Wordsworth’s later poetry, though traditionally despised, has recently aroused significant scholarly interest. From biographies to critical appreciations, several studies have highlighted the historical importance of the verse Wordsworth produced after the period of his “golden prime” (c. 1798-1808). The present article contributes to this larger project of revaluation by engaging with Wordsworth’s precedent-setting 1820 collection The River Duddon. Combining close readings of this collection with detailed assessments of its publication and reception history, the article explores both how The River Duddon secured Wordsworth’s reputation as “the great poet of the Lakes” and how this reputation was perpetuated by those readers who sought to experience the world behind his words. In doing so, the article contends that more than The Excursion, or even The Prelude, The River Duddon constitutes the defining work of Wordsworth’s later career.