Paper pub. date
January 2001
ISBN 9780870714962 (paperback)
6 x 9 inches, 336 pages. Map. Chronology. Index.

River of Life, Channel of Death

Fish and Dams on the Lower Snake

Keith Petersen

In the words of the author, "this book is the story of how people came to settle this region and demand river alterations--and how some eventually came to oppose them… It is also the chronicle, yet unfolding, of the conflict between native wildlife and dams. In microcosm it is, in many ways, the story of the American West."

This history of the four Lower Snake River dams and their impact on Northwest salmon was named "Book of the Year" by the Idaho Library Association. River of Life, Channel of Death tells the story of the long struggle to bring navigation to Lewiston and hydro-power to a region; of the influence of powerful congressional representatives and booster organizations; of a clash of cultures, first between Indians and whites and later between environmentalists and developers; and of the role of the federal government in Western settlement.

While the dams made Lewiston into the farthermost inland seaport in the western United States, they continue to be a subject of controversy in the continuing national debate over the fate of Northwest salmon. In a new preface written for this edition, Petersen comments on information that has become available and events that have occurred since his book was first published in 1995.

About the author

Keith Petersen is a graduate of Washington State University, and a native of the Pacific Northwest. He is currently Idaho Coordinator for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial commemoration.

Read more about this author

Preface to the New Edition



Part I: Before the Dams

Chapter 1: Fire and Water
Chapter 2: The Ancients
Chapter 3: The Seekers
Chapter 4: An Open River
Chapter 5: "Construct Such Dams as Are Necessary"

Part II: Fish vs. Dams

Chapter 6: Battle for Ice Harbor
Chapter 7: A Seaport for Idaho
Chapter 8: Asotin
Chapter 9: Fish vs. Dams
Chapter 10: Endangered Species





"Historian Keith Petersen has done a superb job of chronicling the achievement of the building of the lower Snake River dams and the natural resource devastation they wrought."

--former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus.

"Petersen writes history the way it should be written--free of academic cant and jargon… Evocative, eminently readable, River of Life is an important book about one of the West's most timely topics."

--Alvin Josephy, Jr.

"A carefully researched history of the lower Snake River and the four government dams that are slaughtering our salmon… Having read the book I understand why some folks want to keep us in the dark until the fish are dead. Petersen powerfully exposes the myths sown by the salmon slayers."

--Dan Popkey, The Idaho Statesman

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