Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake

By (author) Jack Brubaker

Paperback - £30.95

Publication date:

15 September 2002

Length of book:

288 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271023366

As the largest river on the East Coast of the United States, the rolling Susquehanna is the indispensable tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. Gathering strength from scores of streams along its 444-mile journey, the river delivers half of the freshwater the bay requires to maintain its ecological balance.

Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake traces the course of the Susquehanna River through New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to the bay. Fifty-six short chapters discuss key locations along the route and how the river changes from sources to sea. These chapters also look at how natural resources influence, and in some ways shape, the lives of the people and their communities.

Along the river tour, Jack Brubaker examines the natural and human history of the Susquehanna, exploring how the river has been used and abused, as well as its current condition and future prospects. He explains how the unusually shallow, rocky river has substantially altered its drainage pattern over geologic time and how it continues to cut channels while erasing and creating islands.

For generations the Susquehanna has ebbed through the daily lives of the riverside residents, providing water to drink and a place to pump sewage. Floods have humbled those who chose to live close to the river’s edge, and droughts have fretted farmers. A vibrant fishery has provided sustenance and recreation for hundreds of thousands.

The Iroquois and the Susquehannocks reluctantly yielded the river to white settlers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the Susquehanna defined the American frontier. Coal mining, lumbering, and hydroelectric and nuclear energy production polluted the water and nearly ruined the landscape beyond hope in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Hope returned in the latter part of the last century as the people of the Susquehanna began restoration efforts.

With the aid of more than 70 maps and illustrations, Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake provides a bold new look at a dynamic old river. This powerful journey brings alive the Susquehanna, its history, and the colorful personalities who live along its banks.

“Captures the charm—and violence—of the Chesapeake Bay’s only indispensable tributary. . . . Doubly welcome, for its own considerable virtues and for filling in so many of the blanks in our knowledge of a river that plays a far larger role in this part of the country than most of us realize. . . . Brubaker’s meticulous and loving description of the river should do much to heighten our appreciation of this secret treasure. . . . [U]niversity-press publishing at its absolute best.”

—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World