A few years after the end of the
Civil War, ten men in four boats set out to explore a thousand miles of
river, from Wyoming to the Gulf of California, a route previous
explorers and even the Indians consider to be impassable. The are a
pick-up crew of rough frontiersmen, trappers, a newspaper editor, a
demented ex-army captain, a teenager, an overweight Englishman, all led
by a one-armed botany professor and ex-army major. Only a few know how
One hundred days later, six half-starved men in two boats emerge at a
Mormon camp in Nevada. They have experienced rapids, falls, fire, flood,
fights, attempted murder, near drownings, and ambush by hostile Indians,
all amid vistas of surpassing beauty. In the course of the journey they
must not only struggle with the awesome power of the river, but each man
must make an internal journey that changes him forever.
Ardian Gill's fictional re-creation of the conquest of the last great
unknown territory in the United States is a first person account in the
voice of one of the crew, based on the letters and diaries of the men
who survived and those who didn't to "put the reader in the boats, on
the water, in the squalid camps."
In the words of one reviewer, "Read this novel for the adventure, for
the character studies, and for the satisfaction of how ordinary men can
uplift us by their determination and physical courage."