Unruly Waters: A Social and Environmental History of the Brazos River

Unruly Waters: A Social and Environmental History of the Brazos River

by Kenna Lang Archer


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Running more than 1,200 miles from headwaters in eastern New Mexico through the middle of Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, the Brazos River has frustrated developers for nearly two centuries. This environmental history of the Brazos traces the techniques that engineers and politicians have repeatedly used to try to manage its flow. The vast majority of projects proposed or constructed in this watershed were failures, undone by the geology of the river as much as the cost of improvement. When developers erected locks, the river changed course. When they built large-scale dams, floodwaters overflowed the concrete rims. When they constructed levees, the soils collapsed. Yet lawmakers and laypeople, boosters and engineers continued to work toward improving the river and harnessing it for various uses. Through the plight of the Brazos River Archer illuminates the broader commentary on the efforts to tame this nation's rivers as well as its historical perspectives on development and technology. The struggle to overcome nature, Archer notes, reflects a quintessentially American faith in technology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780826355874
Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
Publication date: 05/01/2015
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 900,219
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Kenna Lang Archer is an instructor in the Department of History at Angelo State University.

Table of Contents

Illustrations viii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xv

Chapter 1 Ecology and Geology along the Mighty Brazos River 1

Chapter 2 Culture, Continuity, and a Brazos River Reimagined 23

Chapter 3 Immigrants, Improvements, and Agricultural Ideals along the Lower Brazos River 45

Chapter 4 Locks, Dams, and a Hope for Navigation along the Middle Brazos River 74

Chapter 5 Big Dams and Big Dreams along the Upper Brazos River 90

Chapter 6 Importation and Diversion along a Still-Untamed Brazos 109

Chapter 7 A Defiant Brazos and the Persistence of Its People 130

Appendix A Overview of Improvement Projects 143

Appendix B Geological Timeline 145

Notes 147

Bibliography 231

Index 251

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