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William Least Heat-Moon
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River-Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America (The Travel Trilogy #3)

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  1,153 ratings  ·  134 reviews
Since hitting the American roads in Blue Highways nearly 20 years ago, William Least Heat-Moon has been following another calling--to traverse America by its rivers. "I wanted to see those secret parts hidden from road travelers," he writes. And from the waterways of his 5,000-mile voyage, Least Heat-Moon shares a sharp and stirring vision of America. Filling a small bottl ...more
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Turtleback Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,007)
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mark
Feb 08, 2012 mark rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Nathan Pearson
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
Brian
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
Jon Stout
Aug 12, 2007 Jon Stout rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rj
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
Mike
Sep 14, 2007 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
Stewart
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
Susannah
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.
Lynn
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.
Josh
May 14, 2007 Josh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
Melissa
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
...more
Mark Chadwick
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
Jen
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
Stephen

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
...more
Linda
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
Michael
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
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
...more
Hank Stone
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
...more
Pat Monahan
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
...more
Brian Farkas
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
...more
Carl Brush
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
Max Marbles
When I first heard of this book about a guy who transverses the USA in a C-Dory, I was on board. In reading it I was frustrated on two points, one, he never talks about the boat...really, two, he tries to get into this Indian shit and sorry, but it doesn't come across as sincere. He's so hellbent on getting there, he "misses the boat". Still, he's "on the water" and it has many good parts and has stuck in my thick head, so I suppose I'd read it again.
Steven White
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
Thom
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
Wally
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
Scampbell
I loved loved love Blue Highways so came to this with some high expectations. It's really not fair to compare them - Blue Highways was an anthology of people stories and this was about geography first. No cross continent river crossing could be otherwise. The chapters were uneven. Some were completely engaging and others seemed to be filling miles. In between he supplied plenty history of the US. It gets thumbs up from me and I'm passing on my copy to a friend. You really need a physical copy to ...more
Robin
I have read Heat-Moon's books before - well, maybe just Blue Highways, but I loved it and was excited about this one. Besides that I'm "in geography" and thought it would be helpful. River-Horse (what's up with the hyphen?) is loooooonnnnngggggg. The first couple of thousand miles were interesting, but I had to force myself to finish it. I got tired of his ranting about the governmental tweaking of the river systems. Usually when I come upon a word I don't know, I look it up, but in this one, I ...more
Gillian
A modern American pilgrimage tale: across the the country by river, filled with historical insight, and ecologically, plus morally, convicting when references to former explorations and local insights are juxtaposed with the actual realities of a 21st century crossing.
Thom
It was fun to read this book. I kept getting out the road atlas and the dictionary. I like his perspective on the world--his critical comments, his observations of the natural world, his love of literature and connection to earlier travelers on the rivers. His preparation for this journey must have included a lot of reading about the history of the places he passed through, for he shares interesting tidbits in every chapter. For all the isolation or insulation of being part of a small crew on a ...more
Lyle West
This book was just pure fun to read. I have certainly not met Mr. Moon, but this book makes me wish to. He must be entertaining, erudite and likely cantankerous. His writing is a delightful look at the interior of American life and a well stated summation of the effects of development on our waterways. We all need the appreciation he presents for our environment.
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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
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Other Books in the Series

The Travel Trilogy (3 books)
  • Blue Highways
  • PrairyErth (A Deep Map)
Blue Highways PrairyErth (A Deep Map) Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road Columbus in the Americas

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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.” 1 likes
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