School children take a journey
down the Hudson River as they follow my canoe trek down
the entire length of the river - from its source at Lake
Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains all the way
to New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. Covering 315
miles in three weeks, I witnessed the river as it changed
from a mountain stream to a three-mile-wide tidal estuary.
In this Hudson River presentation I bring my canoe, paddles,
camping gear, and slides to share the adventure with children
and to explain how I came to write three books from this
one trip. In a full hour I give an overview of the Hudson
as seen from the peace and quiet of a canoe. With
140 full-color slides I take students to the river's source
on Mt. Marcy; down through the Hudson's dramatic headwaters,
forty miles of Class 3 and 4+ whitewater; around gargantuan
power dams that block the river; through the seven
locks of the Champlain Canal; into the powerful estuary
and the tides below Albany; and through the spectacular
Highlands - all the way to the sea and the high-tech city
at the river's mouth. This presentation of story-telling
and slide-viewing covers the geography, ecology, history,
culture and literature of the river-including the haunting
story of Captain Kidd burying gold in the Hudson Highlands!
This one-hour video stemmed from Peter Lourie's historic journey down the Hudson. In 1995 Syracuse University Press published "River of Mountains: A Canoe Journey Down the Hudson," the journal of Lourie's three-week trip down the entire 315-mile length of the Hudson River from the river's source in the Adirondack Mountains to the sea. The book combines his personal experiences with descriptions of the landscape and natural features. On the upper Hudson, Lourie vividly describes exciting whitewater rides--some wild, some slow. On the lower river he captures the joys of crowded paddling. Throughout the book, he provides a historical recounting of the development of civilization along the river. The many people he meets along the way, including loggers, fishermen, guides, and barge pilots, add to the richness of his tale. Before Lourie's trip, there is no record of anyone having made the journey before in the same vessel.
Details of School Visits
The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd,
my children's novel, in your classroom
Visits & Book Signings
Guide print version
Teacher's Study Guide for
River: An Adventure from the Mountains to the Sea
The Hudson runs for 315 miles from a tiny pond in the Adirondack
Mountains all the way down through the heart of New York
State to New York City and the sea. My canoe journey
down the entire length of the river is presented in slides
and narration. In preparation for my visit, children
Study the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, their geography,
Study logging in New York State, running logs from Mount
Marcy and the north all the way down to the saw mills in
Glens Falls. What happened to the great log drives?
Study the concept of wilderness and the ecological debate
between developers (building homes along) and ecologists
(preservation of green spaces).
Study the natural process of bogification. Lake Tear
is tiny and becoming tinier as a result of the water turning
to bog and then to land.
Study Mount Marcy as the highest mountain in the state,
above the tree line (discuss the tree line).
Study canoes as vehicles for native Americans and then the
first European explorers to travel our land, the voyageurs,
for instance, Lewis and Clark, etc.
Study the anatomy of rapids (this will appeal to teachers
who run whitewater in their spare time).
Study or take stock of the class's camping and hiking experience,
making camp, putting up tents, cooking, drinking the water?
not the Hudson water! Why not?
Study the history of Adirondack Guides.
Then move into the power dams along the Hudson and discuss
the use of water for electricity. Hydro-electric?
What does it mean? Is it completely safe?
Compare it to nuclear (Indian Point) or the burning
of coal to generate electricity (around Newburgh, Central
Discuss the Champlain and Erie Canals and the history of
settling the west. They come together half way down
the Hudson at Waterford. Discuss the dynamics of
locks. Forty miles of the Hudson form the southern
section of the Champlain canal. Lots of material
here to work on. See Cheryl Harness' "The Amazing
Impossible Erie Canal."
Study the various tribes that lived along the Hudson.
Half way down the river, after 160 miles, suddenly we have
the big cities of Troy and Albany, capital of New York.
And the tides. Discuss the ebb and the flood
tide. The effect of the moon.
Study Henry Hudson's 1609 journey in the Half Moon as far
north as Troy and Albany. From here down to New York
City the river drops only a few feet. This part of
the river, described by native Americans as Water That Flows
Two Ways, forms the longest inland estuary in the world.
