The Singing Wilderness


Sigurd F Olson
Illustrations by Francis Lee Jaques

A long-awaited paperback edition of this classic bestseller.

This volume established Olson as a major writer renowned for the beauty of his prose and the clarity of his vision.

The Singing Wilderness is unequivocally the best series of essays on the north woods country I have ever read.

Roger Tory Peterson

The Singing Wilderness is Sigurd Olson’s first and best-selling book, with over 70,000 copies sold in hardcover since its release in 1956. Now available in paperback for the first time, this volume established Olson as a major writer renowned for the beauty of his prose and the clarity of his vision.

“The singing wilderness has to do with the calling of the loons, northern lights, and the great silences of a land lying northwest of Lake Superior,” Olson writes. “It is concerned with the simple joys, the timelessness and perspective found in a way of life that is close to the past. I have heard the singing in many places, but I seem to hear it best in the wilderness.”

Olson tells his story through descriptions of the simple events in nature that bring meaning to his life: picking berries, looking for pine knots, fly-fishing, hiking through the forest, paddling a canoe. “The movement of a canoe is like a reed in the wind,” he writes. “Silence is part of it, and the sounds of lapping water, bird songs, and wind in the trees. It is part of the medium through which it floats, the sky, the water, the shores.”

Olson’s insights, sharpened by his knowledge of the natural world and warmed by his passion for the outdoors, challenge the reader to participate in each fulfilling moment. As meaningful today as it was when he wrote it, The Singing Wilderness is an essential antidote to the trials of modern life. This unique volume, beautifully illustrated by Francis Lee Jaques, will be a welcome addition to any nature lover’s bookshelf and backpack.

Sigurd F. Olson (1899-1982) was one of the greatest environmentalists of the twentieth century. An award-winning conservation activist and best-selling author, Olson introduced a generation ad Americans to the importance of wilderness. He served as president of the Wilderness Society and the National Parks Association and was honored by the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation for his work. Olson’s nine books frequently appeared on best-seller lists across the nation.

The Singing Wilderness is unequivocally the best series of essays on the north woods country I have ever read.

Roger Tory Peterson

I long ago read and treasured Sig Olson’s books about the great outdoors. He had a mystical feel for the land and its waters, and his works bear testimony to his insight into the relationship of nature and the human spirit.

Stewart L. Udall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior 1961-1969

With a poet’s lyric voice, a guide’s authority and a warrior’s commitment to his beloved canoe country wilderness, Sig Olson became the ‘Voice of the North’ to a generation of readers. He stands comfortably among the pantheon of great American nature writers-Thoreau and Muir, Burroughs and Krutch, Leopold, Eiseley and Teale; but like one of his great sentinel pines, he also stands alone.

Douglas Wood, author of Old Turtle and Paddle Whispers

Sigurd Olson distilled the joy and wonder of his life and preserved them in his books. This is the source of their enduring appeal. They contain the pure essence of all that is consoling in nature.

Paul Gruchow, author of Journal of a Prairie Year, and The Necessity of Empty Places

Sigurd Olson’s lyric books on his philosophy of wilderness and humankind’s need for wild and primitive nature were epics of their time, more readable for today than Thoreau. No one has evoked the moods and feelings. of wilderness as vividly as Olson did. Those timeless classics will now thrill a new generation of readers as they did mine.

Fred Bodsworth, author of Last of the Curlews

Miraculously, he did manage to publish nine books in twenty-six years-eight of which are treasures. Happily, these eight (The Singing Wilderness, Listening Point, The Lonely Land, Runes of the North, Open Horizons, Wilderness Days, Reflections from the North Country, and Of Time and Place) are being restored to print, in uniform paperback editions, by the U of M Press.

Mpls.St. Paul Magazine

As pleasing to the eye and ear as a white-throat in a full burst of song, here in a stimulating series of delightful essays is an outpouring of feeling about nature from one of the most famous woodsmen of our day. In them the reader will not only get a vicarious thrill, he will automatically begin thinking and planning for an adventure into the wilderness to endeavor to see the beauty Mr. Olson saw, hear the rhythm he heard, and feel the peace he felt in his favorite lake country, the Quetico-Superior, northwest of Lake Superior.

Christian Science Monitor

The Singing Wilderness will have a special place among out-of-door books for its delight in our natural heritage and for its personal response to the touchstone of untouched woodlands and hills.


This thoughtful book is practical as a kind of interpretive guide to a marvelous watery wilderness, and as an arouser of public opinion to preserve it in the public interest.

New York Times