Did you see that 1940 trip as being a major adventure, or was it just
kind of another trip for you?
Oh, I dont remember. Thats a hell of a long time ago! I just
looked forward to doing it. I had read Powell and I knew Emery Kolb very well, I knew his
brother Ellsworth, and Id been up to see them, been down the trails in the Canyon.
So it was just a trip.
I wrote Norm a letter and asked him. He said, yes, he was taking people down
for six hundred dollars from Green River, Wyoming to Hoover Dam. So I signed up for the
whole trip, but then my wife got a little upset and said she didnt want me gone that
long. So I settled for starting at Green River, Utah, and I gave up the first part of the
We had a hell of a good time, we were very fortunate. Nevills had included
some people that made the trip very interesting: for example, we had a geologist from Salt
Lake, we had a woman from New York who was one of the best living bird people in the
country, so we knew all about the birds. It was a very well-conducted trip. Norman Nevills
did a good job. It was his second trip down. We helped him build the boatsthey were
plywood boats, about three-quarter-inch plywood.
I think the one I used is over at Arizona State, but I dont know where
it is. I gave it to them, but I have no idea what they did with it. I have the oars that I
used. I still kept those. But thats about it.
It seems like that was a real interesting time in the history of the
Well, World War II was coming up. Almost as soon as the river trip was over,
within about a year, I went on duty with the Air Corps and stayed five years with them.
Thats about when it happened. There wasnt a lot of commotion [beforehand]. The
Depression never really bothered Arizona a lot. No depressions bother this place.
When you went on that first trip were you aware the war might happen? Did
you see it coming then?
Well, I was aware of Hitler. I honestly didnt think wed get into
the war. But by the timewell, I was on duty in 1940I went on duty
earlythere was no question there was going to be a war. So, I got in it.
It seems like something happened there in the fifties with the Dinosaur
thing, and it really came to a head in the sixties with Marble and Bridge Canyon
Well, of course there was controversy. When the Navajos extended their
reservation to the edge of Marble Canyon, that gave the Navajos a little say in what might
be done with Marble Canyon. And of course Marble Canyon had several good dam sites in it.
But when it came time to discuss the dams, there was so much opposition raised by the
Sierra Club, by people who didnt want the river or the canyon bothered. Eventually
it just sort of
just sort of died off. And people forgot about the dam sites, all
twenty-three of them. And the survey work that had been done, stopped. Weve never
heard any more of it.
What were the best reasons for building those dams?
Well, electric power and the preservation of water to make sure that Hoover
Dam remained full. See, the estimation was
No, with Glen Canyon it wouldnt be
true. [But the estimation was] it would take 500 years to fill Hoover Dam up with mud,
silt. And if you go down the canyon now, at the headwaters, anything past Separation
Rapids, you can almost touch the bottom, for miles, with a fish line. So it is filling up,
about as fast as they thought it would. And they built Glen Canyon Dam. That stopped a lot
of the silt.
Within the state, a lot of people were for Marble and Bridge Dams?
Oh yeah! A lot of people. But nobody knew much about it, outside of a handful
of us. Even those people that served on the Streams CommissionI was one of the first
members. I was about the only one that had ever seen the river up close. It was almost
impossible to get people interested. For example, Havasu Dam, where they wanted to build
that was a very natural dam site, but nobody knew where it was, nobody understood dam
construction, so there wasnt
Well, there was a lot of local interest because
of water. The local interest just didnt have the push to do it.
What difference would those dams have made to Arizona?
Wouldnt have made any difference. I started out in favor of the
damsI wound up opposed to them.
What changed your mind?
Well, I just couldnt see the great advantage. We had all the water we
needed, about 840,000 acre feet. And while thats not going to last us as long as we
thought it would, I think itll last up til 2000. And now weve done so
much with desalinization that I think we can drop a tube in the Pacific Ocean and get the
water we need. So water is no longer the big driving force that its always been. For
the five civilizations whove lived in this valley before us, water was the deciding
factor. When I was a boy, water was the deciding factor, but not any more. We have all the
water we need.
Did you ever read or hear of the book Cadillac Desert?
What did you think of that?
I didnt think much of it.
It kind of paints a different picture.
No, Ive lived here all my life, learned to swim in the Salt River.
Water has gotten damn important. Here now, not for reclamation, but to drink. Thats
all the water we need. Central Arizona Project is flowing out there. It was supposed to
irrigate our land. In twenty years, there wont be a farm left in this whole
valleyitll be all residential land, and all they need is drinking water.
