Crown Of The Continent; The Wildest Rockies
By Steven Gnam
Braided River, an imprint of Mountaineers Books www.BraidedRiver.org
ISBN 978-1-59485-772-0 $29.95
Photographer Steven Gnam takes the reader along as he explores the international ecosystem known as the Crown of the Continent. This area bordering the United States and Canada represents the natural migration path of many species that call the Rocky Mountains their home. Water from this area atop the continental divide flows westward to the Pacific Ocean, eastward to Hudson Bay, and southward ultimately reaching the Gulf of Mexico.
Images such as this from page 162 captioned “Headwaters of the Missouri River, which eventually flows to the Gulf of Mexico” will visually excite Luminous Landscape readers while the text throughout the book explains not the photographic how-tos Gnam used, but the reasons why people choose to live in this region and work together to protect it.
The Crown of the Rockies is a largely unbroken collection of national parks, reservation lands, and wilderness areas, including the world’s first transboundary park, Waterson-Glacier International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also the area where climates converge. The Pacific Northwest joins the Rocky Mountains, to meet the Arctic and the Great Plains in this area where 65 species of mammals live along with 260 species of birds and more than 1,400 kinds of native plants thrive.
Gnam writes “At the onset of this project I wanted to take people into the far reaches of the Crown, up into the mountains, down under the clear waters, deep into the forests. I also wanted to share the views you could see on foot, the views you see with a little sweat and persistence. None of the images in this book were shot from airplanes, and all of the wildlife photographed is wild.”
Beautiful two-page panoramic spreads, like this one on pages 66-67 in this large coffee-table-style hardbound book, demonstrate the inspiring beauty of this area. Gnam has obviously worked hard to bring the reader images of all four seasons, sometimes heading out on his bicycle with skis and camping gear in midwinter to capture the scene. Gnam’s parents moved to the area when he was very young so he grew up hiking, fishing and camping in the wilderness and spent as much time as possible during his high school and college days going higher and deeper into the Crown’s mountains.
Throughout the book the essays of Douglas H. Chadwick, Michael Jamison, Dylan Boyle, and Karsten Heuer, together with the words and photos of Steven Gnam, illustrate what motivates the people who live and love this area and beckon the reader to explore The Crown of the Continent. The essay by Dylan Boyle titled “Experiencing the Crown of the Continent” particularly invites the reader to come see the area for themselves with an overall map and several localized maps that include numbers for more detailed information, including visitor centers, points of interest, as well as hiking locations that include round trip length, elevation gain and overall difficulty.
For the armchair explorer, the environmentalist, or the reader seeking to prepare themselves for their own international North American adventure, The Crown of the Continent, the Wildest Rockies beckons.