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This book is introduced by one river in particular, the third longest in the United States. Formed in the Rocky Mountains and flowing through four states before emptying into the Mississippi, the Arkansas River today is enjoyed by a wide variety of people. In its upper reaches, fly fishermen fight for positions to go for cutthroat and other trout. A little farther down, kayakers enjoy fast-flowing white-water rapids. In fact, Colorado has embraced the river by creating the longest public park in the country—Arkansas Headwaters State Park—which is maintained by the state along its nearly 100-mile journey before it enters Kansas.

The Quapaw Indians, mostly from Arkansas, gave us the river's name. Read about that in the first pages of the book, including how the river was finally tamed.

Stories of life on either side of the river are told, some from long ago and some rather recent. Stories of war heroes; a seven-year-old girl's three-week survival on a raft in the South Atlantic; Arkansans who have made it big on stage and screen; an elephant sanctuary; an 800-foot (and growing) rock wall built with no mortar; Winthrop Rockefeller and his impact on his adopted state; how pure mountain music changed a town forever, and one native son who made it all the way to the top—President of the United States.

Really, the book is about life.