Hoover Dam probably would never be built today. But it was built in
Black Canyon. I watched the dam being built. I have pictures I took of it. In fact, I took
my wife across on a little boat, before theyd finished the dam, and we could see the
thing being built. Its been a very successful dam in lots of ways: Its stored
water, its produced power
I think thats beneficial.
But today it wouldnt have been built?
Well, theyre not going to build any more hydroelectric dams. The
Congress listened to the people that were opposed to the dams and just decided to
hell with it.
You took another trip in 1964, with your son?
Well, I took twenty-four boys from the YMCA, but I only took them through
Glen Canyon. And then I took a trip with my children, and we went through to Diamond
Creek. There used to be a road down there. Someone tried to build a hotel down there. It
was still there in 1940, but I guess its all gone now.
Nothing left now, yeah. Weve got one vignette that you could shed
light on: the story of the helicopter portage of Hance.
Oh yeah. Well, that was the trip I took my children through the Canyon. Well,
we got to
It was a big rocky rapidI guess it was Hance. A friend of
mineGod, I even forget his name. Hes living back in Louisiana someplace. He
was a helicopter pilot and I think he was going to bring something down for us to eat. My
youngest son had a very bright idea about running a river: he wanted to have the
helicopter come down and set up camp for the night, and prepare the dinner. The next
morning they would clean up the camp, have breakfast, fly out, get lunch, fly back, serve
lunch, fly back and get stuff, come down and get ready for the night. Of course that would
have cost somebody about $10,000, but that never happened.
Well, we got to this Hance Rapids, and it got down to a question of
portaging. The river was running quite lowI think it was probably running under
6,000 feet, and the rocks were very bad. So he said, Hell, Ill carry those
boats over for you, and by God, he did! He carried all the boats over, and I took
pictures of it and sent it to the Bell Helicopter people and they never even wrote a
letter back saying thank you. So thats what happened over thereportaging a
rapid by helicopternever been done before, dont think its been done
Was there a lot of difference in that second trip? Did you notice
No, and I can tell you theres no difference today. Theres only
one new rapid, and thats the great big one. Crystal. Thats the only new rapid.
Lava Falls is still
Although the first time I went through it, I ran it, because the
water was so lowthere was no big wave, so you just went through it, no trouble. And
thats the whole story of the river. If youre lucky
I think the best
level to run that river is around 25,000. Now, you dont always get that, but I think
the modern runners like more waterand I dont blame them, using those great big
boats! because theyll go through anything.
The boat I used [on the most recent trip, in93] was Hatchs little
boat, and it would carry about eight or nine people.
That little snout boat.
But it took the rapids very well. And I liked it because I couldnt walk
around the rapids, my legs are too bad. So I got to ride through.
Before we turned the tape on, you were talking about how crowded it is on
the river. Were really wrestling with that now. Theyre kind of stirring
around, and theyre going to rewrite the Management Plan, just how they manage the
river and stuff. And thats a big concern of ours: How do you figure out how
youre going to run the river, how youre going to run the Park?
Oh, I think the way the river is being run today, is as well as it can be
run. I couldnt imagine where you could improve on it. The food is good, the toilet
facilities are very well handledand that was a big problem. Water is no problem. As
I say, to me, its not a solvable problem, because anybody in this countryor
anyplacehas the right to go down that river. And if nobody will take them, Ive
always said you could just go up there and do it yourself. Of course the park doesnt
like that, but theyd have a hard time trying to prosecute you for it.
Well, it darned sure seems like the river and that whole experience is an
important asset for the country, and the state.
As I say, any American, any person, has the right to see our country. And if
we start making rules about who can and who cant see it, then were not
America. We can complain all we want about you dont want that many people
seeing it. I dont like so many people living in Phoenix! But Im not
going to do anything about itI cant! Ive read about efforts to manage
it, but I dont know how youd manage that trip any better. Dont they
limit it to 150 people a day now?
I think thats a hell of a lot of people, but if you can handle it, fine
What weve seen is only a fraction of what youve seen in terms
of growth: everywhere you look in the state the population is kind of just going through
the roof. And theyre having that problem on the Rim too, just with all these people
visiting. We see this philosophical question coming up, when it comes to how youre
going to run the National Parks. And if the population continues to go up, do you have
some kind of control, or
No question, were going to have to control the South Rim. Now how? I
dont want to see them close the El Tovar Hotel, or Bright Angel, or the little
cabinsyet 4 million people will visit that canyon this year, and theres only
400 places on the whole South Rim, including camping places, where people can stay. Now I
think the ideas that Ive heard, like keeping everything a distance back from the
rimI dont know whether its ten miles or back where the Village is, back
near the landing strip: but you can go up there in your car, leave it, and if you want to
go to the Rim theres an electric or gasoline transportation to go up there, and
provide transportation all the way along, even west of Hermits Camp, and as far east
as the Lookout Tower. Thatll take care of the people.
