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The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon Hardcover – May 7, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 676 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Emerald Mile is the rarest of creations–a magical convergence of words and paper, wood and water, rock and sky, human character and cosmic caprice. Can an adventure story be as beautiful as it is heart-stopping and exciting? This one is, and Fedarko’s book is as inspiring as a dory itself, flying down a wild river. I have no doubt it will become an instant classic, a timeless chronicle of what can still be legitimately called the American spirit." (Bob Shacochis author of Swimming in the Volcano and Easy in the Islands)

"From the bottom of our planet's most awesome landscape, Kevin Fedarko has found and rescued a great American tall tale that just happens to be true. As a boatman, Fedarko knows this world intimately. As a writer, he'll make you understand it, savor it, and ultimately love it as you never have before. Here is an instant classic of adventure literature—a story shot through with bravura but also touched by the rarest kind of grandeur." (Hampton Sides editor-at-large at Outside magazine and author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers)

“Kevin Fedarko’s new brilliant work... is the story about wilderness and the American mind, albeit an American mind juiced on Class V adrenaline... Perhaps because we sympathize so strongly with the characters of The Emerald Mile—thanks in no small part to Fedarko’s flowing proseyou'll feel yourself lurching along with them on wooden boats, in ocher-hued canyons, beneath cobalt skies, into the frenzied thrashings of the Colorado River as the very landscape of the West attempts to choke it.” (Mountain magazine)

The Emerald Mile re-creates an incredible voyage through the flood-swollen Grand Canyon in such heart-pounding detail that you need to pause every few pages to catch your breath... He writes so vividly that your favorite reading chair becomes a spray-soaked perch on a bucking boat hit hard by a river running high and fast.” (Dallas Morning News)

“It would not be overblown to say The Emerald Mile deserves a spot on the bookshelf alongside such enduring classics as Cadillac Desert, Desert Solitaire and Encounters with the Archdruid. It's that good.” (Durango Telegraph)

“At its heart an engrossing meditation on the eternal struggle between man and nature.” (Pittsburg Post-Gazette)

“Powerful and poetic passages put readers inside the adventurers’ boats, even if they have only ever imagined the Grand Canyon or seen it in pictures... Each piece of the story is assembled as lyrically as the epoch-spanning walls of canyon itself… an epic-sized true-life adventure tale that appeals to both the heart and the head.” (Kirkus)

“His poetic and descriptive writing should only brighten his accolades and helps his non-fiction book read like a fast-paced fiction adventure... It isn’t necessary to be a history buff or whitewater expert to enjoy this story...With meticulous research, notes and epilogue, Fedarko tells a satisfying story that is quite an entertaining ride.” (Deseret News)

“Fedarko’s effortlessly engaging narrative... is a labor of passion from an adventurous journalist who still calls the Grand Canyon home.” (Boulder Weekly)

“Kevin Fedarko's magnificent book covers a lot of ground – and water... So it is a great boon of Fedarko’s book that he tells the story of the dam, and of the engineers and technicians who built it... with as much respect and homage as he gives to the dorymen.” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

“Grua’s wild ride on the Colorado, how it mirrored his mercurial personality, is just one part of Fedarko’s story; however, the ride, which runs through seven states, and the canyon, rich in both geological and political history, prove to be the real protagonists.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

"Fedarko's first book is a masterpiece of literary nonfiction, a method of writing that uses the techniques of novelists and short story writers to tell true stories in a compelling manner. Think Into Thin Air or The Perfect Storm. Fedarko spent years as an editor at Outside magazine, working with some of the best writers in the world; with The Emerald Mile, he has joined them as a thoughtful, thorough researcher and superb storyteller." (The Oklahoman)

"Journalist and part-time river guide Kevin Fedarko has produced a work of jaw-dropping scope and page-turning action in this account of a speed record of rowing the length of the Grand Canyon that remains unmatched.... An unforgettable read, rendered in vivid, sometimes majestic, prose." (Christine Wald-Hopkins, Pima County Public Library (Arizona), “S)

"This spellbinding true story leaps from the inner workings of Glen Canyon Dam and the psyches of river guides to boat-eating whirlpools and a wooden river dory named the Emerald Mile. Kevin Fedarko’s prodigious research and breathtaking narrative transcend the Southwest. It’s a roaring adventure with wave after wave of spills and thrills. Let’s hope Fedarko owns the movie rights." (Bill Broyles, Pima County Public Library (Arizona), "Sout)

About the Author

Kevin Fedarko lives in northern New Mexico and works as a part-time river guide in Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to his travel narratives in Outside, where he worked as a senior editor, Fedarko’s work has appeared in Esquire, National Geographic Adventure, and other publications, and has been anthologized in The Best American Travel Writing in 2004 and 2006. Fedarko was a staff writer at Time magazine from 1991 to 1997, where his work helped garner an Overseas Press Club Award for a story on the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Fedarko earned a Masters of Philosophy in Russian history at Oxford in 1990.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439159858
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439159859
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (676 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert C Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
30 years ago my wife gave my son and me a trip down the Grand Canyon in a dory. Over the years, I've traveled extensively in over 100 countries and on all of the continents. That Grand Canyon boat trip was one of the greatest travel experiences of my life.

