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River-Horse (The Travel Trilogy #3)

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  1,361 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
On the Road Again
There's no shortage of 20th-century literature about traveling across America in a car. Even William Least Heat-Moon, author of River Horse, wrote a nonfiction work about his search in a beat-up Ford for himself and America (Blue Highways).

But not since the 19th-century adventures of Mark Twain, as told in Life on the Mississippi, have readers had the cha
Paperback, 502 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 08, 2012 mark rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Adventurers, writers of travel logs
There is no hiding in writing. You can run the River Of No Return in central Idaho, you can float the Xingu in central Brazil, raft the Grand Canyon of the wild Colorado, drive the Pacific Coast Highway, travel to faraway lands and cultures, or ride the rails and watch for fires in desolate, lookout towers in the middle of nowhere – you can ride and ride and ride, and run and run and run, but if you choose to write about your journey, you cannot hide who you are. William Least Heat-Moon, author ...more
Aug 18, 2010 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh man! I've been working on this book for a while. Once I'm finished with it I'm sure I'll give it four stars. I mean, I do like it. But like Blue Highways, Heat-Moon doesn't miss a detail or a bit of trivia and he doesn't miss an opportunity to share those things with you. The journey here is a SLOW one, it seems, because he offers so much so often. Bogs you down such that sometimes you just want to put your fingers in your ears and say, "Just open up the throttles and shut up for a minute, wi ...more
Nathan Pearson
Apr 25, 2007 Nathan Pearson rated it liked it
Haven't navigated all the way through yet. So far, Least Heat Moon's 'deep map' approach to digging headlong into the (recent) history of particular corners of north America is enlightening and surprisingly fast-paced (even if it's not the methodological novelty it's cracked up to be). His choice to refer to his touring companion as 'Pilotis', ostensibly so as to honor his friend's humble wish for anonymity, becomes grating about two pages in; and there's a lot of smug 'Year in Provence'-style c ...more
Jon Stout
Aug 12, 2007 Jon Stout rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: local color enthusiasts, lovers of Americana
Inspired by reading Blue Highways, I came to love the point of view of this native American author. He figures out a way to travel by water across the continental United States. His encounters with people along the canals, lakes and rivers recall the America of a century ago, when automobile and air travel did not prevail. He also teaches by example a warm and respectful attitude toward native Americans and towards all kinds of people.
May 12, 2007 Susannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alltimeclassics
when my wanderlust threatens to overcome me, all i have to do is take out my copy of this book and read a few chapters. william least-heat moon is one of my favourite authors, and his acount of travelling across america by boat is extraordinary. the people he encounters, the adventures he goes on, they all satisfy my hobo nature.
Jul 29, 2007 Lynn rated it really liked it
William Least Heat Moon gets this idea that he might find the Northwest Passage,plans the whole trip out, and then sets out to do it with a special boat, a good friend, and a group of people watching out for them and helping out when needed. His story is entrancing, part geography, part history, part autobiographical, part lyrical.
Sep 14, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Outdoorsy folk, conservationists, anyone who's never been on a river
Though a little hauty at times, it's amazing to read about the cultures that converge along the waterways. The author is definitely anti-civil works. As much damage as a dam can do to an ecosystem, there are benefits that are ignored by Least Heat Moon. One-sided environmentalism gets old, but a traveling story is timeless... definitely worth reading.
May 14, 2007 Josh rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People interested in the US
Shelves: booksread
A magical story about a journey through America's waterways that represents an analogy about life. Great spiritual pick-me-up.
Peter Kaminski
Jul 25, 2013 Peter Kaminski rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
For a book about rivers "River Horse" was about as dry as can be
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 Carl R. rated it it was amazing
William Least Heat-Moon. Our author slips in his anglo name at one point in this narrative, but only in the most sly way, as if it were a secret he uttered by mistake. He also reveals the meaning of Heat-Moon--an Indian (Osage) name for a midsummer moon. Least? I still don’t know. River Horse is that kind of book. Full of signs and portents and knowledge and suspense, always slipping around in currents or running aground in the shallows or stalled at the locks. The goals are definite, but dista ...more
Josh Braun
William [Trogdon] Least Heat-Moon's first book, Blue Highways, is one of my favorites of all time. And while River-Horse is by all rights a great achievement in travel writing, it is inevitably a bit of a let-down in comparison with Highways.

Part of what made Highways so soulful and charming was that it was written in such a deeply personal manner. Heat-Moon leaves on his original trip after a failed marriage, simultaneously seeking a break with his past and a chance to rediscover himself. He
Apr 10, 2015 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
Have you ever thought about traveling across America by boat? No really, not around, across; through the rivers and portages taking each snakey way around the land in a trusty motorized boat or canoe. Well Least Heat-Moon did, and with a friend (well a few friends at times) he did just that. Having read his Blue Highways and enjoyed it, I figured this would be a good one too.

