In the Pacific Northwest, the river of dominance is the Columbia, and in ways both profound and mundane its history is the history of the region. In Great River of the West historians and anthropologists consider a range of topics about the river, from Indian rock art, Chinook Jargon, and ethnobotany on the Columbia to literary and family history, the creation of an engineered river, and the inherent mythic power of place. Since first contact between Euro-Americans and Native peoples during the late 18th century, the river's history has been characterized by dramatic demographic, social, and economic changes. The remarkable set of essays in Great River of the West investigate these changes by highlighting important episodes in the history of the river. Readers meet mariners who challenge the Columbia River bar, a family torn by insanity, Native people who preserve fishing traditions, and dam-builders who radically change the Columbia.