Unruly River: Two Centuries of Change Along the Missouri


In the 1800s, those who lived next to the Missouri River knew it as the Mighty Mo, Big Muddy, Old Misery and the Wide Missouri.  Those nicknames aptly described the Missouri’s power, its impressive width, as well as its ability to inflict pain and suffering on valley residents. But the Mighty Mo was more than a nuisance or something to be feared, the river served as a major transportation route to and from the northern Great Plains, it provided a dependable water source to irrigate crops, its depths teemed with fish, its valley forestlands once held turkeys, deer, elk, and bison, and its fast-moving channel spun hydroelectric turbines in the frontier town of Great Falls, Montana.

Unruly River tells the compelling story of the Missouri River from the time of Lewis and Clark to the end of the twentieth century; the book describes the river in its natural state, its use as a steamboat route, and its vital role in the European-American settlement of the Missouri Valley.  Author Robert Kelley Schneiders explains how the Army Corps of Engineers channelized and dammed the river and why today the Missouri is considered the most manipulated and engineered river in the world.  Although the stream has been altered in dramatic ways, the Missouri continues to defy the Army Corp of Engineers and its sophisticated system of control structures.  It’s for this reason that the Missouri has earned another nickname – “Unruly River.”

If you’re simply looking for a good read, wish to deepen your personal connection to the river, hope to teach coursework on the Missouri River, or want to gain a better understanding of the present environmental and political issues facing residents of the Missouri Valley, than this book is for you.


“Schneiders looks at the Missouri as a living entity: a product of the geology that created it, the soil that surrounds it, the marine creatures that live in it, the plants and animals that adjoin and border it, and the birds that fly over it.  It is, as the author says, ‘ever-changing and forever wild.'” Donald Pisani, author of Water, Land, and Law in the West.

“A major contribution to environmental history and Missouri River historiography that deserves a wide audience.” William E. Lass, author of A History of Steamboating on the Upper Missouri River.

Purchase through AMAZON.COM

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