Water and the West

There isn't enough of it, now more than ever. The history of how water has been redistributed throughout the lands beyond the hundredth meridian is utterly fascinating. We'll concentrate on three river systems in the West: the Columbia, the Colorado, and Clay's Missouri River, each one sometimes claiming to "the most industrialized river in America."

Among the subjects: William Mulholland's theft of the water of California's Owens Valley for Los Angeles; the building of the great dams on the Colorado and the Columbia; the devastation of Native American homelands by the great earthen dams on the Missouri River; John Wesley Powell's attempt to rethink the western development paradigm in the face of the scarcity of water in the region; the likely impact of global climate change on American water supplies and access; salmon. And much more.

We will begin by centering ourselves in the "water commonwealth" (Powell's term) at Lochsa Lodge. The books listed below read like novels because the subject in question is so rich, absorbing, even gripping. The best way to prepare is to read these books, but there is an excellent documentary film adaptation of Reisner's Cadillac Desert.

 
 

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