History of Tubing on the Colorado River? - Mountain Buzz

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Old 02-04-2009   #1
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 2
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.

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Old 02-04-2009   #2
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 16
i read this book in high school and its a good story. they werent actually tubing in the sense that one might think of it now, but as they say swimming. their names were John Daggett and Bill Beer
Amazon.com: We Swam the Grand Canyon: The True Story of a Cheap Vacation that Got a Little Out of Hand: Bill Beer, Phtos by Bill Beer and John Daggett, Bill Beer: Books
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Old 02-04-2009   #3
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Thanks very much!
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Old 02-04-2009   #4
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 498
you might want to talk to some of the old time motor boatmen in Page AZ. Although we have been furnished with the "oficial story" I heard diffrent from people who were running the canyon at the time. sj
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Old 02-04-2009   #5
ftc, Colorado
Paddling Since: 05
Join Date: Dec 2007
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so im probably not going to read the book but am intirested, did they actually swim the grand or bring tubes and just ended up swimming most of the rapids? The book description says they swam the grand canyon but I cant imagine they just threw on life jackets and went for it
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Old 02-04-2009   #6
Spits Hot Fire
N. Cascades, Washington
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 978
I'd never know this but I happen to have a history of river running in the Grand Canyon dvd which i was watching recently for an upcoming trip and it mentions that story. Thats somewhat basically the story.

Two guys, Bill Beer and Jon Dagget(i think).....**Edit,I see cheeseman got their names....were struggling insurance salesmen in 1955. They couldnt afford a boat. One guy said "Shucks, I'll bet we could swim it". So they did. A friend told them to film it, so they did. Some of that footage was on the dvd, kind of cool. They swam everything. Used wetsuit and pfds. One guy got stuffed under a rock somewhere. They used what they called "rubber boxes", two a-piece. They looked like suitcase waterwings made from pvc or somethin.

One guy hiked out at Phantom to unload some of the movie film, found out what people were saying and spoke with the Park people. They debated kicking them off the river but the Bill Beer guy said if you do, there's gonna be 50 or more guys here trying to be the first to do it so you might as well let us go. They bought it...said we dont want you too but we cant stop you.

The end.
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