Kayaking Alone


Kayaking Alone

Nine Hundred Miles from Idaho's Mountains to the Pacific Ocean

Mike Barenti

Outdoor Lives Series

248 pages
1 map


December 2014


$16.95 Add to Cart

March 2008


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

March 2008


$16.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Columbia and its tributaries are rivers of conflict. Amid pitched battles over the economy, the environment, and the breaching of dams on the lower Snake River, the salmon that have always quickened these rivers are disappearing. On a warm day in late May, Mike Barenti entered the heart of this conflict when he slid a white-water kayak into the headwaters of central Idaho’s Salmon River and started paddling toward the Pacific Ocean. This account of his two-month, nine-hundred-mile solo journey into the world of the Columbia Basin plunges us into the adventure of navigating these troubled waterways.

Kayaking Alone is a narrative of man and nature, one-on-one, but also of man and nature writ large. In the stories of the river guides and rangers, biologists and ranchers, American Indians and dam workers he meets along the way, the rich and complicated life of the river emerges in a striking, often painfully clear panorama. Through his journey, the ecology, history, and politics of Pacific salmon unfold in fascinating detail, and with this firsthand knowledge and experience the reader gains a new and personal sense of the nature that unites and divides us.


Author Bio

Mike Barenti is a writer and journalist who has worked as a reporter for the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Idaho Falls Post Register and has taught English and creative writing at various colleges.


“A fresh look at a river system critical to our history and our future. . . . This is a good book about paddling, and an even better book about the salmon, science and politics up the Columbia.”—The Spokesman-Review

"Part travelogue, part history lesson, part ecological meditation, Kayaking Alone is the product of a tough but revealing trip."—Idaho Arts Quarterly

“This book flows from cover to cover like the rivers traveled within its pages, and the story is never the same for long. Barenti takes readers on a ride deep into the personality of the West, shedding light on the culture of the region every time he eddies out.”—Sam Weiss, Paddling Life

Kayaking Alone provides much more than a chronicle of one man’s quest to find adventure on a great river system…Barenti weaves conversations with the people he meets, farmers, ranchers, river guides, fisheries biologists, native peoples and dam workers, into a narrative revealing the complex interaction among the economy, the environment and the lives of the inhabitants of the lower Snake and Columbia River.”—Stan Miller, OutthereMonthly.com

 “This book is a good combination of paddling, river history, and the plight of the salmon on the river of the same name.”—Cascade Currents

"Kayaking Alone turns out to be a meditation on salmon, on western rivers, and on American relations to the natural world. The prose is direct and provoking, and the book's pace moves as smartly as any healthy current—delivering us from landmark to new vista to conclusions with steady force."—Jeffrey McCarthy, Western American Literature

Table of Contents



1. Sunbeam

2. Where the Marlboro Man Might Settle

3. Henry Clay Merritt, on His 158th Birthday

4. Into the Wilderness

5. Watching Fish in Riggins

6. Dragonflies and the Plant Migration

7. Into the Breach

8. Locking through with Smolt

9. River of Empire

10. The Swallowing Monster and the Pictograph Island

11. Watching Fish at Bonneville Dam

12. Used Up by the Wind

13. Looking Back at Cape Disappointment

Selected Sources

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