Wild Ride: The High Water of 1957
It was said the river was running about 125,000
second feet! When I flew over the Canyon on the way to Lees Ferry to meet Georgie
Whites party, it seemed as if the water was halfway up the Canyon walls though
really it wasnt. I was going on this trip as a cooks helper for
Georgie and my then friend (and now husband) Fred was one of two boatmen to row her rig
consisting of three ten-man rafts lashed together which we called the little
The party that left Lees Ferry that June rode on two rigs, Georgies
three pontoons lashed together (which we sometimes called the Queen Elizabeth) driven by
motor, and the Little Boats. We crew were very excited at the prospect of running the
river on this very high waterand we were not to be disappointed. This was not so
with some of the passengers who found themselves swooshed down to Phantom Ranch in two and
one-half days instead of five.
Twenty-five Mile Rapid! Always one to reckon with, and in this high water,
something special. Georgies rig always went first and soon disappeared in the choppy
waves. And our Little Boats followed. The water and waves seemed ever so much more
powerful than we had ever experienced. Suddenly our little rig was flung against the left
wall of the Canyon full force. What left wall?, you ask. Well, it was there and caused a
rip in the neoprene of one of the outside ten-man rafts. A large section of it deflated,
the part directly under the boatman, Ed Gooch, who was suddenly sitting in choppy water up
to his waist. For one very brief instant of disbelief, it was a funny sight! Then we
realized that Ed could no longer maneuver the boat as it swirled through what seemed like
the longest, meanest rapid we had ever encountered.
Georgie wisely sensed that there might be problems so she had pulled in
downstream to wait for us. She motored out into the stream to intercept our rig, ordered
all females off, and conscripted the strong young males to jump on board to help bring the
rig to shore. But it swirled away and was soon out of sight. And that was the last we saw
of it until the next day.
Meanwhile, we camped precariously on a steep talus slope but at least we had
supper and breakfast. The Little Boats did not carry food.
The next day we found the Little Boats a few miles down the river. The high
water came down the Canyon as in a chute. This did not allow for many back-eddies to
escape into or get caught in, depending on your point of view. But at last they had found
one and were able to let some fellows jump into the water so they could pull it to shore.
By the time we arrived, they had the rip patched, the raft reinflated. And they were
hungrybut ready to take on whatever adventure the river had to offer!