River of Lakes
A Journey on Florida's St. Johns River

Bill Belleville

"[A] tour-de-force." -Publishers Weekly

Reviews

"Bill Belleville has written a thoughtful and engaging book about a great American river. He fully appreciates the natural values and rich history of the St. Johns and makes what I hope is a compelling case for the preservation of what is left of its native ecology and wild spirit."
—Christopher Camuto, author of Another Country: Journeying toward the Cherokee Mountains

"On a slow poke by kayak down Florida's St. Johns River, journalist Belleville listens attentively and yearningly for biophilic strains from the historic waterway. . . . . Belleville reveals the waterway's exotic voluptuousness . . . in writing that is both silvery and refreshingly unrehearsed . . . two qualities much in keeping with the milieu. Belleville creates in the reader a protective affection for the St. Johns, all any river can ask of its lover."
Kirkus Reviews


"Every once in a while a book comes along that explores and defines a place or a time so thoroughly, holding up for view what otherwise is transient and hidden, that it can be called a classic. Such a book is River of Lakes. . . . Belleville's writing is by turns lyrical, elegiac, scholarly, down-home, and downright hilarious."
Florida Today

"Belleville's book is rich in history, both natural and human. This well-researched travelog is a must for every Floridian's adventure library."
St. Petersburg Times

"What an adventure . . . [Belleville's] Mark Twain-like excursion downriver is a laid back, kick-your-shoes-off lollygag that includes shooting some rapids in a kayak, exploring ornate underground caves in diving equipment, and communicating with fishermen, scientists, and river historians about the significance of a major U.S. waterway."
Booklist

"In this fascinating work, Belleville explores the state's longest river firsthand. He kayaks and boats the St. Johns, hikes its forests, dives its springs. He talks to scientists, fisherman, historians, and residents. And he depicts, with finely tuned prose, the many threats it faces from haphazard development and destructive pollution. Readers will learn a lot about the history, its ecology, and its too-often shortsighted political policies. Throughout are fascinating facts—from tidbits on the moans of spawning fish to the disappearance of Fort Picolata. . . . [Belleville] captures the beauty and appeal of the river of which Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings once wrote,'If I could have, to hold forever, one brief place and time of beauty, I think I might choose the night on that high lonely bank above the St. Johns River.' A superb book."
Tampa Tribune

"[Belleville] combines erudite insights into environmental science, wildlife, social and political science, economics, sports, and a wide range of other subjects related to the history and development of the St. Johns. . . [A] tour-de-force."
Publishers Weekly

"Early on in Bill Belleville's exploration of Florida's St. Johns River he asks: 'Could I still find an authentic experience here, in a go-fast state that seems either in a swoon with 'progress' and contrived theme-worldish fun or randomly sullied by crime and violence?' Belleville's rich and detailed book about his trip downstream, River of Lakes, is thus cast as a quest for the 'real' Florida, a search for something unique in time and place that exposes the essence of our fair state. . . . Belleville's keen insight, deep research, and sparkling prose carry us down Florida's longest river, and we are better for the trip."
Tallahassee Democrat

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Description
First explored by naturalist William Bartram in the 1760s, the St. Johns River stretches 310 miles along Florida's east coast, making it the longest river in the state. The first "highway" through the once wild interior of Florida, the St. Johns may appear ordinary, but within its banks are some of the most fascinating natural phenomena and historic mysteries in the state. The river, no longer the commercial resource it once was, is now largely ignored by Florida's residents and visitors alike.

In the first contemporary book about this American Heritage River, Bill Belleville describes his journey down the length of the St. Johns, kayaking, boating, hiking its riverbanks, diving its springs, and exploring its underwater caves. He rediscovers the natural Florida and establishes his connection with a place once loved for its untamed beauty. Belleville involves scientists, environmentalists, fishermen, cave divers, and folk historians in his journey, soliciting their companionship and their expertise. River of Lakes weaves together the biological, cultural, anthropological, archaeological, and ecological aspects of the St. Johns, capturing the essence of its remarkable history and intrinsic value as a natural wonder.

Page count: 256 pp.
1 map
Trim size: 6 x 9

 



Paper
List price: $24.95
978-0-8203-2344-2
9/25/2001

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Ebook
List price: $19.95
978-0-8203-4224-5
7/1/2011
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Bill Belleville, an award-winning environmental journalist and filmmaker, is also a veteran diver. His books include River of Lakes and Deep Cuba (both Georgia). His articles, which have appeared in such publications as Sierra Magazine, Oxford American, Islands, and Salon, have been anthologized in six other collections. Belleville lives in Sanford, Florida.