The Loper

The Loper
Jack Brennan pilots the Loper, note that the motor was added for later river trips and it was originally rowed the entire length of the canyons.

J. Willard Marriott Special Collections, University of Utah

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.
 
The Loper
Don Harris and Jack Brennan are seated on the trailer and Bert Loper is standing next to the boat named in his honor. This picture may have been taken just afer the Loper's first adventure in 1946. Don Harris heavily modified the Mexican Hat, which was the basis for The Loper's design.

Utah State Historical Society

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.
 
Loper Family
Don Harris and Fred Speyer became friends and Harris offered to take his family on a river trip. The Mexican Hat and the Loper can be seen as well as a third boat built by Speyer, Jack Brennan, and Harris called the Major Powell

J. Willard Marriott Special Collections, University of Utah

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.
 
Loper Restored
The Loper was restored to its original glory by the Harper Ferry Center in the summer of 2016. It can now be seen at the Canyon Visitor Center in Colorado.

NPS/Jake Holgerson

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!
 
Jack Brennan
Jack Brennan is piloting the Loper on a later commercial expedition in 1952. The woman in the photo is Janet Quinney who donated these photographs.

J. Willard Marriott Special Collections, University of Utah

Last updated: May 1, 2018

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