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It is just after the American Revolution and the economy has not recovered. When young Nicholas Drury takes over his family's shipbuilding business, he struggles hard until the family fortune reverses itself with the successful design, construction, and voyage of the Jocasta, a forerunner of the clipper ship.
When his mean-spirited uncle locks him out of the house where he was raised, Chris knows it is time to become a man. The harsh 1835 Wisconsin winter and the bountiful woods lead him to try floating logs down to St. Louis. As a part of the early days of the logging industry, Chris has many adventures on the river.