Cover image for River horse : the logbook of a boat across America
River horse : the logbook of a boat across America
Heat Moon, William Least.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Physical Description:
506 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A Peter Davison book."
Reading Level:
1380 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 8.2 33.0 76251.

Reading Counts RC High School 11 36 Quiz: 24901 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E169.04 .H43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



In RIVER-HORSE, the preeminent chronicler of American back roads -- who has given us the classics BLUE HIGHWAYS and PRAIRYERTH -- recounts his singular voyage on American waters from sea to sea. Along the route, he offers a lyrical and ceaselessly fascinating shipboard perspective on the country's rivers, lakes, canals, and towns. Brimming with history, drama, humor, and wisdom, RIVER-HORSE belongs in the pantheon of American travel literature. In his most ambitious journey ever, Heat-Moonsets off aboard a small boat he named Nikawa ("river horse" in Osage) from the Atlantic at New York Harbor in hopes of entering the Pacific near Astoria, Oregon. He and his companion, Pilotis, struggle to cover some five thousand watery miles -- more than any other cross-country river traveler has ever managed -- often following in the wakes of our most famous explorers, from Henry Hudson to Lewis and Clark. En route, the voyagers confront massive floods, submerged rocks, dangerous weather, andtheir own doubts about whether they can complete the trip. But the hard days yield up incomparable pleasures: strangers generous with help and eccentric tales, landscapes unchanged since Sacagawea saw them, riverscapes flowing with a lively past, and the growing belief that efforts to protect our lands and waters are beginning to pay off. And, throughout its course, the expedition enjoys coincidences so breathtaking as to suggest the intervention of a divine and witty Providence. Teeming with humanity and high adventure, Heat-Moon's account is an unsentimental and original arteriogram of our nation at the edge of the millennium. Masterly in its own right, RIVER-HORSE, when taken with BLUE HIGHWAYS and PRAIRYERTH, forms the capstone of a peerless and timeless trilogy.

Author Notes

Under the name of William Least Heat-Moon, William Trogdon is the author of the best-selling classics BLUE HIGHWAYS, PRAIRYERTH, and RIVER-HORSE: A VOYAGE ACROSS AMERICA. He lives in Columbia, Missouri.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Writing under the name Heat-Moon (Blue Highways), William Trogdon once again sets out across America, this time propelled chiefly by a dual-outboard boat dubbed Nikawa, "River Horse" in Osage. In this hardy craft, he and a small crew attempt to travel more than 5000 miles by inland waterways from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a single season. Citing 19th-century travelogues and dredging odd bits of the rivers' past, Heat-Moon conveys the significance of passing "beneath a bridge that has looked down on the stovepipe hat of Abraham Lincoln, the mustache of Mark Twain, the sooty funnels of a hundred thousand steamboats." Though at first he is struck by how river travel is "so primordial, so unchanged in its path," he later notes that the only thing Lewis and Clark would recognize on a dammed and severely altered stretch of the Missouri River is the bedeviling prairie wind. But what remains constant for him is "the greatest theme in our history: the journey." It is an American theme, though by "westering" and persistently believing that the voyage is destined to succeed, Heat-Moon seems to be on dangerous waters for someone who is part Native American. But his romantic attachment to the nature of exploration doesn't occlude his indictments of pollution, overzealous river management and aboriginal displacement. The book, though largely engaging, is not without its slow spots, which Heat-Moon avers are true to the trip's nature: "the river is no blue highway because the river removes reverie." Heat-Moon has written a rich chronicle of a massive and meaningful undertaking. Unlike Blue Highways, however, the focus is not so much on people and places as on the trials of a journey that bypasses them in favor of reaching its destination. Illus. 250,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo; 13-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

