Rafting in Grand Canyon 55 years ago - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 12-28-2013   #1
 
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Rafting in Grand Canyon 55 years ago

Here are some 8mm movies shot during a couple of Georgie White’s early river trips, in 1957 and 1958. What stands out to me is how barbaric the trip is, by today’s standards: no toilets, drinking raw water straight from the river, no tarps under the tables—in fact, no tables, no fire pans, shampoo and soap in the side streams, chipping fossils out of the rocks, collecting Indian artifacts, taking airplane parts from the 1956 crash site, and check out the lunch service!






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Old 12-29-2013   #2
 
Salt Lake City, Utah
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Thank you for posting this great footage! I'm still too young to reflect and say "those were the simple times," but with all the river traffic and sitting and hoping to get a Grand permit I can't help but think that way. I bet 55 years ago I could have rolled up and claimed stake to my river slot and floated merrily merrily down the river. Similiar to the first ascent of the nose of El Cap, I see things like this and feel I was born too late.

tda
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Old 12-29-2013   #3
 
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Hi,

All those operational details have changed over the years for sure -- and in almost every way for the better.

But the river environment has changed as well -- and not necessarily for the good. Take a look at the beaches they were camping on, and compare them with the skimpy sand patches that we are stuck with because of the dam.

FWIW.

Rich Phillips
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Old 12-29-2013   #4
 
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Thanks for sharing these. That was a different time. I would use the term primitive rather than barbaric. I do miss the big beaches. And these were high water trips and there were still big beaches exposed. On my first trip in 1969 less than 5000 people total had gone through the canyon, so I assume that back in the fifties it was less than 1000 total. When you were done taking a dump, you used a rock to cover it up and keep the tp from blowing away. At popular camps like Deer Creek, at the actual pull in there was a very large beach and a great camp, when you lifted a rock to cover your business you were uncovering somebody else's. On that first trip we pulled in to Deer Creek at around 3:00 PM on Saturday, had a layover, and left around 9:00 AM on Monday. That is 42 hours, and not a single boat passed us. In the winter of 73 or 74, each outfitter was assigned a stretch of the river to clean up. We sifted all the charcoal etc. out of the beach fire pits, and we had little torches to burn the TP that was waving to people from under the rocks. There have been a lot of changes for the better down there. I drank water directly from the river, when it was clear, until the early 80s when the bacteria and viruses started showing up. I stopped drinking it because I heard about the viruses and didn't have to learn that lesson for myself.
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Old 12-29-2013   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kikii875 View Post
These were high water trips and there were still big beaches exposed.
High indeed. You probably noticed that Redwall Cavern was flooded on both of these trips, something that has happened only once that I know of since the dam.
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Old 12-29-2013   #6
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Many thanks for posting these!
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Old 12-30-2013   #7
 
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I love how there are still the universal activities of a Big Ditch trip, costumes, pranks, splashing swimming, childlike hiking/exploring up canyons and of course toe repairs. Check out that swimming hole at Phantom Ranch!
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Old 12-30-2013   #8
 
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I agree thanks much for the post!
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Old 12-30-2013   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriBri1 View Post
I love how there are still the universal activities of a Big Ditch trip, costumes, pranks, splashing swimming, childlike hiking/exploring up canyons and of course toe repairs. Check out that swimming hole at Phantom Ranch!
That swimming hole got filled in by a debris flow the same day that Crystal rapid went from a 1 to a 10.

I didn't realize till I saw these videos that Georgie invented waterboarding for the CIA.
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Old 12-31-2013   #10
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Georgie did a lot to introduce the Grand Canyon to the masses........what she called "rapid transit"

I heard a lot of complaints about her and how she managed her trips, but never from those who went down river with her. They were all proud river rats who suffered Georgie's water boarding insult gladly.

Those old "dry" bags that were anything but dry, and made everything you put in or near them smell like..........something.

And the marshmallow life jackets........guaranteed to have at least one leaking bag that made them more of an anchor than a life jacket.

No, they didn't have groovers, or tables, or propane. Or permits; until the park service improved things, you indeed did just show up and go. They did carry beer however.

I heard Georgie talking about Crystal when it was formed. When she got there and scouted it, she just went up on a rock overlooking that monster hole, drank some Jack to loosen up, then finally decided to hell with it, she wasn't going to walk around it. She said except for being half loaded and scared to death she'd probably have rowed the damn boat right into the hole. It convinced her that a half loaded, terrified boatman was a better investment than a sober brave one.

And when the Park Service started talking about "managing" the lost burros of the canyon, cause you know, they weren't "native", by herding them away from the trails and shooting them, Georgie remarked how the damn burros were there before the park service, and before even she was there, and she wasn't "native" either, so maybe the Park Service would want to "manage" her in similar fashion someday.........

She got a standing ovation from the gathered members.

Bet she's still down there somewhere, dumping water on hapless, sober, unscared boatmen. And cackling with glee.
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