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Dry River

By Ken Lamberton

Publication Year: 2011

Poet and writer Alison Deming once noted, “In the desert, one finds the way by tracing the aftermath of water . . . ”

Here, Ken Lamberton finds his way through a lifetime of exploring southern Arizona’s Santa Cruz River. This river—dry, still, and silent one moment, a thundering torrent of mud the next—serves as a reflection of the desert around it: a hint of water on parched sand, a path to redemption across a thirsty landscape.

With his latest book, Lamberton takes us on a trek across the land of three nations—the United States, Mexico, and the Tohono O’odham Nation—as he hikes the river’s path from its source and introduces us to people who draw identity from the river—dedicated professionals, hardworking locals, and the author’s own family. These people each have their own stories of the river and its effect on their lives, and their narratives add immeasurable richness and depth to Lamberton’s own astute observations and picturesque descriptions.

Unlike books that detail only the Santa Cruz’s decline, Dry River offers a more balanced, at times even optimistic, view of the river that ignites hope for reclamation and offers a call to action rather than indulging in despair and resignation. At once a fascinating cultural history lesson and an important reminder that learning from the past can help us fix what we have damaged, Dry River is both a story about the amazing complexity of this troubled desert waterway and a celebration of one man’s lifelong journey with the people and places touched by it.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. vii

List of Maps

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pp. ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xvi

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1. A River Once More

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pp. 1-10

On the afternoon of the winter solstice in 2002, Daniel Preston and Renee Red Dog of the Tohono O’odham Nation stand in the rain on an earthen berm above the Santa Cruz River thirty miles north of Tucson. The smell of burning sage mingles with the tonic scent of wet creosote. At one of the first water-harvesting basins created at the site, fifteen ...

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2. Sources: The San Rafael Reach

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pp. 11-42

Karen and I drive over Canelo Pass and suddenly San Rafael Valley drops away to the southwest. Before us opens a broad rolling plain, crisscrossed with ropes of green where oak and juniper line wrinkled drainages. The wind cuts northeast, strumming a rhythm in knee-deep grasses as blond as Karen’s hair; the bent stems sound like rushing water. ...

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3. Mexican Water: The Sonoran Reach

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pp. 43-64

There’s only one way to enter Mexico—through a fence. And, although this will soon change, all I have to do today is open the gate and walk through, following a dirt road that’s been here longer than this boundary and the six strands of barbed wire that mark it. The road heads directly south, paralleling a cottonwood-hemmed Santa Cruz River on ...

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4. Border Crossings: The Kino Springs Reach

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pp. 65-92

An occasional car Dopplers along South River Road, which contours the Santa Cruz on our left. Melissa, my youngest daughter, who has joined me today, suggests that we duck and hide at the sound of tires on pavement. I know what she means; I feel it also. We’re too exposed. Our tall frames are too easily seen, trespassing among the brittle, desiccated seep ...

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5. A River That Is: The Tumac

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pp. 93-126

Nearly seven months after Melissa and I hiked from Guevavi to Calabasas and joined the Anza Trail at Rio Rico, we return again. It’s the end of May and school has let out for the summer. Karen, Kasondra, and Jessica have come along. Also with us is my friend Richard Shelton, University of Arizona Regents professor, writer, and poet whom I first met more ...

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6. A River Underground: The Continental Reach

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pp. 127-160

From the Anza Trail at Bridge Road just outside of Tubac, Karen and I hike downriver under tall cottonwoods and willows along the west bank of the Santa Cruz. It’s two in the afternoon at the beginning of June and hot: 104 degrees that’s not a dry heat. The river burbles past us, heading north toward Tucson, smelling of effluent and raising the humidity with ...

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7. Native Water: The San Xavier Reach

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pp. 161-174

Nine months later on a June morning of what meteorologists are saying will be a record-hot, 108-degree day, I return to Pima Mine Road and the river. Joining me is Danita Rios, a twenty-six-year-old Tohono O’odham woman assigned by the San Xavier District Council to “monitor” me. Two weeks ago, I met with the six-member council to argue my ...

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8. New Rivers and Watering Holes: The Tucson Reach

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pp. 175-236

On a cool spring day in early March, I return to the Santa Cruz River where it enters the fields of the Tohono O’odham, the rich brown furrows now green with wheat, courtesy of the Colorado River. Leaving the San Xavier Mission behind, I set Sentinel Peak in my sights, and decide to follow the original course of the Santa Cruz, what is now called the ...

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9. Confluences

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pp. 237-246

On a humid morning in late June as the monsoon season breaks upon us, Melissa and I meet with Kendall Kroesen at Tucson Audubon’s Simpson restoration site thirty miles north of Tucson near the Santa Cruz River. Thunderheads billow in the south as moist winds from the Gulf of Mexico finally shove their way into southern Arizona. In minutes we’re ...

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pp. 247-248

For holding my hand through the eight years in writing this book, my deepest and sincere gratitude goes to my writing compadres: Elizabeth Bernays, Tony Leubbermann, Mac Hudson, Richard Shelton, Erec Toso, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Fenton Johnson, Alan Weisman, Madeline Kiser, Ralph Hager, Steve Gladish, John Mead, Jerry Marzinsky, Gillian ...


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pp. 249-254

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 255-260


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pp. 261-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780816501182
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529216

Publication Year: 2011