Galloway Stone Expedition

Galloway in a boat running Disaster Falls
Nathaniel Galloway guided most of the expedition's boats through the difficult rapids in the Canyon of Lodore

Marriott Library University of Utah Special Collections

His friends called him "Than," and Nathaniel Galloway was a trapper and part time prospector from Vernal who may have been traveling on the Green River as early as 1891. Over the years, his resume included a journey from Green River, WY through the Grand Canyon to Needles, CA during 1896-1897, along with the first known voyage down the Yampa River with his son in the spring of 1909.

However, his most well-known adventure was guiding the Galloway/Stone expedition, repeating his earlier trip down the Green, all the way through the Grand Canyon. Galloway first caught the attention of Julius Stone, a wealthy financier from Ohio, while working for the Hoskaninni Mining Company in 1899. Stone had the idea for trip of a life time: make the first known descent of the Green and Colorado Rivers for pure sport, though some historians ascribe this feat to George Flavell.
Fish Caught in Jones Creek
The expedition went fishing when they camped at the mouth of Jones Creek catching a total of 98 fish.

J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

On September 12, 1909, Stone and Galloway, set out from Green River WY in four boats, accompanied by C. C. Sharp, Seymour Dubendorff, and Raymond Cogswell, the expedition’s photographer and likely Stone’s brother in law. Galloway oversaw the construction of these boats that were built to specification based on earlier designs of his. Unlike John Wesley Powell’s bulky craft, Stone's boats were flat bottomed and maneuverable. This allowed the party to run rapids more easily.

Despite the improved watercraft, many of the rapids in the Canyon of Lodore proved difficult for the inexperienced oarsmen. They often unloaded the boats and portaged around while Galloway ran the rapids on his own. The expedition marveled at the beauty of the canyons including Steamboat Rock and stopped for a fishing trip at Jones Creek, where they claimed to catch 98 fish.
Galloway rowing his boat in Split Mountain
Nathaniel Galloway displaying his stern first technique with Split Mountain in the background.

Grand Canyon National Park archival photo

The expedition completed their voyage on November 19, 1909. Completing the journey in only five weeks was a very fast time, and the party only encountered minor problems along the way when Dubendorff flipped his boat in a rapid that still bears his name. The voyage was perhaps the the first time most of the rapids were run instead of lusing ropes to "line" the boats through the rapids, as they had been in the past. Later adventurers, such as the Kolb brothers, consulted Galloway because of his boat building style.

Galloway’s longest-lasting contribution was probably the way he navigated rivers. Instead of rowing with his back to the rapids as Powell had done, he turned around and rowed stern first into rapids. This allowed him to see a particular rapid's challenges head-on and have increased control over the boat. Though a simple change, it revolutionized river running and laid the foundation for current rafting techniques.
Julius Stone's Boat
Julius Stone rowed this boat on the 1909 expedition. It was manufactured in Detroit under Galloway's specific instruction. This style of boat would dominate river running until the invention of inflatable rafts. This boat is now in the Grand Canyon Archival Collection.

American Southwest Virtual Museum


Last updated: June 25, 2023

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