From folk singer to fierce activist — the life of Katie Lee

  Among desert rats and river lovers, folk singer and activist Katie Lee is legendary. A Hollywood actress in her youth, Lee started running Southwestern rivers in her 30s and became an outspoken defender of her beloved Colorado River. She fought the damming of Glen Canyon, and celebrated its beauty and mourned its loss in All My Rivers are Gone. In her latest book, Sandstone Seduction: Rivers and Lovers, Canyons and Friends, she similarly alternates between hilarity and fury.

Lee’s new work is a breathless boat ride down a wild river. Her words grab us like a strong current and swirl us past scenes from her brave and bold life: singing in a Mexican brothel, learning the ropes in 1940s Hollywood, cycling nude through town to mark a friend’s death, guiding a cumbersome boatload of newbie rafters, nearly freezing to death in a dark desert canyon. She’s raucous, lively, irreverent; the kind of woman your grandma might have been if she’d hiked naked and drunk tequila.

Now over 80, Lee still writes with freshness and spunk, and with a sense of celebration rather than mourning. Hers isn’t the most polished prose you’ll ever read, but you’ll giggle, weep, and maybe even snort coffee out your nose as you savor her take on eight decades of roaming the West and its rivers. And if you read this book and then go put your toes in the Green or the Snake or the Colorado, maybe you’ll find, as Katie did, that "you’ve learned as much about yourself as you have about the river."

Sandstone Seduction: Rivers and Lovers, Canyons and Friends
Katie Lee
240 pages, softcover $17.50.
Johnson Books, 2004