River of Forgotten Days

Daniel Spurr, Author
Daniel Spurr, Author Henry Holt & Company $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4632-8
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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A little over 300 years after the French explorer Ren de La Salle became the first known European to travel from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, Spurr, editor of Practical Sailor magazine, followed his route, starting in Chicago and sailing down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans in Belle, a 20-foot fishing boat. He was accompanied by his seven-year-old son, Steve, and later joined by his 24-year-old daughter, Adria, on this 16-day trip. Spurr devotes a fair amount of time to the technical problems of sailing and repair but also includes historical reconstructions of La Salle's explorations--including speculation that he, not Jolliet, was the white discoverer of the upper Mississippi. There is also a good deal of Spurr family history (especially memories of a dead father and a dead son), descriptions of local sights and affectionate and humorous anecdotes of a father and a young son traveling together. Unlike Jonathan Raban (Old Glory), who delighted in the eccentricities he encountered during his sail down the Mississippi, Spurr is usually sunny and amused, more interested in the journey itself--and the story of La Salle--than in what he sees en route. Included, too, are pleasant asides on underwater explorations for La Salle shipwrecks in the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. This is a thoroughly enjoyable recreation. Photos. (June)
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