"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"[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."
"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."
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.
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