Where the Great River Bends
A natural and human history of the Columbia at Wallula
Edited by Robert J. Carson
Nonfiction, 240 pages, 11" x 8.5" softcover, full color, 264 illustrations including historic photographs and paintings, index, road log and bibliographic references
In Where the Great River Bends, Bob Carson and his colleagues tell a fascinating story through the prism of Wallula, the historic gateway to the Columbia Plateau – a striking land where the forces of geology worked on a spectacular scale, of a desert oasis where Native Americans, explorers, fur traders, promoters and entrepreneurs, and modern-day agriculturalists and wind farmers have all made their mark. Wallula Gap and its signature geologic feature, the Twin Sisters, are notable features left behind by colossal Ice Age floods.
A remarkable place where geography has defined history, Wallula Gap, a National Natural Landmark, is that narrowing of the mighty Columbia River halfway between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Where the Great River Bends captures that extraordinary landscape with dozens of historic photographs and modern-day images contributed by seven photographers. The cover photograph by John Clement was also featured on the cover of the 2009 National Natural Landmarks Program calendar, as the first-place photo in the fifth annual photo contest.
The book features eight chapters written by a geologist, biologist, archaeologist and two historians and includes a foreword by Don Snow, an author and the senior lecturer of environmental studies at Whitman College. Each chapter includes a bibliography; in addition, there’s a flora and fauna appendix and a road log appendix that covers a 17-mile, interpretive geological tour of Wallula Gap.
Where the Great River Bends was made possible by a grant from the National Natural Landmarks Program of the National Park Service and was copublished by Whitman College. Its second printing was supported in part by Fort Walla Walla Museum.
Readers of "Where the Great River Bends" will be interested in these other titles covering Walla Walla and the mid Columbia Basin:
- Many Waters: Natural History of the Walla Walla Valley and Vicinity. Robert Carson, editor. A testament to the beauty of an extraordinary place, "Many Waters" tells the geography, geology, biology and paleontology of the valley, with outstanding photography plus more than 40 paintings by noted Northwest landscape artist Leslie Cain.
- An Illustrated History of Fort Walla Walla. By James Payne and Laura Schulz. Richly illustrated history of one of the longest active military posts in the Northwest during the era of white exploration and settlement from the early 1800s through 1910.
- On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: A geological field guide to the Mid-Columbia Basin. By Bruce Bjornstad. An exploration of the legendary floods that scoured the region repeatedly during the great ice age, with detailed guides to trails and tours to see the present-day geological features the floods created.
Important contributors to Where the Great River Bends include the following.
Robert J. Carson is Phillips Professor of geology and environmental studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in geology from Cornell University, a Master of Science from Tulane University and a doctorate from the University of Washington. His interests are in the earth and environmental sciences, and his courses deal with resources and pollution, human interaction with the biosphere, glaciers, volcanoes, water, landforms and natural hazards. A whitewater guide and a member of the American Alpine Club, he has led field trips in Africa, Eurasia, South America and throughout North America. His other books include Hiking Guide to Washington Geology and East of Yellowstone.
Michael E. Denny has worked as a private wildlife contractor, in bird and small vertebrate work for the U.S. Forest Service, and on vegetative surveys. He currently works as the riparian habitat coordinator for the Walla Walla County Conservation District and sits on the boards of the Blue Mountain Audubon Society and the Tri-State Steelheaders. He is a member of the Washington Ornithological Society, Oregon Field Ornithologists and Northwest Vertebrate Biologists. He speaks and leads wildlife tours for many organizations and festivals in an effort to educate others about the outstanding value of the life-sustaining natural world. He and his wife, MerryLynn, live in College Place, Washington.
Catherine E. Dickson began working as an archaeologist in 1990 when she realized she could be paid for walking around in the woods all day finding amazing things. She received her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Pomona College in 1992 and Master of Arts in anthropology from Oregon State University in 1997. Her master’s program concentrated on cultural resource management and historic sites archaeology. Her thesis considered public participation in archaeology. She lives in La Grande, Oregon where she works as an archaeologist and farmer with her partner, Shawn, cat Shakespeare, and dog Andy.
Lawrence L. Dodd is a native of the Walla Walla Valley and a member of a family that settled in the valley in 1869. A 1957 graduate of Washington State College, he then served four and a half years in the U.S. Air Force before returning to the family farm. He worked at Whitman Mission National Historic Site before starting a 34-year career at Whitman College, retiring in 2003 as the first Whitman College archivist. In retirement he continues his research in local and family history and spending time improving the family farm.
G. Thomas Edwards earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Willamette University and a Master of Arts and a doctorate in history from the University of Oregon. He taught for 34 years at Whitman College but also taught at several universities, including Southern University in Baton Rouge. He wrote Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony, a two-volume history of Whitman College, and co-edited Experiences in a Promised Land. He published essays on Civil War, Western and Pacific Northwest subjects. He and his wife now reside in Portland, Oregon.
Praise for Where the Great River Bends
“Wallula Gap, this microcosm that we whiz past at 60 mph, is filled with amazing stories, and Bob’s team of writers and photographers does wonders with the material. This is a fabulous tool for students of history, enhances what we already know of Washington state’s past and present, and has all the markings of a coffee table book that will attract repeated use.”
– Annie Charnley Eveland, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
“This beautiful book captures a remarkable landscape – and the people and creatures shaped by it – with thoughtful narrative, magnificent photographs and an appreciation for its rich history. … In these pages, begin your journey to the place where the Great River makes its final turn west.”
– Ken Olsen, freelance writer and author of Lasting Valor