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The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Fall 1975, Volume 21, Number 4
James E. Moss, Editor
Thomas L. Scharf, Assistant Editor

Book Review

David J. Weber, Book Review Editor

The Lower Colorado River: A Bibliography. Compiled by Richard Yates and Mary Marshall. Yuma: Arizona Western College Press, 1974. Index. 153 pages. $12.50.
Reviewed by Norris Hundley, Jr., Professor of History in the University of California, Los Angeles; Managing Editor of the Pacific Historical Review; and author of Dividing the Waters: A Century of Controversy between the United States and Mexico (1966) and Water and the West: The Colorado River Compact and the Politics of Water in the American West (1975).

Richard Yates and Mary Marshall have performed a valuable service for those of us interested in the multifaceted history of the lower Colorado River area. My only regret is that they did not complete this project before I began my own inquiries into the Colorado, for they would have saved me countless hours of searching through obscure (and many not-so-obscure) bibliographies and catalogs. What they have done is to locate more than 1400 items (books, articles, pamphlets, maps, government documents, unpublished papers) and arrange them under eleven appropriate headings: Indians of the lower Colorado River; early exploration and settlement; the military; steam navigation; the Colorado delta; Mexico and the Colorado River; the politics of water; reclamation; cities, towns, and places; mining; and a final catchall category of “general works.” They have second-guessed those who might prefer a different arrangement (or who might not know where to look for entries on a topic that fails to dovetail neatly with one of their categories) by providing two indexes; one for authors and the other for subjects. They have also supplied annotations for those entries possessing ambiguous or misleading titles.

 

When measured by the format established by the compilers of this volume, interest has been greatest in “Cities, towns, and places” (278 entries) and nearly as great in the Indians (275 entries). When measured somewhat differently, the interest of most writers seems to have been in reclamation and in the closely related domestic and international problems of water distribution (considerably more than 400 entries). But there are entries aplenty on other topics, and they include, as the compilers correctly point out, “the most inclusive bibliography on the Yuman tribes in existence.”

Because of the scope of the project, the compilers have understandably overlooked some materials and made a few slips in the format—for example, the listing of a major published item under its earlier unpublished title. The volume also reflects a measure of uncertainty about what constitutes the lower Colorado River. At times the compilers seem to locate the northern boundary near the Arizona-Utah state line, though they generally appear to fix it at Boulder or Black Canyon. The boundaries on the east and west are also unclear (for example, they do not seem to include the vast area drained by the Gila). Users of this book will regret the compilers’ decision to omit the names of the depositories of some of the unpublished items cited; and they will also wish that the compilers had indicated the depositories of the rare published items of which only a few copies are extant.

But none of this is meant to detract from the value of this useful volume. No one interested in the Colorado River can afford to overlook it.