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FOUNTAIN CREEK: Big Lessons from a Little River


"Every stream in the American West deserves a biographer as affectionate, thorough, and lyrical as Jim O'Donnell."

—BEN GOLDFARB, author of Crossings

From its headwaters high up Colorado’s legendary Pike’s Peak to suburban concrete-lined canals, Fountain Creek has endured nearly everything humans could do to a single watershed. It has been dammed, diverted, drained, poisoned, restored, exploited, ignored—and yet it has survived. 


Journalist and archeologist Jim O’Donnell grew up exploring among the beavers and discarded beer bottles that have long populated Fountain Creek. Irreverent, deeply knowledgeable, and endlessly curious, O’Donnell guides us through the contradictions and complexities of one of the most heavily urbanized areas in one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. 

Fountain Creek is at once a reflection of our ever-changing relationship to the natural world and a challenge for each of us to reexamine the many ways we are connected to the world around us, to water, and to each other.

November 2024 | Nonfiction | 9798890920119 | 365 pp | $19.95 

Fountain Creek takes us on a fascinating tour of an abused and unassuming stream, fed by the effluent of cities and carrying with it centuries of human history. Jim O’Donnell reminds us that—even within earshot of the interstate’s roar—water still flows and wildness persists.”

—ZAK PODMORE, Life After Dead Pool

All photos by Jim O'Donnell


JIM O'DONNELL is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Sierra Magazine, El Palacio, and elsewhere. After a career in archaeology and journalism, O’Donnell continues to work as a community conservation activist and wilderness advocate in the American Southwest where he fights to protect and restore wetlands and watersheds. Born and raised in southern Colorado, O’Donnell lives in Taos, New Mexico.


“A beautifully told story about an essential body of water and the options for its future as the West gets hotter and drier.”

“O’Donnell steps cautiously and curiously into Fountain Creek and encourages us all to love our home rivers, even when we’re afraid of what we might find.”

—LAURA PASKUS, Water Bodies


Fountain Creek is a meticulous, heartfelt ode to a chronically mis- treated watershed. Every stream in the American West deserves a biographer as affectionate, thorough, and lyrical as O’Donnell. May this book help us find the wisdom to restore Fountain Creek and many other waterways like it.”

—BEN GOLDFARB, Crossings

“O’Donnell’s compassion for the roaming watercourse is evident with his knowledge of the past and firsthand observations. Through sharp examination and expressive writing, Fountain Creek gives readers deeper respect and understanding of why Fountain Creek is a crucial and vital resource which can not and should not be discounted or ignored.”

—JEFFERY PAYNE, Poor Richard’s Books


“In his affecting, prismatic, and beautifully-wrought exploration of the past, present, and possible future of Fountain Creek, O’Donnell reminds us that we have a chance at healing the world at large, if only we look first to places closest to home.”



“What might still flow through these damned-up and dried-out days of ours? Fountain Creek is lovingly navigated and tenderly told by O’Donnell and becomes a baptismal stream for the Anthropocene. This book swims.”

—TIM DEE, Four Fields


Fountain Creek shows how myths of place and belonging influence

our interactions with the natural world.”


“A quietly beautiful exercise in the glory of natural spaces, O’Donnell’s Fountain Creek is a panacea for and an acknowledgement of the hurts and injustices done to the wild world on behalf of humanity’s irrepressible ‘progress.’”

—MOLLY IMBER, Maria’s Bookshop

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