Later in life after having traveled the blue highways of America, and with an impending divorce, Least Heat-Moon decides t
Joshua Buhs
I confess. I skimmed. A lot.

There's only so many times I wanted to read about what the author and his traveling companion had for lunch. Or for dinner.

The idea behind the book is sound enough. William Least Heat-Moon and a cadre of shifting compatriots--many of them known only by the pseudonym Pilotis ("rhymes with my lotus") travel by boat across America minimizing portage to an extreme degree--like, only 75 miles. All told, they travel over 5,000 miles along rivers and lakes. Interesting, righ
May 31, 2015 Beth rated it liked it
Kathy and Carl sent this for Christmas several years ago. I started it a couple of time but couldn't get into it, then Kathy posted it as a want to read (shall i send it to you?) and i decided I really needed to read it. River Horse tells of William Heat-Moon's desire to travel across the country by water. Mapping out and scheduling the trip around canal openings and snow melts was a gargantuan task in itself, yet alone finding an appropriate craft and crew ( on land and water) to make the trekp ...more
Hank Stone
Oct 14, 2012 Hank Stone rated it it was amazing
I picked this from the library after reading a positive review in the paper. Was drawn in immediately, by the author's skillful and intriguing blend of history, geography, characterization, and personality. It made me want to take the same trip, experiencing the American continent, not as we do so often these days, on interstates or looking down from 35,000 feet, but the way our ancestors did: from the waterways.
A year or so later, our local library was selling seldom-used books to make more sp
Apr 28, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: lost, boats
Passage to Juneau had many of the same sentiments as this book. William Least Heat-Moon captures a quick summation from one of the strangers he encounters, "When a man takes to the road, he is running away from something. When a woman takes to the road, she is looking for something." While he tracks a course through the Midwest, having started from the East Coast of America, carrying a liter of the Atlantic ocean in a mason jar, William Least Heat Moon seems intent on holding himself to some ide ...more
Dec 06, 2011 Stephen rated it liked it

It took just over four years to read William Least-Heat Moon's "Blue Highways." This account of his trip around the United States in a live-aboard van named Ghost Dancer using only local roads is highly episodic and lends itself to bathroom reading. It took just over two years to read his "River-Horse," which I never would have attempted, had I not found his first book so engaging. He is a good storyteller and genuinely enjoys meeting and describing interesting people. His interests in geography
Arielle Masters
I didn't dislike the book, really; I just found it to be overly long and wordier than I would have liked. The author has quite an extensive vocabulary and can be very amusing, but since this is more or less a transcription of his logs from a four-month cross-country journey by boat it is a very long slog. There are daily ups and downs, interesting observations of land and sea and people and towns, anecdotes from his and his companions' discussions, and so forth. Along the way, he brings in a lot ...more
May 27, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
I like books about history, traveling on water, and the natural world. I love boats and books about people who adventure in them, especially if there is some interesting history involved. This book did not disappoint. William Least-Heat Moon takes you from east to west across the United States on a variety of boats. You and he start out in a boat called "Nikawa" (or River Horse in Osage) and you float from New York Bay, up the Hudson River and then westward on rivers, lakes, canals and streams. ...more
May 30, 2015 Helena rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
There's an episode of Little House on the Prairie where Mr. and Mrs. Oleson build a raft and float down a river without a care in the world. Since seeing this as a kid its always seemed like a delightful way to travel during a vacation. Thanks to River Horse, aka Buzz Kill, I understand that traveling by river is neither especially relaxing nor particularly delightful.

WLHM's journey was epic and harrowing.The story is filled with near misses, reflection and regular people he and his companions
Mark Chadwick
Jun 18, 2014 Mark Chadwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read the classic "Blue Highways" in a couple of days when I was just out of law school. Loved it. Didn't know that the author had written two more books that constituted a "travel trilogy" until I started writing this review. Well-written but I didn't connect with it like I did "Blue Highways." I think there are a couple of reasons. "Blue Highways" chronicled the authors trip around America on the it's forgotten back roads. The literal "Blue Highways" of the title. It's a much more universal exp ...more
Brian Farkas
Jan 28, 2013 Brian Farkas rated it it was amazing
The premise behind the book, that the author is attempting to cross the United States by boat over the course of one season without lengthy portages provides the impetus for the voyage described herein. Heat-Moon's self-imposed strictures make for what seems to be manufactured drama, but the book is excellent in spite of it. The historical anecdotes and local color provided much of the book's allure for me, though the travelogue aspect of the book is not neglected.
On the other hand, the author
Oct 31, 2011 Jen rated it liked it
The writing is very calm and lyrical, though I could do without all of the jabs at the white man (people) and how they desecrate everything that they touch and all of the obscure literary quotes that the author and his "Pilotis" exchange back-and-forth. It's rather look-at-me-I'm-well-read-and-smarter-than-you. Also, it's a little more work than I would like to try to figure out when the author is speaking to others in the book and when he's just thinking, as he never uses quotation marks for hi ...more
Pat Monahan
Jan 14, 2012 Pat Monahan rated it it was amazing
First William Least Heat-Moon wrote about his circular journey from coast to coast and back on 'Blue Highways', then he wrote about his journey by water from coast to coast.

