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Canoeing the Great Plains

A Missouri River Summer

Patrick Dobson

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: Bison Books
Published: 05/2015
Pages: 216
Subject: Biography and Autobiography
eBook ISBN: 9780803274433


Tired of an unfulfilling life in Kansas City, Missouri, Patrick Dobson left his job and set off on foot across the Great Plains. After two and a half months, 1,450 miles, and numerous encounters with the people of the heartland, Dobson arrived in Helena, Montana. He then set a canoe on the Missouri and asked the river to carry him safely back to Kansas City, hoping this enigmatic watercourse would help reconnect him with his life.   In Canoeing the Great Plains, Dobson recounts his journey on the Missouri, the country’s longest river. Dobson, a novice canoeist when he begins his trip, faces the Missouri at a time of dangerous flooding and must learn to trust himself to the powerful flows of the river and its stark and serenely beautiful countryside. He meets a cast of characters along the river who assist him both with the mundane tasks of canoeing—portaging around dams and reservoirs and finding campsites—and with his own personal transformation. Mishaps, mistakes, and misadventures plague his trip, but over time the river shifts from being a frightening adversary to a welcome companion.   As the miles float by and the distinctions blur between himself and what he formerly called nature, Dobson comes to grips with his past, his fears, and his life beyond the river.


Patrick Dobson is a writer, historian, and ironworker with a PhD in history. He is the author of Seldom Seen: A Journey into the Great Plains (Nebraska, 2009).


“Like our best travel writers—Bryson, Heat Moon, Strayed, and Frazier come to mind—Dobson is good company: irreverent, funny, wise.”—Greg Martin, associate professor of English at the University of New Mexico and author of Mountain City and Stories for Boys

“Part travelogue, part social commentary, Dobson narrates a gritty and multidimensional tale, even as his descriptions of the landscape and the river are as warm as the summer sun. It was a journey I didn’t want to end.”—Sandra Moran, anthropologist and award-winning author of Letters Never Sent and Nudge

“This is a work of strength and beauty, of care and courage. Patrick Dobson’s voyage down the length of the Missouri River is not simply one of self-discovery, but a journey that allows the reader to look inward as well. . . . We are fortunate to be able to share in his odyssey of exuberance and discovery.”—Alan Boye, author of Just Walking the Hills of Vermont and Sustainable Compromises