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Harlan and Anna Hubbard, newly married in middle age, build the boat of their dreams and drift down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Harlan is an artist and a writer with a poet’s eye for the beauty of the world. Anna is a musician and an elegant master of the arts of graceful living. For seven years (1944-1951) the Hubbards make their home on their little boat, drifting with the river, camping on the land.

Together they learn how to create and sustain a self-sufficient way of life that is infinitely fulfilling. It is a “river way of life”—free-flowing, endowed with the love of nature, the discovery of community, the rewards of good work, and the joy of creativity.

The journal is a witness to history, embracing the gentle spirit of an America now lost to modern “progress.” It is one of the most significant renderings in our literature of a deeply felt sense of place.

Out of this journal grew Harlan Hubbard’s enduring classic, Shantyboat, and his idyllic Shantyboat on the Bayous. His later Payne Hollow is a Thoreauvian testament to the values embodied in the homesteading life the Hubbards lived for four decades after they completed their epic river journey. Their life together has been praised by Wendell Berry as “one of the finest accomplishments of our time.” The Shantyboat Journal reveals its creation.

Don Wallis is a writer, teacher, and publisher of a country newspaper. He is the author of Harlan Hubbard: A Visionary Life and the editor of a three-volume series, Oyo: An Ohio River Anthology.

"Hubbard’s journal writings are full, expressive, and enlightening—both in a practical and a spiritual sense. Reminiscent of Thoreau’s work, but not as obtuse, they convey a pleasure in simplicity, adventure, and creativity, and an appreciation for the working men and women of the rivers."—Boating Books

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Harlan Hubbard, Anna Hubbard, Ohio River, Bayous, Mississippi River, Shantyboats


Literature in English, North America


With illustrations by Harlan Hubbard; edited by Don Wallis.

Shantyboat Journal
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