Telluride Library: Melissa Sevigny on her “Brave the Wild River,” 5/23!

Telluride Library: Melissa Sevigny on her “Brave the Wild River,” 5/23!

Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library is hosting an evening with author Melissa Sevigny. The subject is her latest book, “Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon.”

Go here for more about the Telluride Library.

“Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon,” is a riveting tale of two pioneering botanists and an historic boat trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Science described the work this way: “…A marvelous and informative read…” The New York Times said: “…A cascade of a story, colored by sun and water and driven by courage and determination…”

During the summer of 1938, botanists Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter set off down the Colorado River, accompanied by an ambitious expedition leader and three amateur boatmen. With its churning rapids, sheer cliffs, and boat-shattering boulders, the Colorado was famed as the most dangerous river in the world. But for Clover and Jotter, it held a tantalizing appeal: no one had surveyed the Grand Canyon’s plants, and they were determined to be the first.

Through the vibrant letters and diaries of the two women, science journalist Melissa L. Sevigny traces that 43-day journey, during which the duo ran rapids, chased a runaway boat, and turned their harshest critic into an ally. The story is a spellbinding adventure of two women who risked their lives to make an unprecedented botanical survey of a little-known corner of the American West at a time when human influences had begun to change it forever.

“…It’s not just the story but the way it’s told that matters here. Unlike those old-time newspaper reporters, Sevigny does not look at her subjects and see women out of place. She sees women doing their job and doing it well. She muses with pleasure about that change in perspective, while acknowledging (correctly) that women still face serious gender barriers in the modern profession of science.

Yet Clover and Jotter and their 1930s achievements remain relevant. Their example does not fade with time, Sevigny insists. They remind us of the power of bravery and steadfastness and that people with such qualities can change our ideas about the natural world — and our place in it. Think of them as guidelights, then. “Like stars reflected on the river,” she writes, they “show the way…”  The New York Times. (Full review here.)

Melissa Sevigny, more:

Image, courtesy
Alexis. knapppublicity.

Melissa L. Sevigny grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the Sonoran Desert’s ecology, geology and dark desert skies. Her lyrical nonfiction explores the intersections of science, nature, and history, with a focus on the American West.

Sevigny is the author of three books, most recently “Brave the Wild River,” (W.W. Norton, 2023), winner of the National Outdoor Book Award for history/biography and featured in The New York Times and People magazine.

She also wrote “Mythical River,” (University of Iowa Press, 2016), and “Under Desert Skies” (University of Arizona Press, 2016).

Sevigny’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Orion, High Country News, The Atavist Magazine, River Teeth, City Creatures,, Fourth Genre, Flyway, and elsewhere.

Her work has been supported by grants from the Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and honored with numerous awards. Melissa currently the science reporter at KNAU (Arizona Public Radio) in Flagstaff, Arizona. Her radio stories have aired nationally on NPR, been featured on Science Friday, and received regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence.

Sevigny has worked as a science communicator in the fields of planetary science, western water policy, and sustainable agriculture. She worked for NASA’s Phoenix Mars Scout Mission during its ground operations on Mars in 2008.

Sevigny earned a B.S. in Environmental Science & Policy from the University of Arizona and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University.

She volunteers as the interviews editor for and is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

Follow her on Twitter: @MelissaSevigny and Bluesky:

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