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The impetus for River Horse is one of intrigue--less urgent than the departure in Blue Highways--and the narrative possesses a captivating pull as it courses westward through the strongest currents and pauses in the back eddies of contemporary American life. Least Heat-Moon is in his element. Written in short thematic chapters, River Horse plies canals, greets the Missouri's many moods, and challenges chaotic waves. Indeed, the turbulent and placid waters of America flow throughout this well-told story. When Nikawa finally reaches the Pacific Ocean, Least Heat-Moon has discovered a new America in the country he knows so well. He ponders the command that rivers hold on him and celebrates the national treasures that they are. Exceeding 500 pages, River Horse may be a long journey, but when traveling by rivers, America is a larger country. A triumphant book all the way to the salty Pacific. --Byron Ricks
In his most ambitious journey ever, Heat-Moon sets 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, and their 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.