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University of Iowa News Release


June 6, 2011

UI Press publishes 'Up on the River' June 11

The Bur Oak Books series of the University of Iowa Press will release "Up on the River: People and Wildlife of the Upper Mississippi" by John Madson on June 11.

Originally published in 1985, "Up on the River" is Madson's loving and often humorous tribute to the people, animal life and places of the Upper Mississippi. Madson's Upper Mississippi is the part "between the saints," from St. Louis to St. Paul, where for 30 years he explored the waters of the upper reaches of the river, as well as the tangled multitude of sloughs, cuts and side channels that wander through its wooded islands and floodplain forests.

"Some of my best time on the river has been in the company of game wardens, biologists, commercial fishermen, clammers, trappers, hunters and a smelly, mud-smeared coterie of river rats in general, and my views of the river are far more likely to reflect theirs than those of the transportation industry," Madson writes.

Traveling mainly by canoe and johnboat, he encountered archetypal commercial fishermen and archetypal game wardens over hot fish chowder, fished for crappies in the tops of submerged trees and for walleyes amid gale force winds, witnessed nesting and migrating herons and ducks and eagles, explored the histories of river logging and pearling and button making, and visited towboats and barges where he viewed the lives of the "ramstugenous" people who move freight on the river.

Geoffrey Norman, writing for Outside Magazine, called the volume "A sturdy and witty book that does honor to its subject. . . . There are characters and anecdotes here that Twain himself might wish he'd written."

And a review in the Minneapolis Star Tribune observed, "Madson provides a fascinating account of the ecological forces that created this greatest of North American rivers and a sobering summation of the manmade forces that threaten to destroy its incredibly fertile backwater sloughs and lakes."

Iowa native Madson (1923–1995) is considered the father of the modern prairie restoration movement. His books include "Where the Sky Began" (a New York Times Notable Book), "Stories from under the Sky" and "Tallgrass Prairie." He wrote extensively on natural history and resource conservation for Audubon, Smithsonian and National Geographic magazines and many other publications.

Books in the Bur Oak series represent the dedication of the UI Press to celebrating the literature, history, geography and culture of the Great Plains with an intense focus on natural history and environmental issues.

Covering subjects from archaeology, history and ornithology to prairie restoration, gardening and sustainability, Bur Oak Books emphasize the environmental past, present and future of the Midwest.

"Up on the River" will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press, 800-621-2736 or Customers in Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from Eurospan Group at

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Allison Means, UI Press, Winston Barclay, University News Services,