The Natural History and Development of the Columbia River System
Spring 1998 T-Th 7:30-9:35 PM BB107
Beginning with the geologic underpinnings of
the Columbia River Basin, this course will examine the ecological, economic,
technological, social, and historical dimensions of the Columbia River
system from before European contact until the present. Interdisciplinary
in nature, the course will synthesize data from exploration narratives,
geologic surveys, government documents, recent studies, and site visits
to investigate the nature of the Columbia River system and to place it
into a larger context.
Each student will write a 15-page research paper in which s/he will
examine the nexus of science, technology, culture, history, public policy,
and the environment. The goal here is to ask a big question but to constrain
its scope geographically and temporally in such a way that you can answer
it in ten weeks, or at least point towards a method of answering it. Overly
general, "encyclopedia articles," will not be accepted. Nor will
"research essays" in which you simply report some facts without
posing a larger question be accepted.
Possible topics for research projects include the
effects of one or more of the following upon the Columbia River System
or a portion thereof:
- The proposed ESA listing for various salmon runs.
- Native uses of the Columbia river system, its flora, and fauna.
- The ecology of the Columbia River Basin before the Grand Coulee Dam.
- Cattle grazing and the riverine environment.
- The beaver and the riparian environment.
- Timber harvest.
- Salmon Canning industry on River basin.
- Post-WWII, industrial agriculture and the riparian environment--erosion,
runoff, pesticides, herbicides.
- Tree and fruit crops.
- Suburban sprawl and concomitant chemical use (lawn care, irrigation,
runoff, automotive discharges, road building).
- Navigation improvements.
- Barge traffic: Economics, Politics, and Environmental Impact
- Hatcheries and wild fish populations.
- A single state or federal agency on the River (e.g. Corps, Bureau of
Reclamation, Department of Agriculture, etc., EPA, AEC, DOD ).
- A single dam on river up and downstream.
- A single industry on River system (e.g. aluminum smelting, pulp, etc.).
- Electric production.
- The debate over public versus private power.
- The Effects of Deregulating the electric industry.
- Privatization of the BPA.
- Hanford and health.
- Flood control.
- Using the journals of a particular explorer, e.g. Gray, Vancouver,
Lewis and Clark, etc. to compare and contrast present and past environments,
- International disputes over natural resources in Columbia River System.
- A Historical Census of Beaver Populations in One of the Columbia River
- Effect of dams, and consequent destruction of fisheries, upon Native
- Effect of dams, and consequent destruction of fisheries, upon commercial
and sport fishing.
- The BPA's use of Woody Guthrie and Populist rhetoric to promote the
- Technology, Economics, Politics, and Environmental Impacts of Dismantling
- The history of power generation in the Northwest prior to the
- The biography of an individual who played or plays a major role in
the shaping of the Columbia River System.
- The Worster Thesis
I welcome your own ideas in addition to the suggestions above. Please
feel free to discuss a research proposal with me.
Some of the books we will be looking at include:
(*Required texts are marked with an asterisk.)
- Abbey, Edward. The Monkey Wrench Gang. Reprint: Salt Lake City,
- Allen, John Eliot, Marjorie Burns, and Sam C. Sargent. Cataclysms
on the Columbia: A Layman's Guide to the Features Produced by the Catastrophic
Bretz Floods in the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Oregon, 1986.
- Allen, John Eliot. Magnificent Gateway. Forest Grove, Oregon,
- Alt, David D. Roadside Geology of Washington. Missoula, 1984.
- Botkin, Daniel B. Our Natural History: The Lessons of Lewis and
Clark. New York, 1995. (R)
- Brown, Bruce. Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon.
1st illustrated ed. Seattle, 1995. (R)
- Clark, Robert. River of the West: A Chronicle of the Columbia.
New York, 1997.
