The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers

Rivers have inspired many a song verse--including Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene" and Robeson's sensitive rendition of Kern and Hammerstein's "Ol' Man River." To Duke University environmental science professor Martin Doyle, however, the country's bountiful rivers shaped the very history, government and economics of the U.S. from its very beginnings. George Washington went surveying out west to look for an easy way to connect the East Coast rivers with the fertile Ohio River Valley. Since then, the nation's 250,000 navigable rivers have powered engines of commerce, migration and leisure. Doyle's illustrated The Source affirms the critical place rivers held in the growth of the country and the valuable role of federal oversight of this rich resource.

New York's Ohio and Erie Canal was the first successful commercial attempt to modify topography by connecting the Hudson River to the Ohio River. From there, the government's controversial role in "channelizing" and managing our inland waters greatly expanded with the establishment of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the construction of miles of levees along the Mississippi River and public works projects like the Hoover Dam and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Drawing on anecdotal interviews and primary research, The Source covers them all. It is both a solid history and a thought-provoking primer on the role of the federal government in managing natural resources. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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