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Alaska to Nunavut: The Great Rivers    by Neil Hartling & Terry Parker order for
Alaska to Nunavut
by Neil Hartling
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Flipping through some of the spectacular scenic photos (taken by Terry Parker) in Alaska to Nunavut made me want to book a trip and start packing immediately. At the beginning is a quote from Pierre Elliott Trudeau speaking of the need to prevent any changes 'that will diminish the essential beauty of this country.'

Then Neil Hartling tells us that 'Canada has been described as a country designed to be traveled by canoe' and speaks lyrically about its 'sinuous waterways'. He introduces the northern wilderness and its indigenous cultures, for whom 'story telling is the ointment of the healer.' Each chapter is devoted to one of the great rivers (in a style that is more travelogue than travel literature) - South Nahanni, Alsek, Tatshenshini, Firth, Snake, Wind, Stikine, Burnside, Coppermine, and Horton River.

There are maps, river statistics, history, a description of the course of the river, and images of wildllife (such as Dall's sheep) as well as of landcapes. The picture of Virginia Falls is particularly impressive, the waterfall split by a center spire - apparently it is nearly twice the height of Niagara Falls. A 'Glacier Primer' is informative, as is the discussion of a website where tuktu (Inuvialuit for caribou) migration can be monitored. The whitewater experience looks exhilerating.

Learn about beavers, why rivers meander, about the history of the Twin Otter airplane, or the relatively recent formation of the Nunavut territory. There's a great deal in here, aside from the natural beauty of the great rivers which the author calls 'among the most magnificent sights on this planet.' He ends by advocating vigilance to protect the future of the northern rivers and includes many references for further reading.

Reading Alaska to Nunavut is almost (but of course never really) as good as taking the journey down these rivers - perfect for the armchair traveler or for anyone who's thinking of visiting the far north. The author quotes an apt Robert W. Service verse, which ends 'There's a land oh it beckons and beckons, / And I want to go back - and I will.' It certainly beckons from these pages.

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