- Chaney, Ed. A Question of Balance: Water/Energy--Salmon and Steelhead
Production in the Upper Columbia River Basin: Summary Report, November
1978. N.p.: Northwest Resource Information Center, Inc., 1978.
- Cone, Joseph, and Sandy Ridlington. The Northwest Salmon Crisis:
A Documentary Survey. Corvallis, Oregon, 1996. (R)
- Cone, Joseph. A Common Fate: Endangered Salmon and the People of
the Pacific Northwest. 2d. ed. Corvallis, Oregon, 1996. (R)
- *Dietrich, William. Northwest Passage: The Great
Columbia River. New York, 1995. (R)
- *Ebest, Sally Barr, et. al. Writing from A to Z:
The Easy-to-Use Reference Handbook. Second Edition. Mountain View,
- Echeverria, John D. Rivers at Risk: The Concerned Citizen's Guide
to Hydropower. Washington, 1989. (R)
- Guthrie, Woody. Roll on Columbia: The Columbia River Songs.
- *Harden, Blaine. A River Lost: The Life and Death
of the Columbia. New York, 1996. (R)
- Holbrook, Stewart H. The Columbia. Rivers of America. New York,
- Howay, Frederic W., ed. Voyages of the "Columbia" to the
Northwest Coast, 1787-1790 and 1790-1793. Portland, Oregon, 1990. (R)
- Hundley, Norris Jr. The Great Thirst: Californians and Water, 1770s-1990s.
- Hunn, Eugene S. Nch'i-wana, "The Big River": Mid-Columbia
Indians and Their Land. Seattle, 1990. (R)
- Hydro. (Film by BPA).
- Irving, Washington. Astoria. Reprint: Portland, Oregon, n.d.
- Kozloff, Eugene N. Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest:
An Illustrated Guide to the Natural History of Western Oregon, Washington,
and British Columbia. Seattle, 1976.
- Lang, William L. A Columbia River Reader. Tacoma, 1992.
- McPhee, John. Encounters with the Archdruid: Narratives about a
Conservationist and Three of His Natural Enemies. New York, 1971.
- Meinig, D.W. The Great Columbia Plain: A Historical Geography, 1805-1910.
Reprint: Seattle, 1995. (R)
- Mighetto, Lisa, and Wesley J. Ebel. Saving the Salmon: A History
of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Efforts to Portect Anadromous Fish
of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Seattle, 1994.
- Moulton, Gary E., ed. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
9 vols to date. Lincoln, Nebraska, 1983-. (R [Vols. 5-7 and 9])
- Nokes, J. Richard. Columbia's River: The Voyages of Robert Gray,
1787-1793. Tacoma, 1991. (R)
- Outwater, Alice. Water: A Natural History. New York, 1996. (R)
- Petersen, Keith. River of Life, Channel of Death. Lewiston,
Idaho, 1995. (R)
- *Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing
History. 2d ed. Boston, 1998. (R)
- Pitzer, Paul C. Grand Coulee: Harnessing a Dream. Pullman, Washington,
- Roe, JoAnn. The Columbia River: A Historical Travel Guide. Golden,
Colorado, 1992. (R)
- Ross, Alexander. Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon
or Columbia River 1810-1813. Cleveland, 1904. (R)
- Russell, Emily. People and the Land Through Time: Linking Ecology
and History. New Haven, 1997.
- Ruby, Robert H., and John A. Brown. The Chinook Indians: Traders
of the Lower Columbia. Norman, Oklahoma, 1976.
- Ryden, Hope. Lily Pond: Four Years with a Family of Beavers.
New York, 1989.
- Snyder, Gary. A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds.
Washington, D.C., 1995.
- Smith, Norman. A History of Dams. London, 1971.
- Stegner, Wallace. Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs:
Living and Writing in the West. New York, 1992. (R)
- *White, Richard. The Organic Machine. New York,
- Whole Earth Review 85 (Special Issue on Water), "Water
- Williams, Ira A. Geologic History of the Columbia River Gorge: As
Interpreted from the Historic Columbia River Scenic Highway. 3d ed.
Portland, 1991. (R)
- Worster, Donald. Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth
of the American West. New York, 1992. (R)
- Wright, Robin K., ed. A Time of Gathering: Native Heritage in Washington
State. Seattle, 1991.
Readings marked with (R) are on reserve at UW Tacoma Library.
NB: "3-day Reserve" means 72 hours and 0 minutes.
Other writing assignments in include a short treatment of each article
or chapter read, and two book reviews of books on the course bibliography.
Return to Michael Kucher's course homepage.
© Copyright 1998, 1999 Michael Kucher rev. 5 October