The Top 6 River Adventure Books
With much of the world getting into the swing of social distancing, now is the perfect time to start on the reading list. Here are some of my favorites river related adventure books.
1. The Last River: The Tragic Race For Shangri-la by Todd Balf
A few early explorers adventured into Tibet in search of the mythical Himalayan utopia called Shangri-la. Stories of a great river and huge water falls enticed extreme whitewater boats looking for their next big descent. While often called the Mount Everests of Rivers, Tibet's Yarlung Tsangpo River pulls in some of the worlds best kayakers. After years of planning and scouting trips 1998 was the year for Jamie McEwan, Roger Zbel, Doug Gordon, and Tom McEwan to tackle this first descent. (Purchase on Amazon)
2. Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet's Tsangpo River by Peter Heller
From near the base of Mount Kailash, the Yarlung Tsangpo flows east through the Tibetan Plateau. Collecting snowmelt and rain before heading south though India and Bangladesh. A few years after the the 1998 expedition Scott Lindgren, Steve Fisher, Mike Abbott, Allan Ellard, Dustin Knapp, and Johnnie and Willie Kern make their bid at running this legendary river. Enjoy reading about the ups and downs of being an expedition leader while also trying to tackle some of the hardest whitewater on the planet. Once you have put the book back on the shelf check out Into The Tsangpo Gorge, a film Scot Lindgren made about the adventure. (Purchase on Amazon)
3. The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride Through the heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko
The Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is on every river runners list. What a romantic thought of spending weeks on end floating down a river not hearing from the outside world. This book takes you through the history of the canyon as well as the one fastest descents of the Grand Canyon. (Purchase on Amazon)
4. The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abby
The Post-War American West is changing, Hayduke and his friends plan on sticking it to the Man any way they can. I am sure you have heard folks talk about blowing up dams and ruining heavy machinery around the camp fire. Well this is the book that may have started it all. Edward Abbey weaves a tail of misfits looking to stop the southwest from development. (Purchase on Amazon)
5. Owyhee Trails: The Wests Forgotten Corner by Mike Hanley
While this isn't really a book about wild river adventures it is still filled with tales of the wild west. As settlers moved west, they battle the elements, natives, and remoteness just for a place to call home. Silver and cattle ranching brought most of the people here, they just didn't all stay for long. For sure check this book out if you have any adventures planned out in the Owyhee Canyonlands. (Purchase on Amazon)
6. Never Turn Back: The Life of Whitewater Paddler Walt Blackadar by Ron Watters
This is the life story of legendary paddler Walt Blackadar. His first descent of Turnback Canyon on the Alsek River is among the most legendary trips of all time. (Purchase on Amazon)
Disclosure: We may earn a small commission from links to any products or services from this page. Your purchase helps support our work in providing information to the whitewater community.
What are some of your favorite river related adventure reads?