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River Journal - Page One

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June 1, 1956—Today I am reminded that it is time to complete final arrangements for the forthcoming boat trip. The field work at Slick Rock has been so occupying this summer that no opportunity has presented itself for checking equipment in Grand Junction. The reminder to get busy comes from good wife, Celia. She wants me to make out a will before departing. These trips, whether spelunking, mountain climbing, or boating, always seem to be a source of worry to her. So, I muster up some consoling facts about our three fine boats, which as far as I know are water virgins.

June 24, 1956—The long silence from Dick Lewis has prompted a trip to his camp near the Kigalia Guard Station in the Abajo Mountains. Sons Clarke and David enjoyed riding Dick Jr.’s horse while Dick, Russ, and I discussed plans. New developments: 1) Departure date set back from July 1 to late July; 2) Food will consist largely of flight rations; 3) the sixth man in the party will be a U. S. G. S. paleontologist.

July 14, 1956—Saw Sam Pyeatt in the Grand Junction AEC Compound today. He relays the information that Dick has set a July 19 meeting date for the river party in Junktown, and plans to embark July 20. I am to call Frank McKeown by radio at Orange Cliffs, and notify him of the departure date.

July 16, 1956—No luck in contacting Frank. Radio and quite a few miles of jeeping are his only contact with the "outside".

July 17, 1956—Frank "radioed" me at Slick Rock this morning, much to my relief, and will meet with the crew in Grand Junction.

July 18, 1956—Drove into Junktown from Slick Rock, a hot five-hour drive in a gutless jeep. Used the afternoon to purchase assorted odds and ends: salt tablets, bottle of rum, sun tan lotion, swimming trunks, etc.

July 19, 1956—Spent today checking over the boats. Our fleet consists of three Army surplus 10-man, black neoprene life rafts. Each boat is about 15 feet from stem to stern, and about 5½ feet in the beam. The boats’ principal structure is a tube, perhaps 2 feet in diameter, forming the outer rim of the boat. The tube is divided into two parts by an internal, horizontal diaphragm. In use, each half is inflated equally through separate valves. Should one half become ruptured, the other half contains enough air to keep the boat afloat, and could later be inflated to the capacity of the entire tube.

A neoprene layer forms the bottom of the boats. Inside, the boats are divided roughly into thirds by two seats, which lack several inches of reaching the elevation of the main tube. Outside of the main tube on all sides, save the stern, is an inflatable bumper guard.

Men in the U.S.G.S. shop in Denver constructed wooden seats to fit above the rubber ones in the boat. The seats fit in the frame containing the oar lock assemblage. The latter consists of two 3/8" pins set in holes drilled into the frame, so that the pins form an inverted "V" with a small opening at the apex.

Our oars are top grade ash, have a perfect grain lie, and are nine feet long. They taper slightly from handle end to blade end, so that they can be slipped into the open "V" of the oar locks near the blade, but will not slip out near the handle end.

From today’s inspection it seems that: 1. The bumper guards leak on two of the boats; 2. The bumper guards will have to be tied close to the boats where the oars sweep; 3. There is too much play between the oars and the locks; 4. The oar locks, mounted so as to be equidistant from each seat, are too far away from the seats for me to get a full pull, but should be correct for the rest of the party, all of whom are larger and longer-limbed than I.

Frank arrives early this afternoon. Dick and Russ don’t get in until after work, and with bad news. The U. S. Forest Ranger from Monticello, Utah, will be unable to make the trip due to the dry season in the La Sal National Forest.

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Did You Know?

Detail of the Great Gallery pictograph panel

Some of the rock art in Horseshoe Canyon was painted over 3,000 years ago. Now known as "Barrier Canyon" style rock art, it was painted by nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers that roamed throughout the southwest. More...