Harlan Hubbard

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Since the publication of Shantyboat: A River Way of Life in 1953, Harlan Hubbard achieved a wide reputation as a modern-day Thoreau. Not content simply to advocate a life of simplicity and self-sufficiency, Hubbard and his wife Anna in 1944 built with their own hands a houseboat on the banks of the Ohio near Cincinnati and in 1946 set out on a leisurely, five-year journey down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Shantyboat, Hubbard’s recounting of their journey to New Orleans, and Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe of Society, his sequel telling of their life in a corner of rural Kentucky after their return, won him a host of readers.

Shantyboat on the Bayous is the middle chapter of the Hubbard saga. It tells of Harlan and Anna’s voyage of explorations into the remote reaches of Louisiana. For more than a year after reaching New Orleans, the Hubbards meandered through the lush Cajun country on the Intracoastal Waterway, along Bayou Lafourche, thought the marshes around Avery Island, and finally up the storied Bayou Teche toward the farthest point of navigation.

The story of these travels, along with the author’s illustrations of the bayou country, offers a portrait of one of the most unusual and least-known regions of our country and of the people who inhabit it. In this book, the Hubbards once again demonstrate their gift for living in simple and eloquent harmony with the land. As Don Wallis notes in his foreword, Shantyboat on the Bayous completes Hubbard’s autobiography of “the life he shared with Anna, self-created and self-sustained, difficult and joyful, full of achievement and discovery, diligence, pleasure, and reward.”

Here is a jewel of a travel book, certain to be treasured by Hubbard’s many admirers and discovered by scores of new ones.

Writer and artist, Harlan Hubbard (1900–1988) was heavily influenced in how he lived his life by Henry David Thoreau. His books include, Shantyboat: A River Way of Life, Payne Hollow Journal, and The Woodcuts of Harlan Hubbard.

There is about Harlan’s account of their years in the sleepy bayou country a dreamy, drifting quality, full of sunlight and dark water beneath overhanging trees draped with Spanish moss. But more than this, it is an account of two people living with each other and with nature. -- Louisville Courier-Journal

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Harlan Hubbard, Bayous, Shantyboats, Shantyboaters, New Orleans, Louisiana


Cultural History


With illustrations by the author and a foreword by Don Wallis.

Shantyboat on the Bayous
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