Cover image for Chasing monarchs : migrating with the butterflies of passage
Chasing monarchs : migrating with the butterflies of passage
Pyle, Robert Michael.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 307 pages : maps ; 22 cm
General Note:
Maps on lining papers.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL561.D3 P95 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



After chasing Bigfoot in his last book,Robert Pyle has shifted his attention to a smaller creature, but one that is just as remarkable. The monarch butterfly is our best-known and best-loved insect, and its annual migration over thousands of miles is an extraordinary natural phenomenon, though one that is poorly understood. Myths about the monarchs' travels abound, and to separate fact from fiction, Pyle set out late one summer to follow the wanderers south from their northernmost breedinggrounds in British Columbia. He migrated with them down the Columbia, Snake, Bear, and Colorado Rivers, across the Bonneville Salt Flats, through Hell's Canyon and the Grand Canyon, to Mexico, then turned up the California coast to track another leg of their migration. CHASING MONARCHS is one of the most fascinating book ever written about butterflies. It's also a lively and compelling travel book about the American West, filled with unforgettable places and characters, both animal and human.

Author Notes

Robert Michael Pyle is the author of twelve books, including "Where Bigfoot Walks", "Wintergreen", & "The Thunder Tree". He lives in Washington State.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ecologist and writer Pyle has been chasing butterflies for 40 years. Now he chronicles the most arduous, exhilarating, and revelatory quest of his distinguished career, the tracking of the monarchs' great migrations. He draws his readers in with breathtaking descriptions of the "sky river" the butterflies create as they flow north in the spring and south in the fall to winter along the California coast and in Michoacan, Mexico, enacting "the grandest butterfly spectacle on the planet." Also known as the milkweed butterfly after the sole source of nutrition for its offspring and as the wanderer for its famous yet little understood journeys, the monarch is a far hardier creature than it appears. Pyle follows the monarchs' paths from British Columbia across Washington and into Idaho, Utah, the deserts and mountains of the Southwest, and, finally, California and Mexico, describing the land, the people he meets, and the plants, birds, and animals as precisely as he explicates the wonders of the monarchs' navigational abilities and endurance, their beauty, and their mystery. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Scientists know that monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles each year between northern parts of the U.S. and Mexico or California, but no one has actually seen how they do it. So ecologist Pyle (Where Bigfoot Walks) decided to try. His method: to find individual butterflies at their northernmost habitat, follow them as far as possible, then repeat the process with other individual butterflies along the southward route. Amazingly, this haphazard approach worked. Pyle began near the Canadian border, at the Columbia River, and followed monarchs to the Mexican border√Ącovering 9462 miles in 57 days and proving that western monarchs do not all migrate to California, as commonly believed. Though Pyle's account of his rambling trip suggests that much of it must have been more fun to live through than to read about, he enlivens uneventful sections with butterfly arcana, humorous reminiscences and rueful observations on the environmental impact of cattle ranching, pesticides, dams and jet skis. Pyle's laid-back humor is appealing, his descriptive talents are often poetic (he remembers monarchs pouring into a Mexican valley "like a heavy orange vapor" in which individuals resembled "flecks of foam and water as they top a waterfall and plunge down into the foaming mass"). His memoir serves both as tribute to this majestic insect and as a thoughtful tour of the contemporary American West. Detailed sectional maps would have enhanced the book's appeal; endpaper map not seen by PW. (Aug.) FYI: Pyle is currently editing a collection of Vladimir Nabokov's butterfly writings. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Lepidopterist Pyle, a Ph.D. in ecology with many books to his name, tracks the migration of the mighty monarch. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Beginnings: Sky Riverp. 1
1 Similkameenp. 11
2 Okanoganp. 28
3 Grand Couleep. 43
4 Crabp. 57
5 Columbiap. 73
6 Deschutes-John Dayp. 101
7 Hell's Canyonp. 118
8 Snakep. 127
9 Bearp. 145
10 Bonnevillep. 159
11 Apache Goldp. 181
12 Guadalupep. 197
13 Buenos Airesp. 210
14 Cibolap. 223
15 Pacificop. 236
16 Fandangop. 253
Endings: Recoveryp. 268
Appendix Conserving the Monarch of the Americasp. 277
Further Reading and Resourcesp. 281
Acknowledgmentsp. 287
Indexp. 291