Riding The River


Robert PekelI didn’t want to leave the farm, but I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was asked to help crew a 15-day journey down the Colorado River. This would be a 278-mile gauntlet through the Grand Canyon. There would be no communication with the outside world. Everything we needed to survive had to be packed in. We would be totally on our own. I love that kind of stuff. I was going.

 We put in at Lee’s Ferry, after a short tribute to the late Martin Litton. Martin is credited with preserving Marble Canyon from being dammed, a dam that would have destroyed a large portion of the Grand Canyon. Martin also operated a guide service on the Colorado River that employed dories to transport customers. A dory is a flat bottom, wood boat with upturned ends that provides a unique and exciting river adventure.


Our crew consisted of four guides. Andre was our lead guide along with Mokie, Rio and Duffy. They were responsible for the safe passage of 15 customers. Each guide rowed a dory that held four passengers. Three baggage boats (10-foot rubber rafts) carried all our food, equipment and clothing. The baggage rowers were Hayden, Mariah and Ben. Two swampers, Tony and I, completed the crew. Swampers ride on the baggage boats and work where needed. On this particular voyage, a fourth raft was along to carry Peter, who was photographing the tribute to Martin. Blake and JP assisted him.

Baggage Boats

Andre had more than 150 river trips under his belt. His experience navigated us safely through dangerous waters such as Hermit Rapid, Crystal Falls and Horn Creek Rapid. The Colorado has claimed the life of more than one person. Bert Loper perished in 1949; the weathered hulk of his boat still remains. Frank Brown was another victim. Bessie and Glen Hyde, the young “Bride and Groom,” were believed drowned in 1928. Their bodies were never found, only their boat.

7/24/2015 6:39:51 AM

Robert, I used to be up for such things in my younger days but now, I just have to be satisfied with paddling a kayak around on a local water shed pond. I haven't really ever had an experience like the Colorado river but always wanted one. It sounds like you had quite the adventure both physically and contemplatively. Nature has a way of using its vastness to bring us down to earth, so to speak. ***** It is sad to think about what's happened to the Colorado river since West coast food production has become so popular. I have relatives that live in Las Vegas so I'm aware of the water wars between Arizona, Nevada, and California. With the drought in California, water has become a precious commodity in that part of the country. ***** Have a great high adventure memory day.

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