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Flooding on the Missouri River: New writing by Lisa Knopp

With the Missouri River flooding this month, an old idea, that we can control the river with our dams, is contrasted with a more realistic belief that we really can't, as evidenced by the 2011 floods.

In forming your own opinion, read the latest from someone who has thought a lot about rivers.

The 2012 book by essayist Lisa Knopp, "What the River Carries: Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte," contains about 60 pages focusing on the Missouri River, in what seems to be a comprehensive treatment of the river including human life on the river, Lewis and Clark and their journey, channelizing much of the river, dams, flooding, wildlife, and restoration efforts. Knopp is scholarly in her detailed narratives but sometimes personal while telling stories in first-person.

Painter George Catlin wrote that the Missouri River was "continually overflowing" and called it the "Hell of Waters." It was thought that dams, and creating channels by stabilizing the sides, could solve flooding problems. Now, with restoration of wetlands, the river might be again more natural and unruly and flooding less costly.

Knopp, a professor of English at University of Nebraska at Omaha where she held the Jefferis Endowed Chair of English, has six times been cited by "The Best American Essays" for a notable essay. All of her five books explore "the concepts of place, home, nature, and spirituality."

"What the River Carries" won first place in the 2013 nonfiction/essay Nebraska Book Awards and honorable mention for the 2013 Environmental Creative Writing Book Award.

Her essay "Far Brought," about J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, is in the new anthology "The Tallgrass Prairie Reader." Her essays have appeared in many literary journals including Prairie Schooner, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Iowa Review, and Gettysburg Review.

"What the River Carries," which focuses on the Mississippi River in Part I (40 pages of which is on Google) and the Platte River in Part III, is currently available for checkout at several branches of the Omaha Public Library including the Cather, Abrahams, and Millard branches.

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