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River of Cliffs: A Linville Gorge History by Christopher Blake, ed.

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            Linville Gorge was the first Wilderness Area in the East, and today is best known for its beautiful waterfall, an easy hike from a Blue Ridge Parkway parking area in Western North Carolina between Spruce Pine and Boone. This unusual essay collection is not a standard collection of articles by historians, nor does it consist of documents that illuminate the area’s history. Remarkably, the Table of Contents does not list the authors of the thirty-three essays included. I assume the reason is that these entries are from grass-roots individuals, most no longer or never well known, who relate how they experienced the Linville Gorge. They show the reader how the Linville Gorge has made people feel over the last three centuries. And the “history” does come in prominently because the essays are in chronological order. It is quite an innovative work that falls somewhere between social history and environmental history, and has nothing to do with politics or economics. Those familiar with regional literature will recognize names like Lyman C. Draper, Ora Blackmun, Andre Michaux, Alberta Pierson Hannum, Shepherd M. Dugger, Margaret W. Morley, and Jonathan Williams, but they will also come to appreciate the perspectives of many lesser-known informants as well. The author, Christopher Blake, is a retired English Professor and the head of Friends of Linville Gorge.

Charleston, South Carolina: Arcaia Press, 2017. 251 pages with Works Cited, Recommended Reading, and photos. Trade paperback