The semisubmerged metropolis of Bombay Beach, Salton Sea.
The semisubmerged metropolis of Bombay Beach, Salton Sea. (Richard Misrach)

American Water Canon

The semisubmerged metropolis of Bombay Beach, Salton Sea.

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The August 2003 issue of Outside is dedicated to reporting on the health of our nation’s water supplies, from the lakes and rivers we play in to the water we drink. But this isn’t the first time the magazine has reported on the water crisis—we have a long history of covering the most pressing problems surrounding American water, and the people working to solve them. Here, we present a selection of Outside‘s best stories about the nation’s most valuable natural resource.

The semisubmerged metropolis of Bombay Beach, Salton Sea. The semisubmerged metropolis of Bombay Beach, Salton Sea.

Blow Up By Bruce Barcott, February 1999
Swing a hammer, light a fuse, and let the dams come tumbling down. So goes the cry these days on American rivers, where vandals of every stripe — enviros and fishermen and interior secretaries, among others — wage battle to uncork the nation’s bound-up waters.

Arsenic in Fallon By Bill Donahue, February 2001
Meet the proud residents of the nation’s arsenic capital: Fallon, Nevada. Now, will someone please explain to these good people why poison’s a bad thing?

Where the Ghost Bird Sings by the Silent Springs By William Vollman, February 2002
What’s that smell? It’s a teeming avian sanctuary—and a sump of troubled waters. It’s a mess that we created—and a puzzle we can’t solve. It’s California’s Salton Sea, a hypersaline lake that kills the very life itshelters. Join William T. Vollmann on a voyage of discovery, from the culverts of Mexicali to the shimmering shores of a waking nightmare. Just pinch your nose and squint—it really is quite lovely.

Voyage of the Man-Fish By Bruce Barcot, May 2002
Chris Swain intends to swim the Columbia from source to sea. His goal? Save the river, then sell the rights.

Dude Over Troubled Water By John Galvin, August 2002
The strangest stuff litters the flood-sloshed banks of the Mississippi River and her tributaries—tires by the hundred, refrigerators, automobiles, messages in a bottle, urine in a bottle, and (yikes!) the occasional ice chest containing a severed horse head. When the going gets gross, the man to call is Chad Pregracke, a crusading voyager in the war against trash.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Richard Misrach