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13 More of Mexico, 1963-1964

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

In August 1963 Georgie’s wanderlust took her on another trip to the Rio Balsas in Mexico. The party of seven included a man named John (last name unknown), Orville Miller, Ivan Summers, Allan O’Brien, Ellis L. Spackman, Delphine Mohrline, and Georgie. In an article about the trip, Spackman said:

Georgie is one of the most extra-ordinary women in America. I am sure you have seen her pictures on TV. She has taken more people down more rivers than anyone else. She has been instrumental in working out the technique. And she hasn’t lost a client yet.

It is obviously designed for men only, yet the champion is a woman, and not a very big one at that. It isn’t fair to us men.1

From the journal of Delphine Mohrline Gallagher, we learn more details of that trip.2 In Mexico City on August 14, it took one whole day to get the rubber boats loaded on the truck from the attic where they were stored and to get Georgie’s other baggage off the plane and through customs. At 8 P.M. they were finally on their way for the five-hour truck ride to the town of Mexcala, where they would enter the Balsas River.

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10 Dead Man in Cataract and Other New Experiences, 1960-1961

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

On May 22, 1960, Albert Q. Quist of Salt Lake City was leading a two-boat, twelve-member party through Cataract Canyon. About noon, after running three rapids, one of the twenty-four-foot rafts slammed into a rock and hung up there, pitching four of the men into the river. Quist and his son, Clair, made it safely to shore about three-quarters of a mile below, but the other two men, Leon Peterson and Keith Howard Hoover, both of Provo, Utah, could not be located and were presumed to be drowned.1

Two weeks later Georgie embarked at Green River for a trip through Cataract Canyon with a party of thirty-five. She was asked to watch for the missing pair. Among Georgie’s passengers was Father John Finbarr Hayes, a twenty-eight-year-old Catholic priest, who had gone through Grand Canyon with her the year before.

Georgie was leading the party in her big boat when they came to placid water below Dark Canyon. It was Sunday, about nine o’clock in the morning. The party had been on the alert for the bodies of the two lost men, and as they drifted along Georgie spotted something unusual in a mass of floating driftwood. She knew instinctively what it was even though the man’s body was arched over with only the top curve of his back above the water. Both his head and his feet were submerged.

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6 Branching Out to New Rivers, 1955

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

In 1955 Eisenhower was in the White House, Stalin was dead, and the Korean conflict was over. But things were hectic as ever for Georgie. Her schedule that year was quite ambitious. It called for two trips through Glen Canyon in April, a San Juan River and Glen Canyon trip in May, two Glen Canyon trips in June, and “The Mighty Grand Canyon” in July, about which she noted, “Only 216 people (as of 1954 figures) have made this trip.”1 She planned another Glen Canyon trip in August, also runs on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Big Salmon River, and Hell’s Canyon of the Snake River in August and September. Motion pictures of previous trips were shown on request to groups and individuals to interest potential passengers.

This year Georgie also began to experiment further with three ten-man rafts tied together. These rafts were quite maneuverable with oars, but even more so with a small motor; and with the motor pushing the rafts, the trip was speeded up by several days. Linking the three rafts together was a real breakthrough, but was only for the more adventurous souls. She could now run all the rapids without portaging, though there was still the danger of one raft folding over onto the others. She wanted to be able to take families with children and older people.

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5 The Triple Rig Is Born, 1954

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

By now Georgie’s passion for Grand Canyon and running the rapids of the Colorado River was in full flower. Not only was there the excitement of running the rapids, but there was the magnificent scenery of Glen and Grand Canyons, and so many delightful places to stop and explore: Hole-In-The-Rock, Music Temple, Rainbow Bridge, Vasey’s Paradise, Redwall Cavern, the Nankoweap ruins, the Little Colorado River, Deer Creek Falls, Havasu Creek, Elves Chasm, Tapeats Creek, and Thunder River, to name a few. Georgie wanted to share the canyon experience with as many others as possible and let them discover the beauty of these places for themselves, so she decided to make it a commercial venture. She worked hard, bought more equipment (including three ten-man war surplus rafts), and rounded up passengers for another trip through Grand Canyon.1

Whitey was along for this trip, his first through Grand Canyon. Among others who came were photographer Walter Blaylock, Esther Flemmer (again), Roger Bowling, and John M. Goddard, a well-known world traveler and one of the first three men on record to traverse the entire 4,200-mile length of the Nile River. Goddard would make a movie of the trip to be shown on a lecture tour as well as on television adventure programs.

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25 Memorilas for a Legend, 1992

Richard Westwood Utah State University Press ePub

Georgie sold her business to Bill George, owner of Western River Expeditions in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lee McCurry said, “She thought the world and all of Ted Hatch and of Bill George. But she had said, back in ‘86, ‘If I was ever to sell to anybody, it would be Bill George, because I know he’s got the money to buy me out.”’1 Georgie sent the following letter to her clients:

Dear River Rats:

After a lifetime of adventures and 47 years of leading white water expeditions on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, I have turned my valued “river rats” over to Western River Expeditions, a company which has operated trips in the Grand Canyon and other areas for the past 35 years.

This decision has not been easy, for as I stated in the epilogue of my book “Georgie Clark—Thirty Years of River Running”: “And so I am off down the Grand Canyon again doing what I love best, for I am Georgie Clark, Woman of the River, and if I have my way, I shall repeat these trips through the biggest rapids in the world, over and over and over again ... Forever!”

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