"Kings of the Yukon succeeds as an adventure tale, a natural history and a work of art." -- Wall Street Journal
A thrilling journey by canoe across Alaska, by critically acclaimed writer Adam Weymouth
The Yukon river is 2,000 miles long, the longest stretch of free-flowing river in the United States. In this riveting examination of one of the last wild places on earth, Adam Weymouth canoes along the river's length, from Canada's Yukon Territory, through Alaska, to the Bering Sea. The result is a book that shows how even the most remote wilderness is affected by the same forces reshaping the rest of the planet.
Every summer, hundreds of thousands of king salmon migrate the distance of the Yukon to their spawning grounds, where they breed and die, in what is the longest salmon run in the world. For the communities that live along the river, salmon was once the lifeblood of the economy and local culture. But climate change and a globalized economy have fundamentally altered the balance between man and nature; the health and numbers of king salmon are in question, as is the fate of the communities that depend on them. Traveling along the Yukon as the salmon migrate, a four-month journey through untrammeled landscape, Adam Weymouth traces the fundamental interconnectedness of people and fish through searing and unforgettable portraits of the individuals he encounters. He offers a powerful, nuanced glimpse into indigenous cultures, and into our ever-complicated relationship with the natural world. Weaving in the rich history of salmon across time as well as the science behind their mysterious life cycle, Kings of the Yukon is extraordinary adventure and nature writing at its most urgent and poetic.
British journalist Weymouth ventures 2,000 miles on the Yukon River in an earnest quest to discover whether the Chinook salmon (or king salmon), which is in rapid decline worldwide, can survive in "the last chance on earth to get it right." Weymouth interweaves his observations on wildlife with an analysis of sociopolitical and environmental factors that affect not just the salmon but also the people whose cultures and economies are built around it. He is adept at technical descriptions of how hatcheries and fishwheels work ("around a central axle, traditionally greased with bear fat, are two baskets formed from a lattice of spruce poles") and how integral salmon is to the ecosystem (grizzly bears "can get through 40 salmon in eight hours" in order to gain 50% of their body weight before winter). He is knowledgeable about attempts to control salmon that date back centuries and the battle between subsistence fishers and wildlife managers. His most effective vignettes record interactions with those he met on his journey, including Alaskan reality TV stars who battled a raging flood and an 84-year-old woman at her fish camp. This is a richly told history of one of North America's most remote wildernesses.