Brave the Wild River

The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon

25 June 2024


The riveting tale of two pioneering botanists and their historic boat trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon

In the summer of 1938, botanists Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter set off down the Colorado River, accompanied by an ambitious expedition leader and three amateur boatmen. With its churning rapids, sheer cliffs and boat-shattering boulders, the Colorado River was famed as the most dangerous river in the world. But for Clover and Jotter, it held a tantalising appeal: no one had surveyed the Grand Canyon’s plants, and they were determined to be the first.

Through the vibrant letters and diaries of the two women, science journalist Melissa L. Sevigny traces their forty-three-day journey, during which they ran rapids, chased a runaway boat and turned their harshest critic into an ally. Their story is a spell-binding adventure of two women who risked their lives to make an unprecedented botanical survey of a little-known corner of the American West at a time when human influences had begun to change it forever.


"It’s not just the story but the way it’s told that matters here. Unlike those old-time newspaper reporters, Sevigny does not look at her subjects and see women out of place. She sees women doing their job and doing it well. She muses with pleasure about that change in perspective, while acknowledging (correctly) that women still face serious gender barriers in the modern profession of science." — The New York Times Book Review



140 x 211 mm • 304 pages


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