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River of Contrasts

The Texas Colorado

Margie Crisp; Foreword by Andrew Sansom

Publication Year: 2012

 Writer and artist Margie Crisp has traveled the length of Texas’ Colorado River, which rises in Dawson County, south of Lubbock, and flows 860 miles southeast across the state to its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico at Matagorda Bay. Echoing the truth of Heraclitus’s ancient dictum, the river’s character changes dramatically from its dusty headwaters on the High Plains to its meandering presence on the coastal prairie. The Colorado is the longest river with both its source and its mouth in Texas, and its water, from beginning to end, provides for the state’s agricultural, municipal, and recreational needs. As Crisp notes, the Colorado River is perhaps most frequently associated with its middle reaches in the Hill Country, where it has been dammed to create the six reservoirs known as the Highland Lakes. Following Crisp as she explores the river, sometimes with her fisherman husband, readers meet the river’s denizens—animal, plant, and human—and learn something about the natural history, the politics, and those who influence the fate of the river and the water it carries. Those who live intimately with the natural landscape inevitably formulate emotional responses to their surroundings, and the people living on or near the Colorado River are no exception. Crisp’s own loving tribute to the river and its inhabitants is enhanced by the exquisite art she has created for this book. Her photographs and maps round out the useful and beautiful accompaniments to this thoughtful portrait of one of Texas’ most beloved rivers.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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pp. c-c

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Although I grew up on the Brazos, the Colorado is my river now.
I have the good fortune of living just a few hundred feet from Lady Bird Lake, the most downstream of the Highland Lakes on the Colorado River, named for one of our most beloved first ladies. The lake sits in the heart of the Texas capital, and I am on it in one way or another every weekend. I have...

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pp. xi-xiv

This project began simply enough with short canoe and kayak trips down the Bastrop County section of the Colorado River. The trips were just for fun. My husband, Bill, and I might cast a line out for bass or slip into the current to cool off on hot, bright afternoons. I’d watch birds, trail my hands in the water, duck under the boughs of sweeper trees, and watch the river unspool...

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pp. xv-xviii

Five years ago, upon hearing about my Colorado River explorations, Shannon Davies told me, “That sounds like a book.” With her encouragement and guidance, I embarked upon an extraordinary journey. Her unflagging enthusiasm, advice, and support buoyed me even when I faltered. Thank you....

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1: Early Spring on the High Plains

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pp. 1-30

EARLY SPRING ON THE HIGH PLAINS in the Texas Panhandle is gray and brown. Dull clouds press down on the unrelenting span of plowed cotton fields. Gusts of wind blow yellow dust clouds that dissipate on the iron-gray horizon. Occasional farmhouses disrupt the monotony with brief flashes of trees, fences, yards, and the...

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2: Impounded on the Rolling Plains

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pp. 31-66

Destiny proudly poses for my camera, a grinning gap-toothed eight-year-old with wind-tangled black hair. Behind her, the orange waters of Lake J. B. Thomas whip themselves into small brown waves. She squints in the sun. The shutter clicks, and with a quick wave she scrambles down the steep rocks returning to her sister and their game of throwing rocks into the water. Her father...

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3: RIver Revealed

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pp. 67-100

Below the dam at O. H. Ivie, the Colorado River cuts across layers of time, digging into the exposed shelves of millions of years. Alluvial deposits along the bed and banks of the river are recent, but the river has relentlessly carved away at the cover of Cretaceous rocks exposing the tilted stacks of old sedimentary rocks in the broad basin. On a geological map, multiple parallel bands of color stripe north to south. The river slices across in a twisting gold line of alluvial...

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4: Another Colorado

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pp. 101-144

“Who knew,” the ruddy-faced man seated in front of me whispered to his wife, “that bald eagles are really bald? That one doesn’t have a single feather on its ugly red head.” His wife lowered her binoculars and said doubtfully, “That’s a bald eagle?” Meanwhile, the enthusiastic birdwatcher had pushed her way out of the cabin and onto the foredeck of the...

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5: Living Downstream

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pp. 145-172

The river pours out of Longhorn Dam and starts a series of lazy, looping curves on its way to the coast. It changes in temperament and character. The way people look at it alters; there can be no mistaking that it is a river again, in name and nature. Just downstream from the last dam (for the present), the river glides underneath the soaring buttresses and pillars of the Montopolis Bridges. The river feels like an anachronism after the high-priced estates and ...

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6: Into the Gulf (almost)

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pp. 173-206

Tiny whitecaps run upstream against the current, slap the kayak hull, and explode into my face. If I stop paddling for a second, sweeper trees reach out and tangle branches in my hair. After disengaging myself from an amorous willow tree, I have had enough. In a snit, I yell at the wind, “I give up!” and hold my paddle high overhead. The wind grabs the kayak and spins me dizzily up stream where I’m deposited on a gravel bar under a high sand bank....


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pp. 207-210

Further Reading

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pp. 211-214

List of Artwork

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pp. 215-218


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pp. 219-228

Other River Books, Back Cover

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pp. 229-231

E-ISBN-13: 9781603447478
E-ISBN-10: 1603447474
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603444668
Print-ISBN-10: 1603444661

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 16 color photos. 61 color illus. 8 maps. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 794003771
MUSE Marc Record: Download for River of Contrasts

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Subject Headings

  • Colorado River Valley (Tex.) -- Description and travel.
  • Colorado River Valley (Tex.) -- History.
  • Colorado River (Tex.) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Texas -- Colorado River Valley.
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