Course code:



M - Intermediate

Class size limit:


Lab fee:


Loren Eisely once remarked, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”

Eisely’s observation is an underlying premise of this course—that there is something very special about moving water. This course is taught in a seminar format in which students will read and discuss ecological, historical, sociological, political, and legal aspects of river conservation and watershed protection. Special emphasis is placed on understanding the policy issues surrounding dams, river protection, and watershed planning.

In conjunction with readings and class discussions, students will use a term-long study of a local stream to learn about the threats facing rivers in the United States and the legal and policy mechanisms for addressing these threats. In addition, the class will take an extended field trip to western Massachusetts to gain first-hand knowledge of the tremendous impact river manipulation can have on a social and ecological landscape. We will spend time looking at historically industrialized and now nationally protected rivers in the region.

Through weekly excursions on Maine rivers, students will also develop skills to enable them to paddle a tandem canoe in intermediate whitewater. Evaluation will be based on problem sets, role-playing exercises, contribution to the class, short essays, and paddling skills. Weekly excursions to area rivers entail special scheduling constraints as we will be in the field all day on Fridays.



Permission of instructor

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.