History of Tubing on the Colorado River?
I am looking for help in confirming or at least shedding some light on a story I heard involving two guys running the Colorado River in inner tubes. The story has intrigued me for a long time, and I am looking for more information to see if I can scrounge up the book they supposedly wrote about it.
This is the story as it was told to me:
Two guys – either college age, or just out of the army – were broke, and at a loss for what to do one summer. They concocted cheap, adventurous vacation. They would spend a few dollars on inner tubes, and float down the Colorado River though the Grand Canyon on tubes. This was in the 1950’s or 60’s, before the explosion in popularity of commercial raft trips down the river; not that these two could have afforded that anyway, they were trying to do things on the cheap.
They put in at Lees Ferry, and the rafters who were around couldn’t believe what they were seeing. After the two guys floated off, someone told a ranger about it. He dismissed the story as a prank, and said even if true, the guys were probably dead even attempting it. Other officials also dismissed the story, until rafting trips started coming off the river with stories of two men in inner tubes running the river.
Eventually the guys made it as far as Phantom Ranch, and one of them hiked up from the river to replenish supplies. While out of the river, he heard people talking about these two crazy guys running the river in tubes, and that the authorities figured they were dead. He sought out a ranger to explain things, and let the officials know they were all right.
The ranger was more than a little peeved, and explained to the guy that what they were doing was suicidal. The ranger wrestled with the idea to pull them off the river right then and there, but decided against it. If he pulled them off the river now, he would make them martyrs, and every summer all sorts of yayhoos would flood the river in tubes trying to complete the journey. If he let them continue, it would be a non-story, the trip would be complete and the chance of copycats would be lessened. The Ranger let him go, saying if they were stupid enough to want to continue on the rest of the river, he wouldn’t stop them. The two guys completed the trip, on inner tubes, alive and uninjured, and eventually wrote a book about their experience.
I was told this story many years ago while in Boy Scouts by one of the assistant scoutmasters. I asked him to confirm it recently, and he did remember the story, but could not remember where he read or heard it. He said perhaps it was in Colin Fletchers account of running the length of the Colorado, “River : One Man's Journey Down the Colorado, Source to Sea” but he wasn’t certain. He also said he assumed the book that the two men wrote was out of print, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that the authorities in charge of the river would want to keep the story quiet to prevent repeat performances.
Is this story true and if so where is it recounted? Does anyone know the names of the two guys, or the title of their book? It is also entirely possible that the story is a complete or partial fabrication, either by the man who told it to me, or whoever told it to him. A possibility made more likely to me considering my online searches have turned up nothing. However, it seems just crazy enough to be true, and a great story at that.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.