The Columbia and its tributaries are rivers of conflict. Amid pitched battles over the economy, the environment, and the breaching of dams on the lower Snake River, the salmon that have always quickened these rivers are disappearing. On a warm day in late May, Mike Barenti entered the heart of this conflict when he slid a white-water kayak into the headwaters of central Idaho's Salmon River and started paddling toward the Pacific Ocean. This account of his two-month, nine-hundred-mile solo journey into the world of the Columbia Basin plunges us into the adventure of navigating these troubled waterways.
Kayaking Alone is a narrative of man and nature, one-on-one, but also of man and nature writ large. In the stories of the river guides and rangers, biologists and ranchers, American Indians and dam workers he meets along the way, the rich and complicated life of the river emerges in a striking, often painfully clear panorama. Through his journey, the ecology, history, and politics of Pacific salmon unfold in fascinating detail, and with this firsthand knowledge and experience the reader gains a new and personal sense of the nature that unites and divides us.
Mike Barenti is a writer and journalist who has worked as a reporter for the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Idaho Falls Post Register and has taught English and creative writing at various colleges.
Acknowledgments Map 1. Sunbeam 2. Where the Marlboro Man Might Settle 3. Henry Clay Merritt, on His 158th Birthday 4. Into the Wilderness 5. Watching Fish in Riggins 6. Dragonflies and the Plant Migration 7. Into the Breach 8. Locking through with Smolt 9. River of Empire 10. The Swallowing Monster and the Pictograph Island 11. Watching Fish at Bonneville Dam 12. Used Up by the Wind 13. Looking Back at Cape Disappointment Selected Sources