E. L. (Ellsworth Leonardson) Kolb.

Through the Grand Canyon from Wyoming to Mexico online

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end ; built of white cedar, with unusually high sides ;
with arched decks in bow and stern, for the safe storing

1 The various expeditions which are credited with continuous or complete journeys
through all the canyons and the dates of leaving Green River, Wyoming, are as follows :

Major Powell, ist journey. May 24, 1869.

Major Powell, 2nd journey. May 22, 1871. Discontinued at Kanab Canyon
in the Grand Canyon.

Galloway. Sept. 20, 1895 and l8 9 6 -

Flavell. Aug. 27, 1896.

Stone. Sept. 12, 1909.

Kolb. Sept. 8, 1911.

For a more complete record of the earlier parties see appendix.


of supplies. Sealed air chambers were placed in each end,
large enough to keep the boats afloat even if filled with
water. The compartment at the bow was lined with tin,
carefully soldered, so that even a leak in the bottom would
not admit water to our precious cargoes. We had placed
no limit on their cost, only insisting that they should be
of materials and workmanship of the very best, and
strictly in accordance with our specifications. In every
respect but one they pleased us. Imagine our consterna-
tion when we discovered that the hatch covers were
anything but water-tight, though we had insisted more
upon this, perhaps, than upon any other detail. Loose
boards, with cross-pieces, fastened with little thumb-
screws there they were, ready to admit the water at
the very first upset.

There was nothing to be done. It was too late to
rebuild the hatches even if we had had the proper ma-
terial. Owing to the stage of water it was imperative
that we should start at once. Bad as it would be to have
water in our cargo, it would be worse to have too little
water in the rock-obstructed channels of Red Canyon, or
in the "flats" at Brown's Park for instance.

Certainly the boats acted so beautifully in the water
that we could almost overlook the defective hatches.
Emery rowed upstream for a hundred yards, against a
stiff current, and came back jubilant.

"They're great simply great !" he exclaimed.


We had one real cause for worry, for actual anxiety,
though ; and as each hour brought us nearer to the time of
our departure, we grew more and more desperate. What
about our third man ?

We were convinced that a third man was needed ; if
not for the duties of camp making, helping with the cook-
ing and portaging ; at least, for turning the crank of the
motion-picture camera. Emery and I could not very
well be running rapids, and photographing ourselves in
the rapids at the same time. Without a capable assistant,
therefore, much of the real purpose would be defeated.

Our first move, accordingly, had been to secure the
services of a strong, level-headed, and competent man.
Friends strongly advised us to engage a Canadian canoe-
man, or at least some one familiar with the management
of boats in rough water. It was suggested, also, that we
might secure the help of some one of the voyagers who
had been members of one of the previous expeditions.

But we may as well be frank about it we did not
wish to be piloted through the Colorado by a guide. We
wanted to make our own trip in our own way. If we
failed, we would have no one but ourselves to blame ; if
we succeeded, we would have all the satisfaction that
comes from original, personal exploration. In other
words, we wanted a man to execute orders, not to give
them. But that man was hard to find !

There had been many applicants ; some of them from


distant parts of the country. One by one they were
sifted out. At length we decided on one man ; but later
he withdrew. We turned elsewhere, but these appli-
cations were withdrawn, until there remained but a
single letter, from a young man in San Francisco. He
seemed in every way qualified. We wrote accepting his
application, but while waiting to hear from us a civil
service position had been offered and accepted. "He
was sorry"; and so were we, for his references proved
that he was a capable man. Later he wrote that he had
secured a substitute. We replied on the instant, by wir-
ing money for transportation, with instructions for the
new man to report at once at Green River. We took very
much for granted, having confidence in our friends' sin-
cerity and knowledge of just what was required.

The time had passed, two days before ; but no sign
of our man ! We wrote, we telegraphed, we walked back
and forth to every train ; but still he did not come. Had
this man, too, failed us ?

Then "Jimmy" came just the night before we were
to leave. And never was a man more heartily welcome !

