Paperback / softback
March 5, 1998
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.09 Inches (US)
1.55 Pounds (US)
$33.00 USD, £24.50 GBP
v2.1 Reference

The Height of Our Mountains

Nature Writing from Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley

This is an anthology of nearly four centuries of nature writing about one of America's premier regions—the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Beginning with Captain John Smith's eager gaze westward in search of gold and ending with contemporary essayist John Daniel's transformative gaze inward in search of wilderness, The Height of our Mountains features the work of seventy of the nation's finest writers on nature, from 1607 to 1997.

Responding to Thomas Jefferson's claim in Notes on the State of Virginia that "the height of our mountains has not yet been estimated with any degree of exactness," Branch and Philippon have gathered a diverse collection of written perspectives on the region in an effort to "measure" the remarkable richness of this landscape through a variety of literary forms and styles.

The result is a wide-ranging survey that includes the colonial narratives of William Byrd and George Washington, as well as the natural histories of John Bartram and John James Audubon; the travel narratives of King Louis Philippe of France and the diaries and memoirs of Cornelia Peake McDonald, Walt Whitman, and John Burroughs; works of fiction by Edgar Allen Poe and Willa Cather; speeches by James Madison, Herbert Hover, and Franklin Roosevelt; and contemporary writings by Donald Culcross Peattie, Edwin Way Teale, Roger Tory Peterson, Annie Dillard, Donald McCaig, Peter Svenson, and Jake Page.

The book contains a lengthy and detailed introduction on the character and form of nature writing, the concepts of place and bioregionalism, and the literary natural history of the Blue Ridge country itself. Ample notes, beautiful illustrations and amps, and a lengthy bibliography make this book a lasting treasure.

About the Authors

Michael P. Branch is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno. Daniel J. Philippon is a Ph.D. candidate in the English at the University of Virginia.


A strong sense of place is evoked in this impressive anthology of nature writing from the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. Seventy selections drawn from four centuries of writing include excerpts from letters, travel journals, diaries, novels, speeches, government reports, and personal essays that explore the interaction between humans and the natural world.

- Library Journal

All Virginia outdoor enthusiasts have visited the Blue Ridge, and all of them with a taste for reading will want to own The Height of Our Mountains.

- Old Dominion Sierran

With its mixture of fiction, personal, and scientific writing, the book has something for everyone... From colonization to contemporary times, the list of writers represented (70 in all) is both impressive and surprising, including Jefferson's former slave Isaac, James Audobon, Walt Whitman, Willa Cather, Ellen Glasgow, and Annie Dillard.

- Blue Ridge Outdoors


The Height of Our Mountains will without a doubt be an extraordinary resource for the residents of the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Valley, but because of its remarkable inclusiveness and the vividness of its selections, it will also be invaluable for the rest of us, who—as teachers, writers, citizens, family members, and naturalists—are striving to identify ourselves more knowingly, joyfully, and faithfully with our own homes in nature.

- John Elder, from the foreword

A convincing demonstration of the cultural richness and power of place over more than three centuries of time.

- Lawrence Buell, Harvard University

This wonderful book is as subtle, varied, and inspiring as the landscape it chronicles. Every page, unfolding the deep changes brought by four hundred years of destruction and rebirth, reveals a new perspective on the mountains and valleys of Virginia. Branch and Philippon weave these words and images together with just the right measure of expertise and passion; we could not ask for better guides.

- Edward L. Ayers, University of Virginia

An astute and critical collection of writings that shows clearly, across time, how a landscape, and the human perception of it, shares in the creation of a region's literature. This is a valuable book in service of a place.

- Rick Bass

This anthology is of real interest to both the naturalist and historian inside all of us... It is fascinating to see the variety of responses to the same region over nearly four centuries.

- Stonecrop: A Natural History Book Catalog

A model of regional nature-writing anthologies.

- Virginia Quarterly Review
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801856914 : the-height-of-our-mountains-branch-philippon
Paperback / softback
456 Pages
$33.00 USD

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