If you've had the chance to visit the Canyon Visitor Center on the Colorado side of the Monument there is a good chance you have seen this boat. The Loper represents a tremendous amount river history on not only the Green and Yampa River but the Colorado River as well.
Its design was based on another famous boat, the Mexican Hat, that is on display in the Powell Museum in Green River, UT. It was built by Jack Brennan for a trip down the Yampa River in 1946. Its name "The Loper" was bestowed upon it in order to honor Bert Loper, Jack's mentor who had taken him on two earlier river trips.
In 1949, it was fitting that Brennan and The Loper were on another trip through the Grand Canyon, where Bert Loper met his fate. Still floating at 80 years old, Bert suffered a heart attack and his boat the "Grand Cayon" turned sideways and flipped. His lifeless body was seen floating down river, never to be recovered. Bert had mentioned the day before that if anything happend to him he wanted to be left on the river.
The Loper was used commercially as part of Harris-Brennan River Expeditions for the next several years until the availability of modern rafts and other synthetic materials changed the types of craft used for whitewater. Eventually, Brennan donated it to his friend Dr. Aaron Ross who used the boat on his private river trips.
Ross donated the boat to the National Park Service at Flaming Gorge probably in late 1966, which was operated by the NPS from 1963-68. In 1968, when the Forest Service took over operaitons the craft was transferred to them.
In 1984, it was given to Dinosaur in bad shape. It was restored by Bill Ott to working condition. He was unaware of its original coloration and painted it white with green trim because he had seen other cataract boats painted white and felt the green made it fit in with NPS colors.
The Loper was launched twice in the summer of 1985 by Ott, running the Yampa and later the Green down from Echo Park through Split Mountain. It was then retired to its current location until it was restored to its original Harris-Brennan colors in the summer of 2016. Next time you are in Dinosaur, CO come and visit this storied old vessel!
Last updated: July 25, 2018