This book captures all of the thrills, excitement and history of that wonderful experience. We had five guides on the trip, all of whom were extremely knowledgeable and at night we sat by the campfires and learned about many of the stories contained in this account.

In many respects, I was torn over leaving the canyon. Except that I had a wife and two little kids, I would've loved to sign on as a guide on the river trips. Had I taken the trip before I was married, I really believe I might have ended up a River Rat on the Colorado River.

The book joins the other great Grand Canyon books in my library:

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons (Penguin Classics); who can ever forget a one-armed war hero hanging from a tree branch over the raging river -- did they really think they could run a railroad down that massive gorge?

...Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully written story of the river guides' life on the Colorado River and the equally important story of Glen Canyon Dam. I lived the story of my husband's experiences at Glen Canyon Dam in the summer of 1983, never knowing the story of Kenton Grua and his colleauges and their scary river run downstream of the dam. Kevin has brought the two stories together in a beautifully written and interwoven story of the human experience to overcome life's challenges from the two opposite perspective of those who love the open river and those who desire to control the river for beneficial uses. Kevin does an excellent job of representing both perspectives with respect and dignity. Once opened, this is a hard book to close.
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Format: Hardcover
The Emerald Mile is a stunning history of the Colorado River--a piece of history flowing through the Grand Canyon, inhibited only by the Glen and Hoover dams, bookends to a monstrous and terrifying natural wonder. Fedarko captures the allure of the river as he shares in brilliant detail its wildness, beauty, and power. There are a few authors who can capture life within the stories of history, and Fedarko is one of them, making the Colorado real and alive to those who have never experienced it. Even if you don't like history or whitewater or adventure, this book will enthrall you with the sheer power of its words. When you finish, you may find that you too, like Grua and the hundreds of other river runners whose stories form the contents of this book, are entranced by the wonderful monster we call the Colorado River.
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I have read "a few" books on the Grand Canyon over the decades, and this one is at the very top of the list. It's hard to tell you how much I enjoyed every word. Don't know if I am biased because I love rowing wooden boats through The Canyon, but I would hope my appreciation for amazing writing talent trumps that. The enjoyment I have experienced from this extremely well crafted work of art is off the charts! Wow!

We as a family often read books aloud to each other. When we were doing this with "Emerald Mile", we found that we had to pause often and just absorb and relish in the incredible magic of the words that had just transpired. Descriptions of "floating mandolins" in tune with "the harmonics of the river" and on and on....just pure delight to visualize! I love the description of the feeling of the connection of a wooden boat with water....things that an author could only know from years of being with and dreaming about the boats.

You don't have to be a river person to enjoy this work, as the words flow just as beautifully as a river itself. Kevin Fedarko's dedication to and love for the subject is clear and truly amazing!

Mike Martin
Grand Canyon private dory boatman
admirer of outstanding writing
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book! (that's the short version)

Specifically, the background and insight into the events leading up to the Colorado river run really made the book fascinating. The author did a great job incorporating all parts of the story of the run - from the origins of the official discovery of the Grand Canyon to the push to build dams to the history of exploration of the Colorado and its history - all told in an entertaining and enlightening way. But (here's my disclaimer) I live in Arizona, so, many of the topics the author writes about are situations, places, policies that I am at least partially familiar with.

The actual run (which is in the last quarter of the book) was anticlimactic for me. It was exciting to think of running specific rapids and to read of the challenges other people on the river at the same time experienced (some quite frightening), but the actual account of the run is relatively sparse. The actual story of the run really does revolve around the 'big' picture - the problems at Glen Canyon Dam, the unique culture of river guides, the history of dories, and the politics of getting a permit to attempt the run. It's obvious the book was written by someone captivated by the experience of being on the river and the beauty of the surroundings.

I also need to mention that the author does an admirable job of balancing the goals and values of the river runners (who are generally of the conservation mindset) with the goals and values of the operators of the dam (who are generally more interested in furthering the ability to use technology wisely). I never felt as though he had an agenda in presenting both sides - which was a huge breath of fresh air! I have no problem with reading an agenda type book when I know that's what I'm getting. I really appreciated an opportunity to see both sides of the argument for and against Glen Canyon Dam specifically.
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