Sea Winter Salmon: Chronicles of the St. John River

Mari Hill Harpur, with Eileen Regan McCormack

March 2015

Sea Winter Salmon is about a great salmon river, the St. John River on the Lower North Shore of Quebec, and its most important visitor, the illustrious Atlantic salmon. It was the Canadian and American railroad magnate James J. Hill who travelled the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and in 1889 established the log camp that has now been in the family for five generations. A family memoir and a guide to a river’s ecology and the life cycle of the Salmo salar, the book is also about what it takes to be a good conservationist in a remote and delicate region.

Author and photographer Mari Hill Harpur tracks the special relationship between the salmon and the people of the river through diaries, legal documents, scientific data, rare archival photographs and her own photographic collection. Dramatic, tragic, amusing, and authoritative, Sea Winter Salmon addresses itself to readers of history, biography, and conservation biology – and to fisher women and men everywhere.



Author and photographer Mari Hill Harpur, great-granddaughter of railway magnate James J. Hill, grew up in an agricultural culture in the American Midwest, driving a tractor before she drove a car. She studied at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, graduating with a BA in 1971. Her professional life has been divided between business and photography, with a special interest in land management and iconic landscapes. She has had over thirty photographic exhibits internationally, and her recent work portrays large landscapes and deer in their habitats in Minnesota, Canada, and New Zealand. A Director of the World Forestry Association since 1997, serving as Chair 2003-2006, she and her husband have managed the family fishing camp on the St. John River in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence for the past twenty-five years.

$29.95 | ISBN: 9781927535684

What they say

“Part memoir, part rhapsody, Sea Winter Salmon is a fascinating read that brings insight to a beloved tradition. Through it all, the great Atlantic salmon prevails. Mari Hill Harpur illuminates a sport which is also a science, while paying homage to friendships and local expertise. In their role as river stewards, the family’s continuing active involvement with salmon restoration programs is inspiring.”
– Karen Molson, author of The Company of Crows [LLP 2016]

"Mari Hill Harpur's Sea Winter Salmon is beautifully evocative and transporting. It pulled me back in time to that remote Canadian outpost, making me feel is if I were right there with the great James J. Hill and his family and friends at the lodge, on the river, in the canoes. There's an equally important, forward-looking sense to the book that gives it great meaning for today: a reverence for the environment and respect for the area's residents and indigenous people. Mari integrates art and science in such a distinctive, compelling way.  James J. Hill and his family would be very proud of her stewardship and delighted with this very engaging, beautifully presented book. Long live the Hill camp!"
– Larry Haeg, author, Harriman vs. Hill: Wall Street's Great Railroad War


“This "well-written book provides insight into the origins and workings of a long-established private camp."
– Alex T. Bielak, Atlantic Salmon Journal, Summer 2015

Mary Hill Harpur's Sea Winter Salmon is "beautifully illustrated ... Conservationists and history enthusiasts will find much to appreciate in this wonderfully presented memoir."
Publishers Weekly, 17 June 2015.


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