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.
Darby Nelson is an aquatic ecologist and biology professor emeritus at Anoka-Ramsey Community College who lives in Champlin, Minnesota with his wife, Geri. He began a lifelong love of the Minnesota River at age six when he and his family moved to the river town of Morton. In the 1980s, Darby served three terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Since his retirement from Anoka-Ramsey in 2001, he has been an author and public speaker. His first book, For Love of Lakes, was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in creative nonfiction. Darby has been a tireless advocate for the environment, serving on boards for Conservation Minnesota, Freshwater Society, and the Nature Conservancy, and he was a charter member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
“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
“Weaving together natural and cultural history, Darby Nelson 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 to join in the effort to improve it for future generations.” —Kimberly Musser, Associate Director of the Water Resources Center at Minnesota State University 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 the author’s 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