River Journal - Page Two

photo: Dick & Looie in the Robert E. Lee near Anderson Bottom
Dick & Looie in the Robert E. Lee near Anderson Bottom

Photo Courtesy Black George Simmons


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July 20, 1956—What a day! First, Arnold Brokaw badgered me into signing a statement releasing the U.S.G.S. from any responsibility, should some accident be incurred on the voyage. Finally we got another man to fill out the party. About 10 AM Charley Sparks and Alvy Newman departed with the boats, followed by Bill Brueggemeyer and a pick-up load of food, life preservers, pumps, sleeping bags, etc.—a real Okie. Don Wyant set arrangements to pick us up in Hite.

Don and Dick have a long talk about photographs and maps. We tell everybody goodbye and the question we are put to most is: "Will the map tubes float?"

Finally we escape—some four hours behind the equipment.

The party consists of: Russ Campbell, Hank Dyer, Dick Lewis, Frank McKeown, Dick Rezak, George Simmons.

Dick Lewis, henceforth to be referred to as Looie, is in charge of the group and is also head of one of the two mapping projects for which the trip is being made. Frank McKeown is in charge of the other mapping project. Russ Campbell, geologist, is Looie’s assistant, and Hank Dyer, geologist, is assistant to Frank. Dick Rezak is a U.S.G.S. paleontologist. He will simplify the fossil collecting and identify some of the Paleozoic strata. I, though a geologist, am along as a guide. Dick, Looie, and Russ work out of headquarters in the Denver Federal Center. The other three have headquarters in the Grand Junction AEC Compound.

We drive to the site of the former AEC Inter-River Camp on the Green River [The Atomic Energy Commission camp known as the Inter-River Camp was at Mineral Bottom. It was one of many AEC and USGS camps in connection with mapping and drilling during the uranium boom] and fail to find the equipment trucks there as expected. However, we are located by Hank Moore who has been jeeping along the river bottom looking for us all day. Hank gives us some air photos covering part of the route.

We drive down the Green for 10 miles to Hardscrabble Bottom, the embarking point. We unload our jeep station wagon. Then Frank and Hank drive off in search of the missing vehicles.

The Hardscrabble Quartet cracks the label on the gin bottle at 6:15, and follows with a quick supper at 6:30.

Looie and I try our luck at poaching a few catfish. Our luck is bad, but the surrounding mosquitoes have a feast. At dark Frank and Hank return, having found the lost equipment trucks. We unload the trucks, and Alvy, Bill, and Charley head back [to Grand Junction] with the vehicles.

We try to rig up the oars with leather bindings, but are defeated by mosquitoes and a faltering Coleman lantern.

Four young prospectors come up the river with an outboard, and dock at "our" landing. One boy has been stranded near the confluence of the Colorado and Green for almost three weeks. He was picked up by the other three who saw his signal fire smoke from upstream.

A jeep arrives with a couple—lots of company out here.

We turn in at 10 PM—climbing on the Moenkopi ledges above the river, but no escape from the mosquitoes. Looie’s perpetual jokes and good humor promise an enjoyable voyage. The moon swathes the cliffs with silver paint to the un-symphonic drone of the hungry horde.

Saturday, 21 July, 1956—We all had a miserable night, too hot to stay in a sleeping bag, and too many mosquitoes not to. We are glad to be up at 5:15.

The equipment forms isolated heaps of confusion all about us. We decide to fix breakfast first.

After breakfast everything is moved to the launching site. All are solemnly pleased to see that all three boats float. The Robert E. Lee shoves off with Dick and Looie at 8:00 AM. Hank and Russ follow in the Dixie Belle at 8:20. Frank and I police the area, then cast off at 8:40 in the Jeff Davis.

The boats are all overloaded. Also, all bottom canvases on the boats leak, especially so in the Robert E. Lee. We must wrap the oars today too.

About 10 AM we see a doe fording the river, and offer thanks that we have delicious flight rations and are not tempted to shoot Bambi’s mother.

At 11 AM the White Rim Member of the Cutler Formation makes its first appearance [lower end of Potato Bottom]. This I take to mark the boundary of Labyrinth Canyon above and Stillwater Canyon below [incorrect, the transition is at Bonita Bend].

At 1 PM we meet for lunch at the mouth of Millard Canyon. All have decided that we have too much equipment, and the surplus is cached. Frank can get to the river here with a jeep and retrieve the gear at a later date.

2 PM near the start of Bonita Bend the Organ Rock member of the Cutler fm. crops out. There is small scale interfingering with the overlying White Rim member.

The day is hot so we swim or float in the life jackets to keep cool.

Lots of small Indian ruins are spotted at the base of the White Rim, and at 4 PM we stop to inspect one. Hank and I climb a short pitch to a ruin, but find no evidence of inhabitants other than the dwelling itself.

The larger buildings are made of irregularly shaped slabs set in a durable adobe matrix so as to form smooth surfaces. The smaller ones are not so well constructed, and many consist of rock walls without matrix.

At 5:30 we camp on a sand island in the middle of the river. The mosquitoes start in again, but not nearly as bad as last night.

We decide on a beer appetizer before supper, I draw a Menu #7: Turkey, Pears, and Date Pudding.

We are all tired tonight, especially Looie who got a heavy load of sun while cooling off this afternoon.

Frank swims out to a small adjacent island to ignite a log pile—in hopes that the smoke will hold down the mosquitoes.

Fortunately, a light breeze comes up and we all sleep well.

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Last updated: February 24, 2015

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