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Confluence: Navigating the Personal & Political on Rivers of the New West, by Zak Podmore.

June 9, 2019

Confluence: Navigating the Personal & Political on Rivers of the New West, by  Zak Podmore. Torrey House Press, Oct. 2019.  FORTHCOMING

4 stars

A moving memoir and commentary by an author, and independent journalist from Bluff, Utah, sharing his stories and thoughts of the running the rivers of the American West.

Zak Podmore grew up in the Red Rock Canyons of the American West. He credits his mother with teaching him as a child to love rivers. Her recent death haunts his trips and his book.  But his commitment to this lonely country has not turned him into a hermit. He is an editor-at-large for Canoe and Kayak, he regularly has articles in regional and national publications, and he creates videos.  In addition, he is part of Utah politics, working on local issues of justice and the environment. As he indicates in his title, Confluence brings together Podmore’s personal and political writings about rivers and water in the West.

Parts of Podmore’s book are accounts of river trips he has taken in which he shares the excitement of how it feels to be on the water.  My favorite was his trip down the Little Colorado at flood stage.  Other trips are linked with specific issues. He travels the Rio Grande through Texas and discusses the conflicts over immigration.  He floats from the source of the Colorado River to the point where it once flowed into the sea, linking the river’s blockage with our determination to produce ever-increasing surpluses.  He visits the Pacific Northwest to experience rivers newly freed by the removal of dams.

Podmore has obviously been shaped by writers like Edward Abbey and Charles Bowen.  He understands their rage, and is tempted to become as bitter and despairing as they are.  But he refuses to give in to negativity.  Rivers, including some he visits, can be saved.  His writing is a part that of struggle, not a eulogy.

My response to this book was an intense desire to return Utah.  A more practical suggestion is to read Confluence and think about the issues Podmore raises.  Simply enjoy the beauty and joy he shares.

I strongly recommend this book.

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