Discuss estuaries. Sea life, and the salt line that
shifts with the rains and the droughts.
Commercial fishing is all but dead along the river.
Discuss the PCB travesty, the pollution of the lower river.
Talk about industry that once was so important to the life
of the river. Now the industry is gone, factories
abandoned. Get suggestions on how to renew life of
the river, how to make the river come back into people's
lives. Tourism? New types of cottage industries?
Should private property prevent public access?
Then the Lighthouses. Perfect for exploring ghost
stories and the shipping that has died along with the extinction
of big industries on the lower Hudson. Brick, ice,
gravel, coal. The big industries are no longer.
Yet the river lives. Motorboats on weekends plow
their way around. Not many canoes.
Henry Hudson called the Hudson, the Great River of the Mountains.
Study the Hudson Highlands, that lovely 15-mile stretch
of hills the Delaware Indians called the Endless Mountains.
Painted by the first school of American artists,
Cole and Church, etc. The Hudson River School.
Here we have Breakneck and Storm King Mountains and West
Point at World's End, so called because the sailing ships
couldn't get past the curve in the river and many went down.
Currents and winds here very tricky.
Study the environmental movement and how the Hudson has
gotten cleaner. From the first Earth Day until now.
What a difference Pete Seeger and his sloop Clearwater
have made! Great opportunity to talk about the environmental
movement, its difficulties, its challenges, its rewards.
Discuss the Literature of the Hudson. Washington
Irving, in particular.
Finally, New York City. The Enterprise. The
ruined piers of the Canard Line. The shore of Manhattan
all but forgotten. From Mt. Marcy to the Trade Center.
How different this end of the river is. New
York was made from the bricks of the Hudson River brick
yards. New York was made great by shipping supplies
down the Erie and Champlain canals. New York was
a land of pirates in the late 1600's. New York where
the Hudson flows out to sea.
Also, discuss why we love rivers so much. Always
changing. Their movement, their newness. Explore
a river as metaphor.
I first had the idea of canoeing the Hudson in 1989.
I worked for a year reading about and traveling up and down
the river. During this "research" phase
I interviewed lots of people and got to know a little of
what I'd face in a three-week, 315-mile trek. I kept
many notes on my journey and wrote a first draft of the
book after the long process of selecting the right material.
Knowing what to leave out was the hardest part.
After I came up with a first draft, my editor and I worked
on many other drafts, whittling down the material to only
fifteen pages of text. This took a year. Then
the book was designed with photographs, and I was still
editing. Finally in 1991 the book was shipped to
Hong Kong to be printed. Then it was shipped to bookstores
in March 1992.
Keep a one- or two-day journal of some weekend trip or of
a walk down a street, perhaps with family members, or alone.
Record everything. Sights, sounds, smells,
but especially feelings and interactions with people.
Try to capture the personality of the people you write about.
This exercise might focus on only one person, a person
who in some way helps the reader understand more about the
street, the place.
In class, begin to edit the journal. Throw out anything
that doesn't contribute to the overall effect. Try
to make one good page out of many pages. Begin the
writer's difficult task of selection.
What is adventure? Imagine an adventure you'd like
to take. Begin research for this adventure.
Outline your trip and outline your research (ex. What books
to read? Who to talk to? What can you research
using a computer and a modem?). Make a list of equipment
you'll need. Write a page or two on why this adventure
is so exciting to you and why it might interest other people.
Interview someone for your school newspaper. Either
on tape or with pen and paper, the old-fashioned way.
Also try using a camera to take a snapshot that you can
use when you write about this person later. Capture
the person's character in your description, then let his
or her words do most of the work of creating a "personality."
Research other river books, novels, picture books, nonfiction.
After you've read at least five river books, decide
what river(s) interest you and write an essay telling why.
Make the river or rivers you like come alive on the
page. In other words, imagine from your readings
what it is like to actually live on the river.
What makes the Hudson River unique? Focus on either
the people, the history, or the place. Give lots of
specifics to support your thesis.
If you live near the Hudson or the Connecticut River or
any river or stream, go to that river or stream and describe
it in a new way, as no one has ever done before.
Is the river you see, the same river that someone up or
down river sees? How is your river different from
Guide print version