But now, when you try to translate those people who want to go down the
river, thats another horse. And part of the other horses trouble is the
superintendent. They just moved probably the best superintendent we have ever had up
there. And that has a big bearing. Prices wooden building burned down with all that
good stuff in it. The building should never have been kept there in its state. Whats
going to happen if the museum burns down? Theres an awful lot of stuff up there that
needs to be done. And I tell you the truth, I would not feel happy leaving it entirely up
to the whims of the National Park Service. Ive known some people in the National
Park business who love the work and did a lot of good for it. But Ive known people
that didnt know their ass from a hot rock, about even taking care of people. I go up
to the Rim, and what do I see? People eating lunch all over the lawn of the El Tovar
Hotel. That shouldnt be allowed. We run a train up there every day now from
Williams. I think thats wonderful. Theres the old Babbitt Store. Whats
going to happen? One of these days itll go, burn down. They have a make-believe
hospital. Theres just a lot of damned-good work needed to take care of all the
people4 millionthat are visiting the south end of the Canyon. And if I were
you guys, Id make my voice real loud. I dont know this new superintendent.
Well, its like you say, there was a big loss when Chandler left,
and even Davis before him.
Well the river runners probably know more about that river and the Canyon
than all the other people put together.
That was kind of what we thought, and thats why we started this
I know that. I remember old Dock Marston, and Dock took the trouble to learn
the river, and then he took the trouble to run a power boat up the damned thing. I
remember when he did that. As I say, I love that place, and you start pooping around with
it, youre going to have me on your hands too!
You said something there: Dock Marston took the time and made the effort.
It seems that the easier and the more convenient we make it for people to see, somehow a
little something is lost. The more effort someone has to make, possibly they get more out
Well, one of the greatest things that could happen on the river trips, would
be to have each company have someone very knowledgeable [guides]I mean, who could
point out every rock and tell the geologic background of that rock. Every age of geology
is in that canyon, but one. And you find that one up east of the Lookout Tower on a little
hill. People dont know that the rocks in the Inner Gorge at one time formed a
mountain chain higher than the present Alps. And those are interesting things. The first
discovery of any evidence of living life is in there. The story of trying to move the deer
from the North Rim to the South Rim: its a fantastic story. Airplanes landing:
Ellsworth Kolb landed an airplane down on the Powell Plateau. Nobody remembers that! He
did that around, I guess, 1913 or 1914.
Was that an accident, or he just wanted to do it?
No, he landed an old jenny down there. Nobody ever thought hed make it
out. By God, he took it off! I bet Belknap has something on that. And, oh, the story of
water. The story about the trails. I think Ive walked down every trail that they
have, and some they didnt have. The Nevills trip that I took, the first one, was
triply-interesting, because we had people that could, Oh, look at that bird! Well
thats a white heron, and you only find them here and there. Or the geologist
who could tell us every morning about the rocks.
I remember an interesting story, something I tried: We were getting reports
that the jets that flew over the Canyonthe fighter jets from Luke [Air Force Base]
and Willie [Williams Air Force Base]when they were breaking the sound barrier, it
was shaking rocks loose, and the rocks were going to fill that canyon. So the next trip I
took, I talked to Luke Field, and I said, Look, Im going to take a radio with
me, and Im going to call you guys, and when I call you, the next morning, I want you
to come up with five F-100s and come right where Im going to be, and just break the
sound barrier. I want to see what happens. So they came roaring down that canyon,
ba-boom, boom, boom, boom. Not one pebble moved. So we put that thing to rest.
Thats a good scientific experiment!
Well, it was. People have often asked me around the state, Whats
your most beautiful spot in Arizona? I said, The falls that come out to form
Tapeats Creek. If youre interested, you can go up to Jacobs Lake and you can
follow a road down so far, and then you can walk to where this waterfall comes right out
of the red rock, about forty degrees. And if you want to walk down to the river, you can.
Well, not many people know about that, yet they can do it. Thats the most beautiful
part of Arizona, to me.
Thats great. Not many make the effort.
Well, not many people want to make the effort.
Well, they choose not to.
But if you tell them the stories, then they want to do it.
