When it comes to the Grand Canyon, it all comes back to the river.
The Edith, a boat taken down the Colorado in 1911-12 by the Kolb brothers, leaves its former headquarters home.
The mighty Colorado carved out the glorious gorge over the eons. And over the past 134 years, scores of people can testify to life-changing experiences after making their way down river.
Folks like Joe Alston and Deborah Tuck can talk in detail about their intimate love for the river. This past Wednesday in the courtyard of park headquarters, they were in good company as three historic boats were hauled off for restoration. It’s part of a three-year, $300,000 effort to save the deteriorating rowboats that played such a big role in the river’s history.
“My memory of Grand Canyon dates back 30-some years,” said Alston, park superintendent. “Over those 30 years, these boats have weathered the test of time, considering the elements they’ve endured.”
“’I’m here because I got to go down the river,” said Tuck, Grand Canyon National Park Foundation president. “Like so many others ... it changed my life. It changed my perspective. It changed how I view this park.”
On a hot day with periodical rain, a group of about 20 people helped move three historic boats — the Edith, the Glen and the oldest of them all, the Stone Boat.
“This project is very exciting to us,” said Alston, who has been an avid river runner over the years. “These boats tell the story of river running on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The opportunity to make right the damage caused by decades of neglect, and protect these boats and their history, is incredible. We appreciate greatly the foundation for initiating this effort.”
The GCNP Foundation is leading the effort being referred to as “Save Our Boats – the Grand Canyon Historic Boat Project.”
“We are delighted to be in partnership with the park on this project,” Tuck said. “With the help of a coalition of dedicated boatmen and boat company owners, we have quickly positioned ourselves to jump-start this project, contributing energy and expertise to conserve this piece of Grand Canyon’s legacy.”
One of the most well-known of those dedicated boatmen, Gaylord Staveley, was on hand for the event. Staveley shared a fascinating history of the three boats, which all have a design connection to Nathaniel Galloway.
“There’s so much history in these boats,” Staveley said. “We can now get them to a place where history can unfold.”
The oldest of the three, the Stone boat, was used on a 1909 trip of 1,300 miles from Green River, Wyo., to Needles, Calif. Julius Stone was at the helm and the boat is the oldest-remaining boat to have run the river through the Canyon.
Galloway’s design allowed the boat to make its way down the Colorado with much-greater success than its predecessors.
A few years later, noted photographers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb went down river in Edith, a sturdier white cedar and oak-hulled boat named for Emery’s daughter. The 1911-12 trip became the basis for the famous river-running film that showed four times a day for more than six decades at Kolb’s studio.
A decade later, another wooden Galloway boat called the Glen cruised the Colorado while on a U.S. Geological Survey expedition. Emery Kolb led the trip, which was staged to survey for dam sites.
Staveley, who was called a principle player in getting the project going, said the wooden boats dominated the river until the 1950s when Georgie White came along with her inflatable rafts. Staveley was part of a project advisory committee which also includes many other names associated with the river. Among them was author Brad Dimock, who built cradles so the boats could be more easily moved.
The three boats were moved Wednesday from the headquarters’ courtyard to an indoor conservation workshop. A dozen more boats in the courtyard will also be moved for treatment. The boats will be cleaned and evaluated as to the extent of damage. Conservation treatments will be completed in the coming year.