With the Midwest under water, America had a chance to see how effectively it had “improved” its rivers. We’ve straightened and dredged them, revetted and rerouted them, made massive efforts to control them, yet our actions have been less than successful. Too often, physical changes made to a river conflict with natural processes, resulting in damage rather than alleviating it. Applying available knowledge on how rivers form and act could prevent such problems. Luna B. Leopold seeks to organize such knowledge. Widely regarded as the most creative scholar in the field of river morphology, Leopold presents a coherent description of the river, its shape, size, organization, and action, along with a consistent theory that explains much of the observed character of channels.
The laws of physics that govern rivers allow for variations, many of them dictated by random chance. Thus, a river’s adaptation, as Leopold describes it, tends toward the most probable form, the one with the least variance among hydraulic parameters. We see how this probabilistic tendency plays out as Leopold views the river as a whole from headwater to mouth, in the drainage net, in the behavior of meanders, and in aspects of sediment transport.
Grounded in hydraulics, geomorphology, and surveying, as well as in extensive fieldwork on rivers in the eastern and Rocky Mountain states, Leopold’s view of a river is at once technical and personal, providing both a firm foundation for understanding the behavior of rivers—including instructions for getting started in backyard hydrology—and a wealth of firsthand observations by a thoughtful and experienced scientist. It will be of immediate interest and great use as we seek to develop, preserve, and appreciate our most fluid natural resource.
Luna Leopold is responsible for perhaps the most important research on rivers over the past 50 years. In this very personal book he reflects upon that experience, providing insights that go far beyond mere research results.
The strength of this book is the force of intellect and experience Leopold brings to his subject. His writing style is clear, his explanations lucid, the coverage comprehensive. This is an extremely personal, almost autobiographical book—it is certainly not a dry, equation-filled treatise. It ranks with the best of John McPhee, but in this hook the scientist speaks in his own voice. I recommend it highly.
This book fills an important gap between popular writing and scientific texts at a time when public awareness about natural resource issues, especially those relating to water, is rising. Students in hydrology and ecology, natural resource managers at local and national levels, scientists in collaborative fields, and non-scientists curious about the world around them should find A View of the River instructive, relevant, and interesting reading.
Leopold is one of the most creative scholars in the field of river morphology in the last fifty years. A View of the River is the synthesis of a lifetime’s work by Leopold and his colleagues. There is nothing like it.
- 320 pages
- 0-9/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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