We have this problem, politically, now. Theres been kind of a
mindset in government agencies for some time now, that they shouldnt fraternize with
the locals. The official take is that were kind of the enemy or
something. They just dont feel its right to get too close to us.
Oh, Id ignore themI would. I know that attitude exists. I
remember the trouble the Kolb brothers had. The Kolb brothers had trouble starting that
photographic studio. The Park Service didnt want it, because it was a business that
they couldnt control, because Kolb had built the house and it belonged to him, to do
what he wanted.
Ive run into this thing at the Canyon where weve had any number
of superintendents who just didnt care. And things went on. I can remember people
wanting to use the South Rim for snow skiing, and just walking with skis [cross-country
skiing], and the times we had getting that permission! I remember when we built the first
church up there on the Rim, and we had an awfully hard time getting the Grand Canyon
people to approve it.
Is that the Shrine of the Ages?
That started it. When Howard Pyle used to go up there on Easter and have his
Easter service on the Rim of the Canyon. They didnt like that at all! But we finally
got a man that liked it, so it made progress. I tell you, you have to almost get into
politics to get around that. And thats why you ought to get real friendly with your
senators. Youve got a guy named McCain-he doesnt know much about the
Canyon, but hes friendly. And Kyl I think will be friendly if hes elected. I
think all the members of our delegation would be helpful to you fellows.
One of the stormiest periods in modern river running was up there in the
1970s. There was a controversy between motors and oars, removing the motors. It seems like
you got involved in that a bit. The outfitters got you involved?
No, we used a motor with Nevills trip in 1940, and it didnt take
long for us not to like it. Its one thing to float down that river with the
quietness, and then hear that putt-putt-putt-putt. So we didnt use the motor much. I
remember when you had that controversy, but when youre taking that many people
through, I dont know how youre going to do anything else. Frankly, Id
like to see motors forgotten-just use the oars and go through.
Were really having to struggle with it right now, because
theyre going to re-do this Plan. One of the questions is-well, there are all
these different issues-one of them is that the private versus commercial use is a
big thing. And the other is the overall use level. The question for us is, do we
Everybody pretty much agrees that we dont want it to increase any more, but do we
Well, you cant control that. You can control it by
it at 150. Id never let it go above that. And if anything, I might even haul it back
to 100-not that itll make a lot of difference. But get real friendly with your
Congresspeople. Because if theyre going to have to settle thisin the Senate
and the House, thats where you settle itnot up at the South Rim.
Would you say the Canyon has had an effect on you personally?
Well, once youve been in the Canyon and once youve sort of fallen
in love with it, it never ends. I go to the Grand Canyon two or three times a year. I fly
over it a lot. Ive found a new natural arch up there. Ive flown helicopters
into all parts of the Canyon. So its a place that I like to go, and I go whenever I
get the chance
its always been a fascinating place to me, in fact Ive
often said that if I ever had a mistress it would be the Grand Canyon.
A detailed summary of Goldwaters career and achievements would take up
the rest of this issue. Suffice to say thatin more ways than onehe represents
a high water mark for Arizona.
Hes a busy man and he doesnt beat around the bush, or slow down
to ask himself what the party line is anymore. He calls em like he sees em and never looks
back. We (Lew Steiger and Tom Moody) spent an hour with him last spring and went away
wishing it could have been a week.
Hes done several river trips. In 1940 he landed somewhere between 57
and 99 on the roll call of the first 100 river runners (about 73, he thinks). A diary he
kept on his 1940 trip matured into a terrific book, Delightful Journey. Highly
recommended for Canyon buffs.
It was published in 1970, and at the end of its introduction he writes-
Delightful Journey is being published at this time primarily to
honor Major John Wesley Powell...
For me, Powells name is inextricably linked with the river and the
Grand Canyon. The water could stand for a symbol of time itself, fast-flowing through the
ages; its canyons, many of them, still wild and unexplored; the bleaching rib cages of
wrecked river craft scattered on sandbars; names of long dead explorers scratched through
red sandstone on a cliff; sacred Indian mountains and ruined miners shacks visible
nearby; ancient lava flows cooled and solidified into crystal-faceted platens on steep
banks; and the rim a dazzling belt so far above that it seems unreal.
If you go through all this, the blue headwaters of Lake Mead will fan
there ahead of you, welcoming you. To learn all that is to learn freedom and patience; and
you learn these lessons by ranging yourself on the side of the river.
I like to think that all human effort takes place within the context of
something permanent, like that river and its canyons.