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Of Rock and Rivers: Seeking a Sense of Place in the American West Hardcover – June 8, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (June 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520257030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520257030
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,304,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“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 2009-04-02)

“The intricately detailed book is written in a lolling, peaceful way. . . . [It] reads like a beautiful novel.”
(Deseret News 2009-06-20)

“Geomorphology may not have a mother, but Of Rock and Rivers proves that Ellen Wohl is the field’s sharp-eyed daughter.”
(Earth Magazine 2010-03-01)

“This book has all the qualities to make us appreciate even more the riches nature has to offer.”
(G. Cornelissen-Guillaume The Key Reporter 2011-06-17)

From the Inside Flap

"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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David M. Schlom on April 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The old adage that you can't judge a book by its cover doesn't hold true here. The lovely cover photograph is just a hint of the joys to be found inside.

My daughter suggested that I read this lovely book by Ellen Wohl -- who is a Professor of Geology at Colorado State. Her specialty is fluvial geomorphology. In every day terms this means how moving water shapes a landscape over time. The book is a marvel of beautiful, poetic writing that will fill your mind with images of the American West. All of it is wonderful but I particularly loved her descriptions of rafting on the Grand Canyon. You can see her maturing as a scientist and human being with each passing page as she describes her family's move from the Midwest to Arizona and her many outings into mountain and canyon.

If you like John McPhee, you'll likely enjoy this book but her writing style is different. She comes at the landscape with the mind and eye of a scientist but with a lyrical spirit that comes across in the writing. Not many scientists are good communicators and even fewer can really write well. Dr. Wohl is an exceptional writer and one can only hope that she follows this book up with more to come.

If you have a love of the west, wild places, canyons, rocks and rivers and want a deeper understanding of how humans have shaped and are shaping the land we inhabit -- you should read this. I wish the photos were in color but they are nice and really, it's the great descriptive writing that's the star here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LF Photographer on November 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think that this book should be mandatory reading for anyone who contemplates moving to the southwest United States. Wohl is an excellent observer of the landscape and writes convincingly of the landscape and the consequences of man's interaction with it. Not all of the book deals with the interaction of humanity and the landscape, but my strongest memories of the book are the stories of the foolish things that people have done when placing their homes or trying to manage rivers without giving consideration to geologic, specifically geomorphologic record.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kristen Lodge on December 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in just a few days. It is a great story about caring about rivers and where you live. It is a perfect mix of science, love of place, and being inspired to care about a place.
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