With James Fagen of San Francisco our party was
complete. He was an Irish-American, aged 22 years, a
strong, active, and willing chap. To be sure, he was
younger, and not so experienced at "roughing it" as we
had hoped. But his good qualities, we were sure, would
make up for what was lacking.





Evening found us encamped a half mile below the town,
near the county bridge. Our preparations were finished
even to the final purchase of odds and ends ; with am-
munition for shot-gun and rifle. We threw our sleeping-
bags on the dry ground close to the river's edge, and, all our
anxieties gone, we turned our faces to the stars and slept.

At daybreak we were aroused by the thunder of hoofs
on the bridge above us, and the shouts of cowboys driv-
ing a large herd of half-broken horses. We tumbled into
our clothes, splashed our faces with ice-cold water from
the river, and hurried over to the hotel for a last breakfast.

Then we sat down in the little hotel at Green River
City as others had done before, to write last messages
to those who were nearest and dearest to us. A telegram
to our parents in an Eastern city ; and another to Emery's
wife and little girl, at Bright Angel, more than eight
hundred miles down this self-same river these, some-
how, took longer to write than the letters themselves.
But whatever we may have felt, we finished this final
correspondence in silence, and hurried back to the river.

Something of a crowd had gathered on the bridge to
wish us bon voyage. Shouting up to them our thanks for
their hospitality, and telling them to "look pleasant,"
we focussed the motion-picture camera on them, Emery
turning the crank, as the boat swung out into the current.

So began our journey, on Friday, September the 8th,
1911, at 9.30 A.M., as entered in my journal.



ALL this preparation and still more, the vexatious
delays had been a heavy tax upon us. We needed a
vacation. We took it six pleasant care-free days
hunting and fishing as we drifted through the sixty miles
of southern Wyoming. There were ducks and geese on
the river to test our skill with the shot-gun. Only two
miles below Green River City Emery secured our first
duck, a promise of good sport to follow. An occasional
cottontail rabbit was seen, scurrying to cover through
the sage-brush, when we made a detour from the boats.
We saw many jack-rabbits too with their long legs,
and exaggerated ears creatures swifter, even, than the
coyotes themselves.

We saw few people, though an occasional rancher hailed
us from the shore. Men of the open themselves, the
character of our expedition appealed to them. Their
invitations to a come up to the ranch, and spend the
evening" were always hearty, and could seldom be re-
fused if the day was nearly gone.



The Logan boys' ranch, for instance, was our first
camp ; but will be one of the last to be forgotten. The
two Logan boys were sturdy, companionable young men,
full of pranks, and of that bubbling, generous humour
that flourishes in this Western air. We were amused by
their kindly offer to allow Jimmy to ride "the little bay"
a beautiful animal, with the shifty eye of a criminal.
But Jimmy, though city-bred, was not to be trapped, and
declined ; very wisely, as we thought. We photographed
their favourite horses, and the cabin ; also helped them
with their own camera, and developed some plates in
the underground storm-cellar, a perfect dark-room, as
it happened.

We took advantage of this pleasant camp to make a
few alterations about our boats. Certain mechanical
details had been neglected in our desire to be off, our
intention being to look after them as occasion demanded.
Our short run had already shown us where we were weak
or unprepared. The rowlocks needed strengthening.
One had come apart in our first brush with a little riffle.
The rowlocks were of a little-used type, but very service-
able in dangerous waters. Inside the usual rowlock a
heavy ring was hung, kept in place by strong set-screws,
but allowing full play in every direction. These rings
were slipped over the oars ; then the usual leather collar
was nailed on the oar, making it impossible for the rings
to become separated from the oars. The holes for the


set-screws were too shallow, so we went over the entire
lot to deepen them. We foresaw where a break might
occur, and hung another lock of the open type on a cord,
beside each oar, ready for instant use in case of emergency.

The Logan boys, seeing our difficulties in making some
of these changes, came to our relief. "Help yourselves
to the blacksmith shop," they said heartily. Here was
an opportunity. Much time was consumed in providing
a device to hold our extra oars out of the way on top
of the deck, but available at a moment's notice. Thanks
to the Logan boys and their blacksmith shop, these and
many other little details were corrected once for all ; and
we launched our boats in confidence on the morning of
September 10.

