For Love of a River: The Minnesota

By Darby Nelson (author), John Hickman (editor)
Publisher: Beaver’s Pond Press
ISBN-10: 1643439170
ISBN-13: 978-1643439174
Paperback with French Flaps: 256 pages
Dimensions: 6″ x 9″
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Includes maps, illustrations and photographs
List Price: $24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

How to Buy

Birchbark Books
2115 21st Street,  Minneapolis 55405



Growing up in the river town of Morton, Darby Nelson developed a deep taproot of affection that anchored his contagious curiosity about the land and people of the Minnesota River Valley. Now, with an ecologist’s lens and a lifelong appreciation for wild and scenic places, Darby sets out with his wife, Geri, to paddle the river all the way from its source near the Minnesota–South Dakota border to its confluence with the Mississippi in the Twin Cities.

For Love of a River: The Minnesota addresses topics as diverse as geology, early and modern agriculture, citizen advocacy, water-quality challenges and solutions, river-based recreation, dams and dam removal, prairie pothole lakes, the river’s rich diversity of plant and animal life, and the Dakota–US War. Never before has a book undertaken such a holistic exploration of the state’s namesake river and its basin.

Reviews of For Love of a River

This great river of the American heartland now has its voice through a seasoned storyteller and scientist who has immersed himself in its currents and backwaters. Darby Nelson has inspired me to see more, learn more, and paddle more on a river that deserves our care in a new era of stewardship that this book tells us is possible, desirable, and essential. For Love of a River: The Minnesota is an important contribution to the literature of land and water in the Midwest.

—Tim Palmer, author of America’s Great River Journeys and Rivers of America.

Darby Nelson returns to his childhood home where he developed a love for the land and people of the Minnesota River Valley. Weaving together natural and cultural history, he reveals a complex tale of ecological and water quality transformation and highlights stories of inspirational people working together to effect change and build momentum for restoration. For Love of a River: The Minnesota makes a heartfelt and compelling plea to experience the river’s beauty for ourselves and join in the effort to improve it for future generations.

—Kimberly Musser, Associate Director of the Water Resources Center at Minnesota State University at Mankato

If you are proud of your state, but not well-acquainted with its namesake river, in For Love of a River: The Minnesota, Darby Nelson will take you on a paddle pictured in words, all delightful, illuminating and reminiscent of Sigurd Olson’s prose about Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

—Forrest Peterson, Communication & Outreach, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Darby Nelson flits effortlessly back and forth through time in this accessible biography of the Minnesota River. True, the river has suffered a host of cumulative transgressions–its flow has doubled over his lifespan, for example–but Darby shows where the beauty is and can be again. The geology, botany, history, and agronomy he describes so clearly make the basin come alive.

—Steve Woods, Executive Director (retired), Freshwater Society

An informative mix of some of the oldest geological formations on earth, long-lost tallgrass prairie, the basin’s original inhabitants, profiles of modern-day advocates who worked, and still work, to reclaim the river, all framed by one couple’s tale of paddling the length of the Minnesota River. If you love rivers, if you love nature and the outdoors, if you are concerned about the environment, you will love this book. 

—Ted Suss, Minnesota River advocate