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River-Horse: A Voyage Across America

(The Travel Trilogy #3)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,695 ratings  ·  178 reviews
In RIVER-HORSE, the preeminent chronicler of American back roads -- who has given us the classics BLUE HIGHWAYS and PRAIRYERTH -- recounts his singular voyage on American waters from sea to sea. Along the route, he offers a lyrical and ceaselessly fascinating shipboard perspective on the country's rivers, lakes, canals, and towns. Brimming with history, drama, humor, and w ...more
ebook, 528 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 1999)
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Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,695 ratings  ·  178 reviews

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Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Aug 18, 2010 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, will ya?" B ...more
Kathy Kattenburg
William Least Heat-Moon (pen name for William Trogdon) is a greatly gifted travel writer. River Horse is the last in a trilogy of which the two preceding books are Blue Highways and PrairyErth. They can be read in any order, though.

In River Horse, Heat-Moon, with a small crew of friends, travels from the Atlantic Ocean (starting out from New York Harbor) to the Pacific Ocean (the Oregon coast near Portland) almost exclusively by river. Although it is not possible to travel from coast to coast by river with no int
Andrea Sachs
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not a boater, and have done no river traveling except on a tour, but River-Horse took me along on a fascinating journey across America. Some places along the river I have seen - the stream at Lumhi Pass - and the Gateway to the Rockies. They were seen from the ground, however, not the river. Now I'll have to read PrairiyErth! I really enjoy his writing and humor.
Jeff Clausen
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A winning book by one the masters of travel writing, an audacious journey that no one had ever completed, and a primer on how to get along with your traveling companions. After I finished his first book on travel, Blue Highways, I bought a second copy so that I could give one away, as I do, and keep one to reread. That’s high praise from me. And this book will likely take the same course. Read it because you like rivers and the boats that travel them, read it because you like travel in the least ...more
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a bad-ass book in terms of being the work of an independent thinker a nature-loving rebel, and a critic of modernism. That is what I like about it. But he went overboard- reduced his friends' credit into one, aggregate, seemingly incompetent character. I am still flabbergasted by that. Whether or not the friendship ended somewhat sourly, Heat-Moon should have told the truth, the outright colorful (though not necessarily friction-free) details of his friends' amateur boating efforts. I ne ...more
Jon Stout
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Jul 29, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 12, 2007 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.
Sep 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
May 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Peter Kaminski
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
For a book about rivers "River Horse" was about as dry as can be
Joseph Stewart
This book is a slog, let's just get that out of the way right now! At about 500 pages it's a hefty tome but it feels even longer thanks to Heat-Moon's plodding plotting and his style of overwriting. I really enjoyed Blue Highways when I read it years ago and the idea of his travelling the USA via rivers intrigued me and I'm glad I read the book but...

The author travels the entire journey with a man we know only as Pilotis, this gets annoying fast and we never learn a thing about the
Christopher Fox
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
502 pages of pure, unbounded joy, this is as delightful, delicious, delectable a read as you'll find, rather like savouring the most scrumptious cherry pie or carrot cake and being able to continue eating and enjoying without ever being sated. And if the words I just used and the simile seem an over-the-top description then that's the style that Heat-Moon uses to waft his reader alongside him as he cruises from coast to coast. His style may be flowery but it's rooted in a love of language; his n ...more
Judy Nichols
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Least Heat-Moon's book Blue Highways was one of the inspirations for my current life living in a fancy-ass camper van on the road across America. When I started reading River-Horse, his tale of crossing America by river, I thought, "Oh my God, am I going to have to buy a boat, now?" Luckily, his harrowing descriptions of the near-fatal experiences have dissuaded me from that path, even as the fascinating river histories and interactions with charming characters, including his intrepid Pi ...more
Kevin Brubaker
Sep 29, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very disappointing book. While Least Heat-Moon's earlier book, Blue Highways, expressed his curiosity about and appreciation of the people he encountered in his travels, this book does not. Instead, he seems to subtly sneer at almost everyone he meets - except those who provide tangible help in his journey. Far more time is spent describing rubbish strewn river banks than their beauty. The only "humor" in the book is the supposedly witty responses he provides in response to others. In short, it ...more
Derrick Nedzel
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is more of a road/travel book than his first book Blue Highways (which I really enjoyed as well). This is an amazing adventure story and I loved it. I want to visit some of the places he describes. His writing style has gotten a little more accessible (I don’t have to look up as many words as I did with Blue Highways) and I found it clear, easy to read and very engaging. I loved it! It’s not as introspective as Blue Highways, but I found it more focused on the adventure and American History ...more
Richard Pett
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is a work of genius, it reminded me in some ways of a grown up version of Paddle to the Sea and had the same gentle way about it. I guess it could be said to be a little ponderous and maybe could be read better in a series of bites as a friend said about Blue Highways but William Least Heat Moon has a wonderful amiable way about him, the whole thing is reminiscent of a gentle boys own adventure which for those of us who don't get out to do enough adventuring as we'd like is a joy. ...more
Joseph Carrabis
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up River-Horse because Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways had me so spellbound it became one of my "go-to" books, one of those books that I periodically reread to put myself back in touch with the meaningful in life.
River-Horse is similar in many ways although it never became a "go-to" book for me. It's still a worth while read and a wonderful story, however I got a sense that Least Heat-Moon was just starting to push his metaphor a bit much.
Steven Thielking
I've tried to finish this book multiple times over the last several years and I've finally done it.
I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the author and the premise of the book sounds amazing but every time I've picked it up it's been a struggle fest. Least Heat Moon combined several live humans into composite characters and the effect can be a bit jarring at times.
I still really want to read Blue Highways but this was not a promising entry into his work.
Another great job by Least Heat-Moon, and an excellent companion to Blue Highways. The author packs more detail into a paragraph than most people can fit into a chapter. This is a book to savor, to experience, to take one chapter at a time. Every river it its own character, and you get to know them so well through Least Heat-Moon's words. And if you take one thing from this book, take the sage advice given to the Prudent Mariner:

Proceed as the way opens.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pure pleasure to read. I followed the progress across America with a Rand McNally Road Atlas on my knee, and was able to find every place mentioned. Fascinating. The journey was long (over 100 days) dangerous, and beautiful. The book is full of historical data and nature lore, including some damning factoids about the lack of environmental protections afforded these great rivers. Highly recommended.
Ross-Barry Finlayson.
Being an outdoor enthusiast makes this book, and others like it, my favorite genre. And 'River-Horse' has confirmed this. I just couldn't put this book down and, because of that, I was saddened when the story came to an end. But, on the other hand, I was overjoyed for William Least Heat-Moon, and his crew, for achieving their goal.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is more of a 3.5 star rating. I loved Blue Highways and had hoped this would be the same. Although enjoyable, I felt like it could have been so much more given the adventure he was on and the land/water he covered.
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The descriptions of rivers in this book are beautiful. At some points, it was pure poetry. However, I felt he wrote about women in a dismissive way and glorified both the destructive history of "westering" and the men who were part of it.
Beverly Belle-Isle
A Long and Winding Journey

This was not book, it was a commitment! I spent many hours rocking along in the boat with William and stalwart friends. It was an escape, an adventure, an education, and like the voyages, was sometimes unsure if I Would make it to the end.

Bob Croft
Hudson, Erie and the Ohio
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sign me up for this boat ride what an experience
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read! Love to read stories about people's journeys and this one is no exception. Definitely worth a second read in the future.
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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,

Other books in the series

The Travel Trilogy (3 books)
  • Blue Highways
  • PrairyErth (A Deep Map)
“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.” 4 likes
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