I was hooked from the time he motored under the Brooklyn Bridge up the Hudson to the Erie Canal. I read every word as he crossed Lake Erie, went down the Allegheny to the Ohio.

Enjoyed the journey on the Ohio and Missouri til the later ended in Montana. Loved how the story followed the steps of Lewis and Clark over the contine
Steven White
Oct 10, 2012 Steven White rated it really liked it
Heat-Moon is a wonderful writer who took me from the Atlantic to Pacific. His and his unique colleagues describe a journey like no other. I became familiar with river boat jargon that I hope never to hear first hand because I have no desire to be in a boat the size of Nikawa when on Lake Erie or the upper reaches of the Missouri River. In the first case it was too small and in the latter it must have been too big. Heat-Moon was ready for for all eventualities so it's in the canoe for Pilotis and ...more
Jan 29, 2015 Rj rated it really liked it
Each night I have been curling up in bed with William Least Heat Moon's Water Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America (New York: Mifflin, 1999). The book as the subtitle outlines is a travelogue of Heat Moon and a friend (Pilotus) and their attempt to cross America by water. Each night I look forward to opening up the book and my handy Road Atlas of North America to follow their journey up and down the waterways of the United States. I have always tracing the journey I am reading about, ther ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Stewart rated it it was ok
I worked at this for a long time - all the way up the Hudson, west to Lake Erie and all the way to the Ohio. Then I abandoned ship. I just found the writing far too contrived and over-intellectual. I kept wishing Bill Bryson was piloting the boat! There is a little 'sub-plot' in which the 'Cap', who is clearly not a fan of the author, tries to leave his boat behind. I can kind of see why. Perhaps he too got a bit tired of the 'clever' literary references. And I agree with an earlier reviewer tha ...more
Jun 02, 2013 Wally rated it it was amazing
Aa friend loaned me this book last summer and somehow I never got it read. Fortunately she reminded me that I still had it, so . . .I finally read it and am I ever happy I did. It is simply beautifully written. And, it is the true accounting of the author's 'trek' via boat name Nikawa which means River-Horse from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Heat-Moon writes prose like the smooth parts of the rivers he covered -- it flows. The descriptions of the scenery, water, people, etc. is memorable and the ...more
Mar 06, 2013 Thom rated it it was amazing
Heat-Moon demonstrates his remarkable storytelling skills, an encyclopedic knowledge of American history, and a masterful command of the English language to weave the lyrical tapestry that's "River-Horse." While you might want to keep a dictionary handy for this read, Heat-Moon is by no means overly pedantic in his narrative. He simply chooses the right word to precisely articulate a particular thought -- even if that word is one you'd be hard-pressed to find in even the most sophisticated perio ...more
Jun 20, 2015 Mike rated it liked it
Because I have walked around Lake Superior and taken the entire Mississippi River I really looked forward to this book. I did enjoy it, but I wanted more of the places, the scenery, the rivers and the lakes.

It was a personal adventure and perhaps a quest so it focused on the passengers and the problems. It was fun and there were some real challenges that they surmounted.

All adventurers can relate to a crazy dream like this and the effort it took to boat from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Imagine
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Goodreads Librari...: Error in first published date 2 15 Apr 01, 2013 02:22PM  
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From wikipedia:

William Least Heat-Moon, byname of William Trogdon is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry. He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S. travel writing.

His pen name came from his father saying, "I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon. You, coming last, therefore, are Least." Born in Kansas City, Missouri, H
More about William Least Heat-Moon...

Other Books in the Series

The Travel Trilogy (3 books)
  • Blue Highways
  • PrairyErth (A Deep Map)

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“I think it an invaluable advantage to be born and brought up in the neighborhood of some grand and noble object in nature: a river, a lake, or a mountain. We make a friendship with it; we in a manner ally ourselves with it for life.” 2 likes
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