Desert Riverman
The Free-spirited
adventures of
Murl Emery

by Robert S. Wood

264 pages
2 maps, index
64 photographs
Trade paperback

Out of Print. 
Five Quail Books
Ken Sanders Rare Books
Back of Beyond Books
or this:


Born and raised in the parched desert country of the lower Colorado River, Murl Emery came to know the currents of the muddy river as no other man. He worked as a beaver trapper, cattle rustler, bootlegger, house mover, storekeeper, ferryman, prospector, cowboy, truck driver, inventor, miner, river freighter, aviator, astute mechanic, fishing fleet operator--and became the lead boatman during the construction of Hoover Dam.

But Murl Emery was never one to sit still, never one to take anyone--himself included--seriously. In later life, he meandered from beachcomber, to desert philosopher, storyteller, advisor to scientists and congressmen, desert detective, dude wrangler, devilish troublemaker, showman, powder monkey, consummate kidder, defeated politician, museum curator, joker, incorrigible vagabond, homesteader, and self-styled "Old Goat."

In Desert Riverman, Robert S. Wood interweaves two depictions of Murl Emery: Emery's rich and unparallelled history in the desert Southwest, told in Murl's own words; and the Emery the author knew and accompanied on madcap adventures in the 1960s--in Baja California, western Grand Canyon, and a last trip through Glen Canyon before it was inundated. Throughout, the tale is salted with Emery's hilarious outbursts and actions, painting a vivid picture of the early days on the Colorado and the eccentric character reared by this desert river environment.

A great read, rich in character, deep in history, and just plain fun. Heavily illustrated with a map and more than sixty historic images, most published here for the first time.

Bob Wood with Murl Emery, 1960s

After receiving a B.S. in Forestry from the University of California in his hometown of Berkeley, Robert Wood worked as a magazine editor, first in San Francisco, then for the University in Berkeley.

Next came five years as a reporter for Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated in both San Francisco and New York. Fortunate real estate investments enabled Robert to retire from Time, Inc. at age thirty-four to travel, write books and raise a family, authoring two backpacking bestsellers.

Along the way, in search of fun and adventure, he has also been a forest ranger, singer, sailor, primal therapist, forest firefighter, marlin boat crewman, painter, rattlesnake catcher, river guide and mountaineer, as well as a sports and travel writer.

After rafting Glen Canyon with Murl, he went on to run eight or nine hundred miles of the Colorado River system, as well as rivers in other countries. With his wife Deanne he currently spends winter in the Sedona, Arizona, desert, and summer and fall in a high Sierra mountain cabin overlooking Lake Tahoe, California.

His previous books have sold more than a quarter million copies. They range in topic from wilderness travel to medicine and philosophy, from getting more fun out of life to taking control of one's death, from whitewater rafting to primal therapy to metaphysics.

To learn more see his website:

N.H. "Farb" Farbman photo