River in Ruin


River in Ruin

The Story of the Carmel River

Ray A. March

208 pages
14 illustrations, 1 map


April 2012


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2012


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The thin ribbon of the Carmel River is just thirty-six miles long and no wider in most places than a child can throw a stone. It is the primary water supply for the ever-burgeoning presence of tourists, agriculture, and industry on California’s Monterey Peninsula. It is also one of the top ten endangered rivers in North America. The river’s story, which dramatically unfolds in this book, is an epic tale of exploitation, development, and often unwitting degradation reaching back to the first appearance of Europeans on the pristine peninsula.

River in Ruin is a precise weaving of water history—local and larger—and a natural, social, and environmental narrative of the Carmel River. Ray A. March traces the river’s misuse from 1879 and details how ever more successful promotions of Monterey demanded more and more water, leading to one dam after another. As a result the river was disastrously depleted, cluttered with concrete rubble, and inhospitable to the fish prized by visitors and residents alike.

March’s book is a cautionary tale about squandering precious water resources—about the ultimate cost of a ruined river and the slim but urgent hope of bringing it back to life.

Author Bio

Ray A. March, the author of several nonfiction books, is a career journalist and cofounder and editor of the Modoc Independent News. He is also the cofounder of Modoc Forum, a nonprofit perpetuating an awareness of rural life through literature and the arts.


“A meticulous history of an endangered waterway. . . . Saturated with facts, March's account of this threatened river forces readers to reconsider water as a commodity that requires protection.”—Kirkus 

"In sharing its struggle so effectively, River in Ruin joins a stream of other exquisitely researched and vividly written books about collapsing western watersheds, works we ignore at our peril."—Colleen Mondor, Booklist 

"The Carmel River and its importance in providing water to the residents of the Monterey Peninsula is a topic all locals should be interested in. March does an excellent job of chronicling the ins and outs of how the river's role has changed over the years, just as its course has sometimes been altered by nature. This very readable and informative paperback is well worth reading."—Robert Walch, The Californian

"March's treatment of the history, the politics and the personalities involved is heartfelt and personal; several times he consults diaries and includes individual stories (including his own), making the Carmel's story resonate with his readers."—Shelf Awareness

"March has put forward a clear explanation of how the Carmel River's problems developed and made a convincing case for urgent action to fix them."—Eric Brazil, SFGate

"March may not believe he has the answers, but by detailing a 410-year history we shouldn't forget, he's certainly showing us some of them. It took him 10 years to write River in Ruin, but the river's story over the next five years may prove even more compelling."—Kera Abraham, Monterey County Weekly

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 

Spanish Era: Vizcaino to Father Serra 
Crocker Arrives: Tourist Trade Begins 
Not Enough Water: Building the Chinese Dam 
Water Demand Increases: A Second Dam Is Built 
A Village of Artists: At Odds with the Pacific Improvement Company 
Carmel's Theater of Water: Enter Two Therapists from Oakland 
Sardines and Golf Courses: Yet Another Dam 
The Era of Disrespect: An Environmental Awakening 
Demise of the Steelhead: Anglers Debate the Fate of the Fish 
The Final Insult: Fire in the Forest 

Selected Bibliography