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The Everglades: River of Grass

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  630 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Before 1947, when Marjory Stoneman Douglas named The Everglades a "river of grass," most people considered the area worthless. She brought the world's attention to the need to preserve The Everglades. In the Afterword, Michael Grunwald tells us what has happened to them since then. Grunwald points out that in 1947 the government was in the midst of establishing the Evergla ...more
Hardcover, Special 50th Anniversary Edition, 480 pages
Published March 1st 1997 by Pineapple Press (first published January 1st 1947)
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May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was staying at a friend's house and was looking for something to read. He handed me this. I read it pretty much straight through -- most of the best US writing is non-fiction, and this is a good example.

It begins with a natural history of the Everglades, going into geology, weather patterns, ecology, etc. She even throws in a flashback to the Age of Mammals for us paleo-freaks.

Then she deals with the human history of the Everglades. It is a remarkable story, full of vivid characters, and the a
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
As a native Floridian, this essential 1947 classic was very moving, and one I'm sad that I never read while I lived there. It's hard to overstate the importance of this book which, in the first chapter, creates a scene in the Everglades so vividly that you feel like you're there. She also states in this chapter a fact that was mind boggling at the time: The Everglades are not just a swamp, but a slow moving river covered with swamp grass. The last two chapters describe the conquering white man's ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is a love letter to the Everglades. The author gives us the history of the area as well as a lesson in how to care for and to preserve the precious resource we have. The writing is a bit old fashioned but it was written many years ago. It is amazing to me and very sad too, to read about the vast numbers of deer, bears, panthers and other wildlife that are simply now gone because we have introduced pollution and other influences that are destroying the area faster than we can imagine.Th ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I hate to criticize a classic, but here goes. I think that at least half of the book could have been cut, with no damage to its impact. There are major sections that are only marginally related to the Everglades (Spanish explorers reaching South America and the islands, for example).

The vast middle section is devoted to depictions of fierce, brown people with rippling muscles and innate characteristics. I know that we have to read this in the context of attitudes when it was written, but it is
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a far more complicated book than I was expecting. I was familiar with its reputation as a transformative text in the history of environmental protection in general, and especially in South Florida. I'd read quotes from it about the natural beauty of the Everglades.

I didn't expect a history of the entire region, from its geological formation onward, and wasn't prepared for the sympathetic-but-also-super-racist depictions of Indigenous peoples, and parallel critical-but-also-normalizing n
Sugarpuss O'Shea
I read this book after reading Michael Grunwald's THE SWAMP (It was deemed required reading by Mr Grunwald) so I think I was expecting something different from this book. While I know you cannot tell the story of the Everglades without including the recklessness of humans, I was interested much more in the descriptions of the Everglades than I was about the people living in them. This is truly a love letter to the 'River of Grass,' but I could've lived without some of the unnecessary tangents Ms ...more
Ben Williams
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Reading like a true history of South Florida, this is essential material for every Floridian. Marjory is the patron saint of our sunshine state and this book is the defining, magnificent coat of arms. I have not enjoyed a history book this much in my life. I learned, I grew, I am emboldened to take up the charge for Everglades protections. This is a life changing read.
I was disappointed in this book and was expecting something that it wasn't. By the title, one would think this is about the Everglades. And, yes, there are sections about the flora, fauna and people of Everglades, but most of the 480 pages is devoted to the history of Florida. ...more
Margaret Harris
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who cares about Florida
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas writes magically. Her word images make an attentive reader breathe with the peoples of ancient history or with the scents of salty breeze over decay or fresh regrowth of trees, grasses, flowers and of myriad animals of land and water. But the story in this book is larger than its title suggests.

The Everglades geology is said to have begun in the ice ages, when volcanic uplifting of the undersea floor built up over millennia a limestone foundation upon which the south h
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A classic for a reason, more important now than ever in the era of climate change.
Oct 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
Good for insomniacs. Will put you right to sleep. I read fast but this book took me 10 days. The book is known as a classic and I guess it was groundbreaking back in the day. The author was a remarkable person and reading about her was far more interesting than reading this book.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people interested in Florida history
I was somewhat disappointed, but I should say right now that this was very-well written and parts – especially in the first chapter – were quite poetic. But I had been hoping for a book about the ecology of the Everglades and the movement to preserve it, and instead of natural history this focused almost exclusively on human history, although several chapters near the end did discuss some of the conservation issues. The book included some vividly gory accounts of people dying in bloody massacres ...more
Scott Cox
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Everglades: River of Grass” by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas helped introduce the incredibly rich natural history of Southern Florida to many. It is a history of the region, as well as a natural history primer. My favorite sections of Everglades National Park are Shark Valley (Snail Kites & Limpkins) and the Snake Bight trail (Greater Flamingos). This is truly a fantastic region to explore; hopefully the title of Douglas’s chapter, “Eleventh Hour,” has not already passed!
Lorraine Sulick-Morecraft
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and inspiring.
Paul Haspel
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: florida
The Everglades exist in their present form – as a contiguous national park protected by the power and dignity of the United States Government – in large part because of this book. When Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947, the “river of grass” that is the Everglades faced enormous pressure from developers eager to profit from the rapid population growth then taking place in South Florida. This book is a good example of how the right author, composing the right bo ...more
Matthew Harris
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"There are no other Everglades in the world..."