In the nineteenth century, America's waterways were its superhighways, the main routes of travel and commerce linking the territories and states of a country rapidly expanding across a continent. In 1995, veteran travel writer William Least Heat-Moon (aka William Trogdon) climbed aboard a 22-foot motorboat, with minimal equipment and provisions, and set out to retrace those historic travel routes across the U.S. interior. Heat-Moon made his unique voyage in under a year, traveling 5,000 miles and meeting dozens of Americans who still live their lives on or near the rivers. Heat-Moon has alchemized his log from that trip into a monumental travel book. In the constant company of his companion (actually a series of companions) known only by the pseudonym "Pilotis" ("my Pylades, my Pythia, my Pytheas"), Heat-Moon records storms, floods, mishaps, wildlife, scenic beauty, hilarity, and philosophic musings. His prose is straightforward and folksy, reminiscent of Twain and Melville. His journey becomes a living history of the U.S. as the well-read author refers to numerous historical events that took place along his route, quoting at length from other writers and adventurers who preceded him. At more than 500 pages, his epic does seem to run long, but the book is composed of self-containing chapters and can be read selectively. There is a timeless quality to Heat-Moon's stories, all remarkably spellbinding and enchanting. An excellent book. Ted Leventhal

Library Journal Review

In this, the third title in his trilogy (following Blue Highways and Prairyerth), Heat-Moon strikes out to discover America through her rivers. Feeling that he "could never really know America until I'd seen it from the bends and reaches of its flowing waters," he acquired a small boat, which he named Nikawa (which means river horse), a copilot (referred to as Pilotis), and a logbook and set out to journey from New York City to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. In spite of the many obstacles he encounters, he has much time for reflectionÄoften bordering on superstitionÄand observation. The result is less a view from the river, which is obscured by natural valleys, river banks, and the usual border of trees, than of the people he meets along the way. His descriptions of them (and his ear for a good line) enhance our understanding of the places he visits. Heat-Moon set out to "experience the empire, learn the science, and report it to those who might not ever make the journey," and he has succeeded nobly. This evocative and masterly narrative is a reminder of the beauty and grandeur of our country. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/99.]ÄJulia Stump, Voorheesville P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



A Celestial Call to BoardFor about half a league after we came out of the little harbor on Newark Bay at Elizabeth, New Jersey - with its strewn alleys and broken buildings, its pervading aura of collapse, where the mayor himself had met us at the dock and stood before a podium his staff fetched up for him to set his speech on, words to launch us on that Earth Day across the continent as he reminded us of history here, of George Washington on nearly the same date being rowed across to New York City on the last leg of his inaugural journey - and for the half league down the Kill Van Kull (there Henry Hudson lost a sailor to an arrow through the neck), we had to lay in behind a rusting Norwegian freighter heading out to sea with so little cargo that her massive props were no more than half in the water and slapping up a thunderous wake and thrashing such a roil it sent our little teakettle of a boat rolling fore and aft. I quickly throttled back, and the following sea picked up our stern and threatened to ride over the low transom into the welldeck. We had no bilge pump to empty it, and the cabin door stood hooked open to the bright blue April morning and the sea air of New York Bay.My copilot roared, "Don't cut the motors so fast when we're riding a swell! You'll swamp us!" Only ten minutes out, we were nearly on our way to the bottom, sixty feet below. I turned toward the stern to see the bay rear above the transom just before the water raised Nikawa high enough to let the next wave ride under and shove her fast toward the chopping props of the freighter. Then her bow slipped down the other side of the swell, we pulled away from the big screws, and I idled to let the deep-water tramp move ahead until I got an open lane on her port side. We pushed past, cut through the wake of the Staten Island Ferry, and headed on toward the Atlantic."And that's how it begins," said my friend, a blue-water sailor, one whom I shall call Pilotis (rhymes with "my lotus"). It wasn't, of course, the beginning, for who can say where a voyage starts - not the actual passage but the dream of a journey and its urge to find a way? For this trip I can speak of a possible inception: I am a reader of maps, not usually nautical charts but road maps. I read them as others do holy writ, the same text again and again in quest of discoveries, and the books I've written each began with my gaze wandering over maps of American terrain. At home I have an old highway atlas, worn and rebound, the pages so soft from a thousand thumbings they whisper as I turn them. Every road I've ever driven I've marked in yellow, the pages densely highlighted, and I can now say I've visited every county in the contiguous states except for a handful in the Deep South, and those I'll get to soon. Put your finger at random anyplace in this United States atlas, and I've either been there or within twenty-five miles of it, but for the deserts of Nevada where the gap can be about twice that. I didn't se Excerpted from River-Horse: A Voyage Across America by William Least Heat-Moon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

