Eight Great Grand Canyon Rafting Books
Looking for a fun, educational book to read before your Grand Canyon Whitewater river trip? We've put together a list of some of our favorite Grand Canyon stories.
1. There's This River, by Christa Sadler A must-read before a Grand Canyon rafting trip, this book is a collection of artwork and true personal stories as told by the Grand Canyon river guide community. This peek into the lives of the Grand Canyon Boatmen and Boatwomen is often humorous, occasionally bittersweet, sometimes disastrous and always entertaining, combining stories of love, comradeship, mischief and, occasionally, loss. It's short and sweet non-fiction writing that many guides like to read aloud to their clients sitting around the campfire after a long day of rafting on the Colorado. This book is also a good dictionary for canyon lingo and jargon.
- The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History through the Heart of the Grand Canyon, by Kevin Fedarko This book is a narration of the thrilling true tale of a trio of river runners? charge down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, to break a speed record during the legendary flood of 1983. In the midst of the flood emergency that threated the Glen Canyon Dam with potentially one of the most dramatic dam failures in history, a trio of river guides decided to sling-shot themselves into speed boating history by launching a small wooden dory named the Emerald Mile, and breaking the all-time record for fastest boating. Somehow, they managed to survive the feat that many dubbed suicidal. In addition to the harrowing recount of the recording-breaking run, the book also tells in great detail the history of the canyon's early explorations, dam building and the history of Grand Canyon ecological activism.
- The Rapids and the Roar, by Gaylord Staveley Gaylord Staveley, a modern historical canyon rafting figure, details his own experiences as a commercial whitewater rafting outfitter in the Grand Canyon when recreational river running was growing and thriving and when tensions were high between commercial outfitters, private boaters and the National Park Service. He also recounts several important early expeditions down the Colorado River and describes the final days of the Glen Canyon, when boaters were fighting to get in their last runs before the reservoir filled the canyon. Staveley takes time to cover the evolution of the current system for managing river use, and also details his experience developing and managing his own whitewater rafting company, then called Mexican Hat Expeditions.
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- Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon, by Edward Dolnick This exciting adventure story is a terrific recount of the one-armed Civil War veteran, John Wesley Powell?s, 1869 expedition to map the Colorado River. Down the Great Unknownis the first book to tell the full, true story, the author having drawn directly from Powell?s own journals and stories from modern whitewater rafting adventurers. Driven by a deep love of adventure and a desire to leave his mark in history, Powell and his motley crew of 9 men set out down the mighty Colorado River on May 24, 1869 in wooden rowboats in which the men navigated the wild river rapids facing backwards. Before this time, the never before explored Grand Canyon was still a mystical mystery, and the men never knew what calm or disaster lay ahead of them as they journeyed down the mighty Colorado. The journey was finally successfully completed after the loss of one boat, spoilage of the crew?s food, near-starvation and physical exhaustion, and Powell and his crew became arguably the most important figures in Grand Canyon rafting history.
- The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons, by John Wesley Powell This is a classic book written by the legendary pioneer himself, the one-armed Civil War vet named John Wesley Powell who was the first man to map out and brave the never before traversed Colorado River on wooden rafts. Often called the Lewis and Clark of the west, Powell gives a first-person account of his foray into the last unexplored American frontier, recounting his stories of hardship and adventure through the Grand Canyon?s perilous landscape and risky dealings with local Native American tribes that killed three of his fellow crew members who had abandoned the expedition and attempted to hike out of the Canyon. He describes the geography and geology of the Canyon in captivating detail. This book is so all-encompassing that it functions as a factual adventure book, a historical book and a geological and geographical reference book all-in-one. Powell?s memoir is ranked 4th on Adventuremagazine?s list of top 100 classics.
- The Very Hard Way: Bert Loper and the Colorado River, by Brad Dimock Another historical novel by Grand Canyon river guide Brad Dimock, this book tells the life story and legacy of Bert Loper, who is referred to by rafting lovers and addicts as the ?Grand Old Man of the Colorado. A true meant-to-be canyoneer, Loper was coincidently born the day that famous Major John Wesley Powell discovered the meeting of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers in 1869. He died just days after the first motorboat traversed the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. Upon his death at 80 years old, he had rafted more of the Colorado River than anyone in history, and, subsequently, knew each twist and turn better than any. This book tugs at your heart strings with stories of how the orphaned Loper overcame his abusive childhood and worked tirelessly and backbreakingly hard as a rock, gravel and coal miner before he found his muse - the Colorado River. Tragically and ironically, the "Grand Old Man of the Colorado" died at the oars of his own wooden boat in the heart of the Grand Canyon on a massive rapid. We highly recommend this captivating story to anyone looking for a great Grand Canyon river rafting and adventure book.
- Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey Written by the famous conservationist himself, Edward Abbey, this book is a collection of stories about Abbey's life in the Southwest canyons. Abbey recounts his life, adventures and conflicts in the wilderness and desert as a park ranger, from dealing with unrestrained tourism and ecological damage by overdevelopment to finding a dead body and more. Often compared to Henry David Thoreau's classic, Walden, Desert Solitaire is a captivating dialogue and reflection of paradoxical life in the desert all-at-once beautiful, freeing, isolating and punishing. As the Thoreau of the American West, Abbey was a humanist and used his books and the backdrop of the American Southwest to illustrate the way humans should live versus how they do live. This book will stoke your fire and desire to visit and live life in the canyons as Abbey did himself.
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- The Doing of the Thing: The Brief, Brilliant Whitewater Career of Buzz Holmstrom, by Welch, Conley and Dimock This biography is guaranteed to make you a little teary-eyed. It tells the story of the iconic Grand Canyon Boatman, Buzz Holmstom's, life as a river runner. Holmstrom became famous for building his own wooden boats by hand, without plans, in his basement and making solo journeys through many of America's great whitewater rivers. In 1937, he became the first person to run the Colorado River and Green River alone, all the way from the Colorado River headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to the Hoover Dam. Sadly, Holmstrom died rafting the Grande Ronde River at the young age of 37.