The Last Voyageur: Amos Burg and the Rivers of the West
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"What is this thing in me that enables me to leave comforts and a wide variety of entertainments and feel a strange satisfaction wandering down a cheerless and indifferent river, enduring hardships and eating very little and exposed to all sorts of weather. I feel as though I am doing the thing that I have always longed to do and that I can continue to do it forever and like it more all the time. Yes, tonight even as I sit shivering and listening to the patter of the rain, I see myself in many places all over the world wandering like a gull on the winds working with the ideals of Truth and Beauty as part of my vision to bring these things back with me for other people to see."

- Amos Burg, Yukon River, July 1928


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The Last Voyageur: Amos Burg and the Rivers of the West

For nearly five decades Amos Burg traveled in search of adventure and natural beauty. During the 1920s and '30s he completed lengthy voyages on all the major western rivers – Columbia, Pig, Yukon, Canada's Mackenzie, the Green and Colorado – source to mouth, often traveling alone. He also managed to make a 4-month, 3,800-mile run on the Yellowstone-Missouri-Mississippi as well as the Middle Fork and Main Salmon, and numerous other small rivers. He broke new ground by being the first individual to take his rubber raft Charlie through Grand Canyon and down the Middle Fork and Main Salmon.

 

The Last Voyageur chronicles Burg's epic river voyages as well as his journeys along the Inside Passage and through the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the Dorjun and later the Endeavour. We follow not only the arc of his career as an outdoor writer, photographer, filmmaker, and lecturer for National Geographic magazine, but also his expanding sense of the natural environment as a place for spiritual and emotional rejuvenation and as a living repository of American western history. Burg once wrote, "How we treat our rivers tells us something about who we are?"



 

Also from Vince Welch

The Doing of the Thing: the Brief, Brilliant Whitewater Career of Buzz Holmstrom (1998)

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I like rivers / Better than oceans for we see both sides / An ocean is forever asking questions / And writing them down along the shore

E.A. Robinson (1869-1935)

 


 

 

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Vince Welch has written for Oregon Coast, Wend, Rivers, Boatman's Quarterly Review, Utne Reader, and The Hibernacle News. At present he is a senior correspondent and blogger (Rivermouth) for Mountain Gazette.

A former professional river guide, and co-author of The Doing of the Thing: The Brief, Brilliant Career of Buzz Holmstrom, Welch continues to run rivers throughout the West with his family and other ancient mariners. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his family and a bunch of chickens.