Idaho Arts Quarterly » Reading Idaho

Kayaking Alone: Nine Hundred Miles from Idaho's Mountains to the Pacific Ocean

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(University of Nebraska Press)

In May 2001, journalist Mike Barenti put his ­kayak into the Salmon River and headed out for the Pacific. His two-month journey took him through some of the most striking geography on the continent, as well as through the Northwest's eventful history and conflicted identity.

Barenti camped most nights­ along the river but met a variety of people along the way, people who became part of his story. Woven through his story is also the saga of the salmon, the fish whose demise has been the price of progress in the Northwest. Yet Barenti does not oversimplify the issues. He's dismayed to find that the lower Snake has become "a river managed by bureaucrats and engineers," but knows that its dams make possible the electricity he's accustomed to using every day.

Part travelogue, part history lesson, part ecological meditation, Kayaking Alone is the product of a tough but revealing trip.