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Bear River

Last Chance to Change Course

Craig Denton

Publication Year: 2007

Craig Denton notes, “Water will be the primary political, social, and economic issue in the Intermountain West in the twenty-first century.” Urban Utah thirsts for the Great Salt Lake  principal source, the Bear River. Plans abound to divert it for a rapidly growing Wasatch Front, as the last good option for future water. But is it? Who now uses the river and how? Who are its stakeholders? What does the Bear mean to them? What is left for further use? How do we measure the Bear's own interest, give it a voice in decisions?

Craig Denton's documentary takes on these questions. He tells the story of the river and the people, of many sorts, with diverse purposes, who live and depend on it. Bear River begins in alpine snowfields, lakes, and creeks in the Uinta Mountains, flows north through Wyoming, loops south in Idaho, and enters the inland sea by way of the an environmentally critical bird refuge. Along the way it has many uses: habitat, farms, electricity, recreation, lawns and homes. Denton researches the natural and human history of the river, photographed it, interviewed many stakeholders, and tried to capture the river  perspective. His photographs, printed as crisp duotones, carry us downstream, ultimately to big questions, begging to be answered soon, about what we should and can make of the Bear River. Denton writes,

Gravity my engine,
Water my soul.
I am the teller of life and deep time.

You would measure me.
Sever me.
Own me.
In your name.

Let me flow
In your imagination
That I may speak.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. viii-xi

When the eminent documentarian Sebasti

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pp. xii-xvi

Acknowledging people who have helped a book come together is always a humbling experience because reflecting on these contributions drives home the point that any creation is a collaboration. This book is no different..

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1. Defining the River

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pp. 3-10

It’s hard to get hold of a river. It invites the touch, but it’s difficult to grasp, an elusive thing that exists as much in the imagination as on the ground. Most times, a river knows its place, sticking to hollows it carves for itself in the earth. In high...

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2. The Ancient Saga of Water and Land: Geomorphology and Hydrology of the Bear

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pp. 11-46

Like all rivers, the Bear begins in the sky. A molecule of water hovers in a gathering storm, anxiously suspended until the cloud no longer can support its weight. It falls and begins the earthly leg of its hydrologic journey. If the land where that raindrop fell were a flat plain, its course in that river would be complex and full of promise. The hydrologist Luna Leopold showed...

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3. From Alpine to Desert: The Changing Ecology of the Bear River Basin

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pp. 47-68

As the Bear River Basin scribes its great, five-hundred-mile long looping arc, it passes through a stunning spread of vegetative zones. From alpine to desert the Bear is a major character in nature’s ecological narrative. It remains a story with a biologically diverse cast, but authorship changes from the singular voice of nature to collaboration with human...

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4. The Bear River and the Threads of Western American History

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pp. 69-110

Many of the great themes of western American history were stitched together on the banks of the Bear River. Native Americans and Anglos antagonized each other, and those abrasions erupted into some of a tense nation’s most horrific, soul-search-off against an emerging, entrepreneurial spirit some were beginning to call “American.” Financiers salivated over untold natural ...

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5. Stakeholders Lay Claim to the Bear River and Its Water

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pp. 111-156

Water wars are legendary in the Intermountain West, the stakes aggravated by relatively scant rainfall. Surface water is the prize, and conflicts rage over springs, creeks, and rivers, the conduits of Earth’s precious lifeblood. The struggle for ownership of the Bear River’s water has been no different. But while battles in some parts of the West rose to the level of bloodshed, the conflict ...

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6. Damn the Dams: Conflicts Roil the Bear River

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pp. 157-200

The air was oddly electric for a Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District (JVWCD) meeting in West Jordan, to approve the budget — a prosaic subject that normally would attract only a cub reporter for a weekly newspaper — but every-be the real topic of conversation. The Utah Rivers Council (URC) was bringing a busload of river activists to protest the dams, and ...

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7. Mitigation on the Bear: Repairing a Century of Misuse

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pp. 201-216

Sometimes it’s hard to believe there has been any mitigation of damage caused by human activity on the Bear River. Nevertheless, concerned citizens from the environmental community, government, and the private sector are working on improving water quality and habitat. It’s just that, measured against a century of thoughtless...


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pp. 236-237


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pp. 238-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780874216646
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216509

Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 605507796
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bear River