My Lotic Matesp. ix
The Boatp. xi
I. The Hudson River
A Celestial Call to Boardp. 3
Up Rivers Without Sourcesp. 8
There Lurk the Skid Demonp. 14
A Drowned Riverp. 19
Where Mohicans Would Not Sleepp. 24
Snowmelt and a Nameless Creekp. 30
II. The Erie Canal
The Pull of a Continentp. 37
Released from the Necessity of Mundane Toilp. 43
Like Jonah, We Enter the Leviathanp. 50
Knoticals and Hangman's Ropep. 56
We Sleep with a Bad-Tempered Woman Tossed by Feverp. 61
III. The Lakes
Hoisting the Blue Peterp. 69
How the Sun Rose in the West to Set Me Straightp. 76
IV. The Allegheny River
An Ammonia Cocktail and a Sharp Onion-Knifep. 83
A Flight of Eagles, an Iron Bed, and So Forthp. 91
Unlimited Sprawl Areap. 96
Zing, Boom, Tararel!p. 101
V. The Ohio River
Proving the White Man a Liarp. 107
The Day Begins with a Goonieburgerp. 114
Enamel Speaksp. 123
Along the Track of the Glaciersp. 127
From Humdrummery on down toward Tediump. 132
A History of the Ohio in Three Wordsp. 137
A River Coughed Up from Hellp. 146
A Necessity of Topography and Heartp. 149
Nekked and Without No Posiesp. 156
Eyeless Fish with Eight Tailsp. 161
The Great Omphalos in Little Egyptp. 166
VI. The Mississippi River
A Night Without Light on a River Without Exitsp. 173
The Ghost of the Mississippip. 178
Of Swampsuckers and Samaritansp. 181
To the Tune of "Garry Owen" We Get Readyp. 186
VII. The Lower Missouri River
We Start up the Great Missourip. 193
I Attach My Life to the Roots of a Cottonwoodp. 200
A Language with No Word for Floodp. 203
Looking the River in the Eyep. 209
Clustered Coincidences and Peach Piep. 214
Gone with the Windingsp. 220
Pilotis's Cosmic View Gets Bad Newsp. 226
The Dream Lines of Thomas Jeffersonp. 231
A Water Snake across the Bowp. 237
Sacred Hoops and a Wheel of Cheddarp. 242
VIII. The Upper Missouri River
We Find the Fourth Missourip. 249
The Phantom Ship of the Missouri Reedsp. 257
How to Steal Indian Landp. 263
A Conscientious Womanp. 270
Flux, Fixes, and Flumdiddlep. 275
Sitting Bull and the Broom of Heavenp. 284
How to Be a Hell of a Rivermanp. 289
Yondering up the Broomsticksp. 298
Chances of Aught to Naughtp. 303
We Walk under the Great Riverp. 308
Why Odysseus Didn't Discover Americap. 314
Pilotis Concocts an Indian Name for Godp. 321
Trickles, Dribbles, and Gurgletsp. 325
My Life Becomes a Prepositionp. 331
Little Gods and Small Catechismsp. 343
Eating Lightningp. 346
Imprecating the Windp. 352
Into the Quincunxp. 356
Planning for Anything Less than Everythingp. 369
Over the Ebullitionp. 374
Ex Aqua Lux et Visp. 377
Weaknesses in Mountains and Menp. 384
A Nightmare Alleyp. 388
No Huzzahs in the Heartp. 393
IX. The Mountain Streams
We Meet Mister Elevenp. 401
Eating the Force that Drives Your Lifep. 409
An Ark from God or a Miracle of Shoshonesp. 413
A Shameless Festal Boardp. 418
X. The Salmon River
Bungholes and Bodacious Bouncesp. 429
XI. The Snake River
My Hermaphroditic Questp. 449
Kissing a Triding Keepsakep. 454
Messing About in Boatsp. 458
XII. The Columbia River
The Far Side of the River Cocytusp. 465
Place of the Deadp. 473
Theater of the Graveyardp. 479
A Badger Called Plan Ap. 482
Robot of the Riverp. 489
A Taproom Fit for Raggedy Annp. 493
Salt to Salt, Tide to Tidep. 498
An Afterword of Appreciationp. 505
If You Want to Helpp. 507