A few miles below we came to the locally famous Fire
Hole Chimneys, interesting examples of the butte forma-
tion, so typical of the West. There were several of these
buttes, about 800 feet high, composed of stratified rock ;
in colour quite similar to the rocks at Green River City,
but capped with rock of a peculiar burnt appearance,
though not of volcanic origin. Some of the buttes sloped
up from the very edge of the river ; others were separated
from the river by low flats, covered with sage-brush and
bunch-grass, that nutritious food of the range stock.
At the water's edge was the usual fringe of willows, cot-
tonwoods, and shrubs innumerable, all mirrored in the
limpid surface of Green River.


At the foot of the cliffs were a number of wild burros,
old and young fuzzy little baby-burros, looking ridic-
ulously like jack-rabbits snorting their indignation
at our invasion of their privacy. Strange, by the way,
how quickly these wild asses lose their wildness of carriage
when broken, and lapse into the utmost docility !

Just below the Chimneys Emery caught sight of fish
gathered in a deep pool, under the foliage of a cottonwood
tree which had fallen into the river. Our most tempting
bait failed to interest them ; so Emery, ever clever with
hook and line, "snagged" one just to teach them better
manners. It was a Colorado River salmon or whitefish.
That evening I "snagged" a catfish and used this for
salmon bait, a fourteen-pound specimen rewarding the

These salmon were old friends of ours, being found from
one end to the other of the Colorado, and on all its tribu-
taries. They sometimes weigh twenty-five or thirty
pounds, and are common at twenty pounds ; being
stockily built fish, with large, flat heads. They are not
gamey, but afford a lot of meat with a very satisfying

On September 1 1, about forty miles below Green River,
we passed Black's Fork, a tributary entering from the west.
It is a stream of considerable length, but was of little
volume at that time. The banks were cliffs about 300
feet high, rugged, dark, and overhanging. Here were a


half dozen eagles and many old nests proof enough,
if proof were needed, that we were in a little visited
country. What strong, splendid birds they were; how
powerful and graceful their flight as they circled up, and
up, into the clear blue sky !

Our next camp was at the Holmes' ranch, a few miles
below Black's Fork. We tried to buy some eggs of
Walter Holmes, and were told that we could have them
on one condition that we visit him that evening.
This was a price we were only too glad to pay, and the
evening will linger long in our memories.

Mr. Holmes entertained us with stories of hunting
trips after big game in the wilds of Colorado ; and
among the lakes of the Wind River Mountains, the
distant source of the Green River. Mrs. Holmes and
two young ladies entertained us with music ; and Jimmy,
much to our surprise, joined in with a full, rich baritone.
It was late that night when we rolled ourselves in our
blankets, on the banks twenty feet above the river.

Next morning we were shown a group of Mrs. Holmes'
pets several young rabbits and a kitten, romping
together in the utmost good fellowship. The rabbits
had been rescued from a watery grave in an irrigation
ditch and carefully nursed back to life. We helped her
search for a lame wild duck that had spurned the offer
of a good home with civilized ducklings, and had taken
to the sage-brush. Mrs. Holmes' love of wild animals,


however, failed to include the bald-headed eagle that
had shown such an appetite for her spring chickens.

A few miles below this ranch we passed Bridger Cross-
ing, a ford on an old trail through southern Wyoming.
In pioneer days Jim Bridger's home was on this very
spot. But those romantic days are long since past;
and where this world-famous scout once watched through
the loopholes of his barricade, was an amazed youngster
ten or eleven years old who gazed on us, then ran to the
cabin and emerged with a rifle in his hands. We thought
little of this incident at the time, but later we met the
father of the boy and were told that the children had been
left alone with the small boy as their only protector, and
that he stood ready to defend the home against any
possible marauders. No doubt we looked bad enough
to him.

Just below the ford the channel widened, and the
river became very shallow, the low rolling hills falling
away into a wide green prairie. We camped that night on
a small island, low and treeless, but covered with deep,
rank grass. Next morning our sleeping-bags were wet
with frost and dew. A hard pull against a heavy wind
between gradually deepening rocky banks made us more
than glad to pitch camp at noon a short distance above
the mouth of Henry's Fork, a considerable stream flowing
from the west. In the afternoon Emery and I decided
to walk to Linwood, lying just across the Utah line, four


miles up Henry's Fork. Jimmy preferred to remain
with the boats.