Then Douglas describes the Everglades for us and tells us how they came to be, even how Florida came to be from an underwater expanse before the ice ages to what we see now, how people came to Florida and lived there, to the coming of the Spanish explorers. A very nicely done concise history for those interested in these things. Along the way, people decided that this large 'swamp' was a waste of space, better to drain it and make it useful. After d
Barbara Carder
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
"Marjory Stoneman Douglas [1890-1948] was an American journalist, writer, feminist, and environmentalist. . . " but she was not really a true journalist. In CH 12 "White Man's Return," after eleven chapters of how the plantation owners from Georgia and the Carolinas chased escaped slaves to Florida and how they were hidden and intermarried with the Indians, she writes this about Henry Flagler and Henry Plant: "Both had left home when very young to make their fortunes by the practice of the Yanke ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
After presenting an absorbing and evocative narrative of the formation and historical function of the Florida peninsula we come to see the Everglades as much more than just a swamp. She then proceeds to horrify us with what happens with the introduction of Western man to the area. Our treatment and destruction of the indigenous population is bad enough, but what we then inflicted upon the ecosystem takes ones breath away. The greed and short-sightedness and corruption are stunning. By the time M ...more
Chris Leuchtenburg
Frankly, I cannot understand how this book became a classic of environmental writing. The first chapter describes the glories of the plants and critters of the Everglades in cloying, purple prose. But the next two hundred pages veer into the human history, much of which does not take place even in Florida let alone the Everglades. There is a brief, often moving section towards the end describing the politics that led to the partial draining and widespread destruction of the Everglades leading up ...more
Rob Saunders
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
A difficult read for me (hard truths expounded in overwhelming detail) but I view this book as an essential chronicle of Florida human and natural history. The story of the Everglades is a conservationist's nightmare; the battles for it's control an American heartbreak. MSD's writing roller-coasters between tediously ground detail, becomes newsreel-ish in places, has some flow issues with numerous flashbacks that detract from the story (though included for historical accuracy), yet at times the ...more
Steven Howes
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the kind of story that could be written about any number of places in our country or the world for that matter although perhaps not as eloquently as this one. In the first part of the book, the author describes in detail the stark beauty of the Everglades, its many inhabitants, and the delicate ecological balance that existed there and had evolved over millennia. Then, with the advent of explorers and other invaders, the focus shifts to altering the ecosystem in the form of reclamation o ...more
Alexandra Goodwin
This book is written in such poetic language it's a pleasure to read. Her love of the land is evident through the choice of diction and style. Ms. Douglas' prose flows like the river she describes, stopping along the way to explore all the aspects of the Everglades. She writes about the flora, fauna, history, and geology of the area, and this serves as a backdrop to a review of the discovery of America in 1492. In this light she makes the case for the Everglades, which has been disputed by the g ...more
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I bought this classic book at one of the visitor centers in the Everglades. She writes simply but with amazing detail, progressing through the history of the land. This was first published in 1947 and toward the end of her account it comes to this: "The whole Everglades were burning. What had been a river of grass and sweet water that had given meaning and life and uniqueness to this whole enormous geography through centuries in which man had no place here, was made, in one chaotic gesture of gr ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My book club is doing a reread of this book. I first read it when I came to Florida in 1982. Douglas is such a gracious writer and poet. Her verse is strong with color and you can feel like you’re in the Everglades while you read. I also appreciated the afterward by Grunwold. He let’s us know that once we knew what we had [or maybe we didn’t] we just haven’t been able to get it right. I now live, boat and swim near the mouth of the St Lucie River. Over the years even I can see the changes in the ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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Fred  Parker
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ms. Douglas was a pioneer and hero in every sense of the word. This book helped to raise awareness of the living waters of The Everglades as a vibrant ecosystem - not a swamp that needed to be drained and filled in. Her tireless efforts resulted in the creation of this area as a national park, long before people and industry encroached upon this shimmering jewel under the shining Florida sun. Unfortunately, what is left is a tiny fraction of what once was, and half-hearted efforts to restore som ...more
Isaac Jensen
The first part of this book was an amazing exploration of the natural history of the Everglades. The rest of the book was a slog of names and dates, telling the story of its violent colonization and exploitation, ending with a (faintly) hopeful portrait of what must be done to save this national treasure and the people who live around it. Overall, I’m glad I read it, but am also glad to be finished, and might recommend that people read only the first 100 pages or so, before the book gets bogged ...more
David Ward
The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas (Rinehart & Co., Inc. 1947) (975.9). This is an omnibus book about the Everglades circa 1947. This volume is mainly a recounting of the history of the Glades area. This appears to be the central history which Peter Matthiessen adapted into his epic novel Shadow Country about the planter Edgar Watson's life at the turn of the nineteenth century. My rating: 7/10, finished 7/29/17. ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had always heard about this book as the story of the Everglades that made people realize that it was an ecological treasure. I had no idea that the first 300 pages were an anthropological history of south Florida, about the Spanish, the Native American tribes, and local Florida news from the early 19th century. While interesting, this portion was written in a more lyrical manner than I'm used to for history, and was not what I was expecting the majority of this book to be about. ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
What an extraordinary achievement! Beautifully crafted, MSD has created an enduring and inspiring work that remains relevant seven decades after its initial publication. Douglas' research and writing are testament to her passion for this unique ecosystem. I especially loved the Chapters 1 and 11-15. Highly recommended! ...more
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Marjory Stoneman Douglas was an American journalist, writer, feminist, and environmentalist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. Moving to Miami as a young woman to work for The Miami Herald, Douglas became a freelance writer, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines. Her most influentia ...more

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