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The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  3,787 Ratings  ·  568 Reviews
From one of Outside magazine’s “Literary All-Stars” comes the thrilling true tale of the fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983.

In the tradition of The Perfect Storm and Seabiscuit, the engrossing tale of the fastest boat ride ever down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Scribner
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Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Best book I've read in a long time. At first it just seems like it's about some dudes trying to break a speed record for running a river, but it turns out to be a history of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, the Glen Canyon dam, conservation ... and then the adventure aspect of running the Colorado in flood stage. Impressively well-researched and very well-written. Any of my peeps that are into the outdoors or history -- read this.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A really brilliant work that encompasses both the natural and man-made history on the Colorado river. The first few chapters stumble a bit but once you get to the beginning of Powell's adventure, Fedarko has found his stride.

Fedarko weaves an intricate, fast-paced narrative with beautiful language and an zeal for his topic. I particularly appreciated Fedarko's fairness in covering the dam, the park rangers, and the river rats.

I found it impossible to not be awed because at its core this is a b
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ok, if you have an issue with whitewater, don't read this before going on a Colorado River trip. Granted, the waters were coming out of the dam at 94,000 cfs rather than 6-8,000 cfs but can't you drown in a bathtub?

Other than scaring the shit out of me before my Grand Canyon trip, it is a great history of the Grand Canyon and how it was changed by Glen canyon dam, the conservation fight to save it from more dams (when the Sierra Club was told by Martin Litton to grow a pair and fight for it ins
Phil Breidenbach
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
WOW, best book I've read this year (Of course, it is only Jan. 12th)

The book tells the story of the fasted ride through the Grand Canyon. Since the river had been dammed, the flow has been regulated and it never reaches the peaks that it once achieved in its pre-blocked years. We all have heard of Major John Wesley Powell's trip through the canyon, this 1987 ride rivaled that. Due to large snow falls and an extreme amount of rain, the water levels at the Glen Canyon Dam were getting closer and c
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Unlike the record-chasing canyon run recounted in The Emerald Mile, I did not race through this work. That is not to say it dragged. The book was engrossing and often quite intense. Author Kevin Fedarko captures the high stakes nature of this historic time in the Grand Canyon's history. He ably pulls together a wide variety of sources to accurately convey the story. The task is challenging given that many incidents happened amid chaos and tend to be scantily documented and skewed by legend lovin ...more
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it
I also would like to rate this higher. Having (met many of the characters as a part of my river family and) grown up hearing these legends and histories told while gathered around the Dories at cocktail hour, I enjoyed reliving this in my imagination. For the son of a dory boatman from the Golden Age of Guiding it was a joy and vindication to read of the superheroes of my childhood in print.

Fedarko captures the magic and eloquence of these boats in a way only a person who has come in close conta
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book started out slowly, and I found some of the flowery prose to be ponderous, but the second half was much better than the first. It appealed to two of my interests: engineering, with its descriptions of how the personnel at the Glen Canyon Dam dealt with the huge water inflows from the El Nino event and the damage caused to the spillways, and whitewater rafting, with its descriptions of the fastest ride and how rafting companies, their customers, and the river rangers dealt with the dang ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Almost five million people visit Grand Canyon National Park annually. While some visitors undertake back-country hikes, most people are content to enjoy the views from the South Rim, and do not venture much below the rim. Kevin Fedarko’s superb book presents the Grand Canyon in a way most people will never see it – from the bottom up, with a strong emphasis on the river that carved the Canyon’s unique features and which provides the most accessible route for the much smaller number of tourists l ...more
William Goss
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An informative, compelling, amusing, lyrical and, yes, even spiritual narrative on the magnetic attraction of one of the most perfectly beautiful works of nature on this planet...and a cautionary warning of the risks to which it is even now, more perhaps than ever, exposed. Lose this wild place America, and you will lose a big chunk of your soul.

I paddled a kayak down this river in 1989, six years after the events that form the core of this book. Mr. Fedarko has captured all of the emotions of t
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Emerald Mile is so much more than the epic tale of the 1983 dory speed run through the Grand Canyon, though that adventure is brilliantly told. Fedarko is a great writer (I've enjoyed his pieces in Outside for years), and he puts the speed run in context with the Grand Canyon's history, geology and hydrology, river-running culture, and the dam-building era. He juxtaposes the Glen Canyon Dam engineers' race to avoid catastrophic failures during the huge 1983 spring runoff with what was happen ...more
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Kevin Fedarko lives in northern New Mexico and works as a part-time river guide in Grand Canyon National Park. In addition to his travel narratives in Outside, where he worked as a senior editor, Fedarko’s work has appeared in Esquire, National Geographic Adventure, and other publications, and has been anthologized in The Best American Travel Writing in 2004 and 2006. Fedarko was a staff writer at ...more
More about Kevin Fedarko...
“But they have preserved an aspect of the American persona that is uniquely vital to the health of this republic. Among many other things, those dirtbag river runners uphold the virtue of disobedience: the principle that in a free society, defiance for its own sake sometimes carries value and meaning, if only because power in all of its forms—commercial, governmental, and moral—should not always and without question be handed what it demands.” 2 likes
“From every direction, the place is under assault—and unlike in the past, the adversary is not concentrated in a single force, such as the Bureau of Reclamation, but takes the form of separate outfits conducting smaller attacks that are, in many ways, far more insidious. From directly above, the air-tour industry has succeeded in scuttling all efforts to dial it back, most recently through the intervention of Arizona’s senators, John Kyl and John McCain, and is continuing to destroy one of the canyon’s greatest treasures, which is its silence. From the east has come a dramatic increase in uranium-mining claims, while the once remote and untrammeled country of the North Rim now suffers from an ever-growing influx of recreational ATVs. On the South Rim, an Italian real estate company recently secured approval for a massive development whose water demands are all but guaranteed to compromise many of the canyon’s springs, along with the oases that they nourish. Worst of all, the Navajo tribe is currently planning to cooperate in constructing a monstrous tramway to the bottom of the canyon, complete with a restaurant and a resort, at the confluence of the Little Colorado and the Colorado, the very spot where John Wesley Powell made his famous journal entry in the summer of 1869 about venturing “down the Great Unknown.” As vexing as all these things are, what Litton finds even more disheartening is the country’s failure to rally to the canyon’s defense—or for that matter, to the defense of its other imperiled natural wonders. The movement that he and David Brower helped build is not only in retreat but finds itself the target of bottomless contempt. On talk radio and cable TV, environmentalists are derided as “wackos” and “extremists.” The country has swung decisively toward something smaller and more selfish than what it once was, and in addition to ushering in a disdain for the notion that wilderness might have a value that extends beyond the metrics of economics or business, much of the nation ignorantly embraces the benefits of engineering and technology while simultaneously rejecting basic science.” 2 likes
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