Between the river and a low mesa lay a large ranch of
a different appearance from those others which we had
passed. Those past were cattle ranches, with stock on
the open range, and with little ground fit for cultivation,
owing to the elevation. Here we found great, broad acres,
fenced and cultivated, with thoroughbred stock horses
and cattle contentedly grazing.

This pastoral scene, with a background of rugged
mountains, appealed strongly to our photographic in-
stincts. After three or four exposures, we climbed the
farthest fence and passing from alfalfa to sage-brush in
one step, were at the foot of the mesa.

Climbing to the summit, we beheld the village in the
distance, in a beautiful green valley - a splendid example
of Mormon irrigation and farming methods. Linwood
proved to be the market-place for all the ranchers of this
region. Dotting the foot-hills where water was less plen-
tiful were occasional cabins, set down in the middle of
hay ranches. All this husbandry only emphasized the
surrounding desolation. Just beyond, dark in the south-
ern sky, rose the great peaks of the Uintah range, the
mountains we were so soon to enter.

Storm-clouds had been gathering about one great snow-
covered peak, far in the distance. These clouds spread
and darkened, moving rapidly fonvard. We had taken


the hint and were already making all possible haste tow-
ard the town,! hoping to reach it before the storm broke.
But it was useless. Long before we had gained the edge
of the valley the rain had commenced in the mountains,
small local storms, resembling delicate violet-coloured
veils, hung in the dense pall of the clouds. There were
far flashes of lightning, and the subdued roar of distant
thunder, rapidly growing louder as the storm approached.
Unable to escape a drenching, we paused a moment to
wonder at the sight ; to marvel and shrink a little
too at the wild, incessant lightning. The peaks them-
selves seemed to be tumbling together, such was the
continuous roar of thunder, punctuated by frequent
deafening crashes.

Then the storm came down upon us. Such torrents
of rain we have seldom witnessed : such gusts of driving
wind ! At times we could scarcely make headway against
it, but after most strenuous effort we neared the village.
We hoped to find shelter under a bridge, but found in-
numerable muddy streams running through the planks.
So we resumed our plodding, slipping and sliding in the
black, bottomless mud.

The storm by this time had passed as quickly as it
came. Wet to our skins, we crawled into the little store
and post-office combined, and found it filled with ranch
hands, waiting for the weekly mail. We made a few
purchases, wrote some letters, then went to a large board-


ing-house near by and fortified ourselves with a generous,
hot supper.

There were comments by some of the men on our
venture, but they lacked the true Green River tang.
Here, close to the upper canyons, the unreasonable fear
of the rapids gave way to a reasonable respect for them.
Here we heard again of the two young men from St.
Louis, and the mishaps that had befallen them. Here
too we were to hear for the first time of the two Snyders,
father and son, and the misfortunes that had overtaken
them in Lodore Canyon, twenty years before. We were
to hear more of these men later.

We made what haste we could back to our boats,
soon being overtaken by a horseman, a big-hearted
Swede who insisted on carrying our load as long as we
were going in his direction. How many just such in-
stances of kindliness we were to experience on our journey
down the river ! How the West abounds with such men !
It was dark when he left us a mile from the river. Here
there was no road to follow, and we found that what had
been numerous dry gullies before were now streams of
muddy water. Two or three of these streams had to be
crossed, and we had a disagreeable half hour in a marsh.
Finally we reached the river, but not at the point where
we had left our boats. We were uncertain whether the
camp was above or below us, and called loudly for Jimmy,
but received no answer.


Emery felt sure that camp was upstream. So up-
stream we went, keeping back of the bushes that
fringed the banks, carefully searching for a sign. After
a few minutes' hunt we heard a sound : a subdued rumble,
not unlike the distant thunder heard that afternoon, or
of boats being dragged over the pebbles. What could it
be ? We listened again, carefully this time, and dis-
covered that it came from a point about thirty feet away,
on the opposite side of the bushes. It could be only one
thing. Jimmy's snore had brought us home !

