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Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha Paperback – December 1, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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  • Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha
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  • Elwha: A River Reborn
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  • Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Unearthing of Tse-whit-zen Village (Capell Family Books)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Employing sound historical analysis and scientific evidence, he makes a valuable contribution to the literature on river development by directing attention to smaller dams that have cumulatively had major ecological effects. At the same time, he highlights the diversity, fluidity, and continued vitality of the modern environmental movement. -Andrew Fisher, Environmental History

Crane's research is impressive, and his narrative prose . . . drives home a conservation message with extraordinary force. Crane discusses the Elwha Dam as part of a larger story of industrialization and de-industrialization of rivers across America and plumbs the literature on the romantic, conservation, and environmental movements to understand reasons for its removal. The scope of the book . . . is impressive. In this sense, Finding the River will remain the exemplar in what is sure to become a growing commentary on dam-removal all across America. -Richard Judd, Oregon Historical Quarterly

Crane sets out to explore the Elwha and the evolving environmental attitudes that have shaped it. This open-ended approach makes the book a remarkably smooth and fluid read, with a narrative that runs easily from the ice age to the present day. This style does demand a little more attention from an academic reader, though, as Crane braids his findings and arguments seamlessly into the Elwha story.-Peter Brewitt, Journal of Environmental Studies

About the Author

Jeff Crane is an associate dean at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.  He coedited Natural Protest: Essays on the History of American Environmentalism and is also the author of The Environment in American History: Nature and the Formation of the United States 
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oregon State University Press (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870716077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870716072
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
At first glance, "Finding the River" seems to be about dams and salmon and an oddly specific river in the Pacific Northwest.

However, author Jeff Crane peels back the many layers surrounding the recent removal of the Elwah and Glines Canyon dams which have starved the river of its salmon for decades. Crane uses this topic as a jumping off point for a larger discussion involving the native Klallam Indian culture, the nature and evolution of environmental discourse in America, the role of state and federal government in environmentalism, and what the restoration of the Elwah river means in a larger context of a nationwide environmental movement. Each one of these topics, Crane handles with care and is very aware of the scholarship that came before him (I say this with in mind the first chapter over the Klallam Indians and his treatment of Richard White in his conclusion).

Through his meticulous and careful writing, Crane successfully infuses the topics of river restoration and environmentalism with subtlety and nuance. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has read William Cronen's "Changes in the Land" or anyone who is interested in environmental history or ecology.
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Over the last decade there has been a bit of negligence within the historical community when titling publications. This under-sight often extends to the introductions of books which outline more subject matter than the authors actually intend on investigating. Jeff Crane's Finding the River: An Environmental History of the Elwha unfortunately maintains this unfortunate pattern. Crane has not written an environmental history rather, he has written a socio-economic history of the Elwha and the public policy surrounding the river for the last one hundred years (and quite thoroughly at that). Early on in the book Crane promises to address deep philosophical questions about habitat restoration and cultural continuity as well as how the Elwha story reveals "the role of nature" in our lives. Crane explains, "Many Americans struggle to understand and negotiate the role of nature in their lives. The story of the Elwha River reveals a great deal about this relationship..." Finding the River does not adequately address these questions and assertions.

The Elwha River is located in the northern reaches of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula and flows through Olympic National Park before emptying into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was the location of two treaty-defying dam projects which transcended decades, were an engineering blunder, and ultimately failed to deliver on their promises to the public and politicians who lobbied for them. After much debate, the decision was made, with federal support, to deconstruct the two technologically obsolete dams. If this were the intended scope of the book, it would be complete and resolved in its mission.
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The book was outstanding, detailling the history of the Elwha River. I grew up near the Elwha and spent many days there in my youth. A lot of the book brought forth history and facts i did not know. thank you...
Norman
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This book offers a narrative of the Elwha, to most of us a little known river that runs through the Olympia National Park in Washington State, focusing on the battles that have been fought over the last one-hundred and fifty years to first harness its potential power and, more recently, to attempt to restore the river to its original purpose. The work is surprisingly timely, given that the author could not have known when he began the project that the two major dams on the Elwha would finally come down in 2011 after decades of struggle. But the story of how this came about, the various factions that collided and the many different peoples and natural resources affected by its history is fascinating and instructive with implications for communities throughout the US. Crane builds a narrative that includes the Klallam Natives who continue to claim the land and the resources of the river as their special provenance, nineteenth-century entrepreneurs and progressives who viewed the river as an "organic machine," early environmental movement leaders, factory mill operators and their blue collar employees, and not least of all, the salmon themselves who depend upon the natural flow of the river to maintain their complex spawning cycles. Given that this is an environmental history, it should come as little surprise that Crane stands in support of the river restoration project, but his balanced portrayal of the various parties involved will be illuminating to anyone concerned about the question of hydro-electric dams and their impact on the land. I was surprised to learn just how far back some of these battles go.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This book was much anticipated by me, so my disappointment having now read it is all the more keen. I had expected a real environmental history of the Elwha. I was looking forward to learning about the tributaries that feed the river, about the soil composition, the geological composition of the underlying substrate, the PH level, how the river bank height changes depending on location, levels of erosion, what kinds of flora and fauna the river supports, and both specific as well as relative water flow and turbidity. I had hoped that the descriptions of the dams would be more comprehensive and balanced, including a real description of the technologies used and how the area around has utilized them. I had hoped to read a discussion of how hikers and tourists affect the ecology, and how the delta at the mouth of the river has changed in a more substantive manner - and so on. I had hoped to learn about salmon, but as part of a larger system.

What this book actually does is only discuss how salmon and the Klallam Indians have been affected by the two dams on the Elwha River. The central argument of the book can be summarized as follows: Fish and Indians good, white man and dams bad. This might be true, but his argument both lacks clarity and fails to address any other ways of looking at the issues - and thus fail to feel well developed. It feels less like a thoughtful environmentalist speaking, and more like a High School student recounting what his social studies teacher taught him as though they were his own ideas.

The book does do a tolerable job of describing how natives utilized the river, including a particularly fascinating account about how the natives fished. He goes on to narrate the arrival of the white man (very little detail is given), and the erection of the two dams.
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