well
Epilogue: Adventures in the Still Unknown Interior of North America
Bibliographic Sources and Further Reading
Ellen Wohl is Professor of Geology at Colorado State University and the author of Disconnected Rivers and Virtual Rivers, as well as Rain Forest into Desert.
“Wohl writes clearly and with appreciation about the western landscape’s rock formations and canyons, while her references to the region’s literary and historic canon are equally relevant.”—Booklist
“The intricately detailed book is written in a lolling, peaceful way. . . . [It] reads like a beautiful novel.”—Deseret News
“Geomorphology may not have a mother, but Of Rock and Rivers proves that Ellen Wohl is the field’s sharp-eyed daughter.”—Earth Magazine
“For those who marvel at the stunning landscapes of the American West, this book has all the qualities to make us appreciate even more the riches nature has to offer.”—G. Cornelissen-Guillaume The Key Reporter
"Ellen Wohl has created a masterful and lyrical natural history of the Rocky Mountain West. She writes with a naturalist's attention to detail, an artist's eye for color, a geologist's long view of change, and an activist's passion. Wohl brings a fresh perspective to fundamental issues—grazing, fire, water, restoration, the limits of resilience—and reminds us of the crucial 'connectedness of humans and landscape'."—Stephen Trimble, author of Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America
"Ellen Wohl tells stories of the West beyond myth, stories of her own and her students' explorations of the land's dynamic past-into-present. How Americans have settled and used western lands owes much to myths of superabundance and inexhaustibility of a seemingly pristine world. The reality is dynamic change that too often has resulted in contamination and depletion."—Lauret E. Savoy, coeditor of Bedrock: Writers on the Wonders of Geology and The Colors of Nature