GC VILLAGE — "You either loved her or you hated her."
That’s a common observation when bringing up the subject of Georgie Clark White, the Grand Canyon rubber rafting pioneer on the Colorado River. So, when a proposal came up to change the name of 24-Mile Rapid to Georgie Rapid, some people loved the idea, others hated it.
Georgie Clark White, seen here in 1958, now has a river rapid named in her honor.
The Grand Canyon Private Boaters Association voiced opposition to the idea of naming that particular rapid after White.
"We don’t have any opposition of naming a rapid for her," Jo Johnson, membership director for the GCPBA, said in an interview last year. "We just think that’s not the right one."
Earlier this month, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names approved the name change of the rapid, located a fraction over 24 miles downriver from Lees Ferry. The name change was close at 3-2 with only five of the 15 members of the board present to vote.
"This issue had been around for a while and the members of the board were well informed on the issues by the time they arrived at the meeting," the board’s executive director Roger Payne told the GCPBA’s Newswire about the vote, which took about 10 minutes.
According to the GCPBA, the opposing votes came from representatives of the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, citing the opinion that a long-established name should not be changed. Supporting votes came from representatives of the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names approved 24-Mile Rapid being renamed Georgie Rapid in July 2000. That November, the decision was revisited and held up after controversy over the renaming surfaced.
The GCPBA wrote that the Arizona State Boards recommendation was a major factor in the federal vote because that board did not see value in sanctioning a different name when state agencies would likely be using the new name.
During the discussions prior to voting, there was no strong opposition for the change, nor strong concurrence with it. The GCPBA reported that as of November 2000, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names had received 116 letters and e-mails supporting the name change while 47 were in opposition.
White was the first river runner to use a big rubber raft on trips down the Colorado River, drawing a considerable number of tourists.
In 1955, she built the "big G-boat," an inflatable Army surplus bridge pontoon measuring 33 feet in length with three feet of freeboard. Two shorter pontoons were laced on either side, all connected with rigging. A small Johnson outboard motor completed the watercraft.