Rivers of California: Nature’s Lifelines in the Golden State

A celebration of California's wild rivers

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The classic images of California are those of sunny beaches, redwoods, and the Sierra Nevada. Yet California is also a land of rivers—about ninety of them with thousands of forks, branches, and creeks. Totaling 194,000 miles, they cover more area than those of any other state but Alaska.

With 176 exquisite photographs and original prose, Palmer showcases the variety, vitality, and majesty of streams large and small through all four seasons, from rainforest to desert, from high country source to the Pacific. He visits rivers in drought as well as in flood conditions. He points out that, plentiful as they are, rivers cannot serve unlimited demands, and that our needs are so extreme today that the collapse of many of these life-support systems now looms on the horizon. With enduring hope, Tim Palmer draws on decades of experience, research, and interviews to chronicle the rich history of people’s efforts to protect a threatened inheritance.

Rivers of California captures the true nature of California and takes us on a journey of discovery that can change the way we think about water and the shining, winding paths that it creates across our land.


“Like no other book, Rivers of California illuminates the beauty and wonder of rivers...This irresistible book celebrates what we at Friends of the River love, and [it] will entice Californians to better care for our rivers.”

—Paul Tebbel, Executive Director, Friends of the River


“Tim Palmer looks at California's rivers with an artist's eye. This book is a delight.”

—Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Majesty and Tragedy: The Sierra in Peril


“In this grand tour of California's rivers, Tim Palmer captures the beauty of our flowing waters and makes the most compelling case for conservation that I have seen. This spectacular book should be read and appreciated by all—residents and visitors, politicians and scientist alike.”

—Dr. Peter B. Moyle, Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at the University of California, Davis, and the author of Inland Fishes of California and Fish: An Enthusiast's Guide

About the Author

Tim PalmerTim Palmer has written twenty-two books about the American landscape, conservation, adventure travel, and rivers. California Wild, a text and photographic book, won the Benjamin Franklin Award for the best book on nature and the environment in 2004. Palmer wrote the text for the Yosemite Association’s Yosemite: The Promise of Wildness, which
 received the Director’s Award from the National Park Service as the best book of the year in 1997. His other books include, Rivers of America, which features 200 color photos of rivers nationwide, Rivers of California, and Luminous Mountains, published by Heyday  in collaboration with the Yosemite Association. Palmer has traveled extensively through the mountains of California by foot and on skis, with his canoe and whitewater raft, and in his well-equipped van.

Photo by Ann Vileisis