I am a journalist, a biologist and a proud New Jersey native. I live in Washington State now, but I grew up along the Passaic River in North Arlington, N.J. The Passaic gave me the creeps as a kid. The river was slick and dirty and vaguely menacing. My mother told us not to play by it. I sometimes wondered how the Passaic had gotten that way. What had happened to it. Years later, I decided to find out. In 2006 I kayaked the Passaic and talked to advocates and scientists, bureaucrats and river rats in an effort to get to know my hometown river. The result is An American River. Part natural history, part personal history, part adventure story, the book is my narrative meditation on the wonder of rivers, the enduring ties of family and the power of water and loss.