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Sat, Oct. 19

Colorado’s 24-Mile Rapid<br>renamed after river runner

GCNP — The 24-mile mark on a Grand Canyon trip down the Colorado River will have a little bit more meaning in the future.

That’s because the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names has approved 24-Mile Rapid being renamed Georgie Rapid, in honor of river runner Georgie Clark White.

“She was one heck of a woman,” said Betty Leavengood, who wrote about White in the 1999 book “Grand Canyon Women: Lives Shaped By Landscape.” “You either loved her or you hated her.”

Indeed, White was known to have rubbed people the wrong way while pursuing her dreams down the Colorado River. But she was also a pioneer in the advancement of the river-running experience.

Georgie Clark White, seen here in 1958, is at the controls of a motor raft. She was a pioneer in the use of motor rafts down the Colorado River and now has a rapid in her name.

“She was the first one to begin using a great big rubber raft,” Leavengood said. “She had more repeat customers than anyone. People went with her as many as 15 times.”

White first saw images of the Grand Canyon while attending a slide program put on by the Sierra Club. Those pictures of the river and the surrounding country implanted a passion for the national park.

According to published accounts, White’s first Grand Canyon experience came when she was 35 years old in the form of a 60-mile swim with Harry Aleson in 1945. The swim occurred in the Colorado River’s Lower Granite Gorge and afterward, she would become a Grand Canyon icon.

In the years that followed, White began guided tours down the river in which patrons shared the expense. Tours ranged in cost from $50 to $100.

It was the first use of inflatable boats for which she will be remembered. White pioneered the practice of lashing together rafts, known as triple-rigs, powered by motor.

White’s ushering in of large-scale inflatable river boats would lead to today’s array of commercial river-running tours.

White built her first “big G-boat” in 1955. It was actually an inflatable Army surplus bridge pontoon, which measured 33 feet in length with three feet of freeboard. Two shorter pontoons were laced on either side, all of it connected with rigging.

A small Johnson outboard motor completed the unique-looking watercraft.

That same year was when river running really took off at the Grand Canyon. During the 1955 season, the National Park Service counted 70 people going down the river, twice the number of any previous year. Of those, 28 went with White as she accounted for more than one-third of the river’s passengers that summer.

The area named for White is a fraction over 24 miles downriver from Lees Ferry. The effort to name the rapid after her came out of a proposal submitted by Rosalyn Jirge.

Tim J. Norton, chairman of the Arizona Board of Geographic and Historic Names, wrote a letter to Jirge last month informing her of the board’s 8-0 vote to rename the rapid.

“The name Georgie Rapid is now official in the State of Arizona and may be used on all state maps, records, documents and other publications,” Norton wrote.

The name change was forwarded to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which will make a decision on the name change at the federal level.

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