Hurriedly securing some dry clothes from the rubber
sacks, which contained our sleeping-bags as well, we made
a quick change, and slid into the beds, inflating the air
mattresses with our lungs after we were inside. Then we
lay down contentedly to rest.



WE awoke the next morning full of anticipation.
Something new lay ahead of us, a promise of variety.
In plain sight of our camp lay the entrance to Flaming
Gorge, the gateway to the entire series of canyons.
Hurriedly finishing our camp duties, we loaded the boats,
fastened down the hatches, and shoved off into the cur-
rent, eager to be on our way.

It was cloudy overhead and looked as if we were to
have more rain. Even then it must have been raining
away to the north, for a dirty, clay-colored torrent rushed
through the dry arroyo of the night before, a stream large
enough to discolour the water of the Green itself. But we
thought little of this. We were used to seeing muddy
water in the Colorado's gorges ; in fact we were surprised
to find clear water at all, even in the Green River. Row-
ing downstream we found that the country sloped gently
towards the mountains. The river skirted the edge of
these foot-hills as if looking for a possible escape, then
turned and entered the mountain at a sharp angle. The



walls sloped back considerably at first, and there was a
little shore on either side.

Somewhere near this point runs the dividing line of
Wyoming and Utah.

We considered the gateway a subject worthy of a
motion picture, if taken from the deck of the boat ; but
doubted if it would be a success owing to the condition
of the light and the motion of the boat. Still it was
considered worthy of a trial, and the film was run through.

The colour of the rocks at the entrance was a light red,
but not out of the ordinary in brilliancy. The rock
formation was stratified, but displaced; standing at an
angle and flexed over on top with a ragged break here and
there, showing plainly the great pressure to which the
rocks had been subjected. The upheaval was not violent,
the scientists tell us, but slow and even, allowing the
river to maintain its old channel, sawing its way through
the sandstone. The broken canyon walls, when well
inside the gorge, were about 600 to 700 feet high. The
mountains beyond and on either side were much higher.
The growth on the mountain sides was principally ever-
green ; Douglas fir, the bull-pine and yellow pine. There
was a species of juniper, somewhat different from the Utah
juniper, with which we were familiar at the Grand Canyon.
Bushes and undergrowth were dense above the steep
canyon walls, which were bare. Willows, alder-thickets,
and a few cottonwood trees lined the shores.


Meanwhile the current had quickened, almost imper-
ceptibly at first, but enough to put us on our guard.
While there were no rapids, use was made of what swift
water we found by practising on the method we w r ould
use in making a passage through the bad rapids. As to
this method, unused as yet by either of us, we had re-
ceived careful verbal instruction from Mr. Stone, who had
made the trip two years before our own venture ; and
from other friends of Nathan Galloway, the trapper,
the man who first introduced the method on the Green
and Colorado rivers.

Our experience on water of any kind was rather
limited. Emery could row a boat, and row it well, before
we left Green River, but had never gone over any large
rapids. While he was not nearly so large or heavy as I,
weighing no more than 130 pounds, while I weighed 170
pounds, he made up for his lighter weight by a quick-
ness and strength that often surprised me. He was
always neat and clever in his method of handling his boat,
taking a great deal of pride in keeping it free from marks,
and avoiding rocks when making a landing. I had done
very little rowing before leaving Green River, so little
that I had difficulty in getting both oars in the water at
the same time. Of course it did not take me long to
learn that ; but I did not have the knack of making clean
landings, and bumped many rocks that my brother
missed. Still I was improving all the time and was


anxious to get into the rough water, feeling sure I would
get through somehow, but doing my best in the mean-
time to get the knack of handling the boat properly before
the rough water was reached.

An occasional rock would stick up above the surface ;
the swift water would rush up on it, or drive past on either
side. Instead of pulling downstream with might and

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Online LibraryE. L. (Ellsworth Leonardson) KolbThrough the Grand Canyon from Wyoming to Mexico → online text (page 2 of 21)