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Gila: The Life and Death of an American River Paperback – March 1, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press (March 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826318428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826318428
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,835,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Arizona's Gila River and its tributaries once formed the most important water system in the Southwest. Today, it has been bled dry; its wildlife and vegetation have been mostly destroyed and the lower river is on the EPA Superfund cleanup roster. McNamee ( Named in Stone: An Arizona Anthology ) reviews the geology and history of the Gila and chronicles its decline in a sad, familiar story of human impact on Western lands. Mining operations stripped mountains, diverted rivers and chewed up forests. Large-scale ranching, inappropriate agriculture, dams and profligate use of water have added to the river's demise. McNamee charges that Phoenix has the highest rate of water consumption in the nation, at one-fourth the cost of water in New York City; golf courses use up to one million gallons a day. To restore the river, he calls for reforesting the highlands, appropriate agriculture, removal of the dams and new federal policies. This is important reading for environmentalists. Photos.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In this popular environmental history McNamee, the book columnist for Outside magazine, gives a well-crafted account of the birth, life, and death of one of the Southwest's major rivers. This chronological approach works well in tracing the development, decay, and ultimate desiccation of the Gila River. The work adds dimensions not found in earlier historical accounts of the river and demonstrates an environmental consciousness not found in Edwin Corle's Gila: River of the Southwest (1951), which was written at a time when conquering and subduing the wilderness was an acceptable approach. McNamee's book does share much the same passion for the river as does Ross Calvin's River of the Sun (1946), though McNamee's work spares the reader some of Calvin's florid prose. The lack of notes is offset by a lucid bibliographic essay. Highly recommended for general readers and undergraduates.
- Daniel Liestman, Seattle Pacific Univ. Lib.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Gregory McNamee is a writer, journalist, editor, photographer, and publisher. He is the author or editor of 35 books and of more than 4,000 periodical pieces. He is a consultant, contributor, and contributing editor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and its blog. He is also a contributing editor to Kirkus Reviews and The Bloomsbury Review.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Steven Hargrave on February 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a recent arrival in Southwest New Mexico and an occasional hiker along the Gila River and its watershed, I had high hopes for this book. Seeking it out (it's out of print) also provided a chance to discover all the used book stores in a 150 mile radius. But here the river is, at first, only an organizing principle. Ancient geology, Native American history, early European exploration and settlement, the rise and ebb of mining, wild west tales - all merit more than peripheral mention in this slim volume. If a concise, somewhat arbitrary visiting of all these topics in a readable style is what you're looking for, this book will satisfy. The title makes clear the author's environmental concerns, but these dominate only in the final chapters.

Those final chapters make up a damning indictment of those who have caused and/or contributed to the drying up of the lower Gila. Blame is laid at the foot of personalities from Theodore Roosevelt to Charles Keating. The writing picks up steam and has visceral impact. A series of paragraphs dealing with government subsidies to ranching interests packs the greatest punch.

I had already made myself somewhat conversant in Southwest history. So I found the reexamination of the related topics unnecessary, even if well-done. I would have liked one summary chapter on the more distant history, then more details and evaluation of the environmental impact wrought by 20th century development. Whether you will agree depends of course entirely on your own expectations and prior knowledge of the background.

The book is well-illustrated and has a comprehensive (if now somewhat out-of-date) bibliographical essay. Perhaps his publisher will allow McNamee to reissue this volume with an updating of the Gila's fortunes and outlook.
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