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Natural Lives, Modern Times

The Delaware River flows out of New York’s Catskill Mountains and winds its way through woodland and rural farmland, through the great Water Gap ravine, and finally past one of the world’s most industrialized riverfronts. Yet it remains one of the country’s last undammed rivers, with a natural life as rich and varied as its human history.

In Natural Lives, Modern Times, Bruce Stutz has written a thoroughly modern natural history, blending keen observations of the nature of the Delaware’s enduring complex of river, glacial streams, marshlands, and forest with glimpses of history and folklore and with luminous portraits of those whose lives are sustained by the river. The Delaware was the waterway of the nation’s first mercantile, philosophical, scientific, cultural, and industrial heartland, hosting immigrants from Europe, Africa, and the Mediterranean, all looking for new lives along the ancient river.

In this always entertaining and often haunting intertwining of human and natural history, Bruce Stutz discovers those who regret what has been lost and those passionate about preserving what remains. Most of all, however, he lets us see what’s at stake in a wonderfully diverse world. Not since Mark Twain has anyone taken such a freewheeling river journey.


Praise for Natural Lives, Modern Times

“This delightful book portrays the Delaware River from its outlet in New Jersey and Delaware to its source in New York. The author, an editor of Audubon magazine, acts at various times as ecologist, naturalist, and social commentator while chronicling the impact of the river on people’s lives and the land. Some of his characters love the river and its shore, others wish to destroy it. Stutz vividly describes the damage wrought by developers in the Poconos and the loss of the lower river’s marshlands, vital habitat for its animals and plants. He also covers the effect on residents of failing industries in Philadelphia and Trenton. For all collections.” The Library Journal

“. . .a lively natural and social history and tour of the banks of the Delaware . . . Stutz lets the many people whose lives are intertwined with the river speak for themselves and of what has vanished, giving his story an engaging presence. He also covers bad news: the Delaware’s role as the major shipping route of slaves for auction in Philadelphia; the annihilation by the commercial caviar industry of great schools of ten-foot sturgeon; and the depredations of the home-building rush in the Poconos. Piquant, and uncommonly eloquent.
Kirkus Reviews

“Stutz is an eloquent advocate for the river and the region’s preservation.”—Publishers Weekly