Excerpt from Dave Rust: A Life in the Canyons
by Frederick H. Swanson
1923 Dave Rust led the first of a series of voyages down Glen
Canyon on the Colorado River in 14-foot canvas-covered rowboats,
inaugurating a new kind of river-guiding venture in the region.
His companions were his son, Jordan, and two young Ivy League
men, Arnold Koehler, Jr. and Charles P. Berolzheimer. From
Chapter 12, “Return to the River”:
At 3:30 p.m. on July 20
they set out into the muddy waters of the Colorado. Rust piloted
the lead boat and Jordan the other, with Charles and Arnold as
passengers most of the time. That evening they made it to Good
Hope Bar, where Dave had worked in the summer of 1898. There came
the inevitable problems to deal with on this shakedown trip:
& Jordan have trouble breaking oars. We took an extra ash from
Dandy [Crossing]. On account of broken oars (and uncertain ability)
I tow their boat over Trachyte rapid. The Ticaboo rapid gave
us a lot of kick--each boat paddled through canoe fashion. A
good deal of the time the hind boat was cross wise. Rained at
Berolzheimer (head showing) swims the Colorado in Glen Canyon,
July 1923. Dave Rust is at the oars.
Gregory Crampton, who compiled
a history of Glen Canyon, described these rapids as dropping about
five feet in half a mile, producing fast water at low river levels
but no major hazards. Still, this was Rust’s first run on this
stretch of river with his new boats, and he was not about to take
any chances. The rocks and boulders that had flooded into the
riverbed at the mouths of Trachyte and Ticaboo canyons required
careful maneuvering to avoid tearing the boats’ canvas fabric.
Hitting one of these rocks the wrong way with an oar could easily
break them, as they discovered.
Most of the time, though,
the Colorado flowed in a broad, steady current, broken only by
eddies, boils, and light riffles. Dave described it on another
occasion as “muddy beyond description, a thick milk porridge.”
He showed the boys how an egg disappeared when dropped in a cup
of the fluid. “You have to learn to like the Colorado,” was his
advice. Drinking the stuff, though, was another matter, and side
canyons with pockets of clear water were especially welcome.
Dave decided his boats needed
names. He chose to name his after John Wesley Powell and Jordan’s
after G. K. Gilbert, “since we have studied the records of these
great explorers on our trip.” His own journal refers to Powell’s
original name for the upper stretch of Glen:
Cool breeze, sprinkle, as we float down
the graceful bends. An extraordinary panorama-movie. In reality,
the shapes & carvings, & weatherings are countless and full
of interest & variety, in fancy, there is unlimited opportunity
for personification. “Mound” canyon sure enough--the river walls
are deep red & usually sheer, the top wall has all sizes of
hogans for a roof. And the variety in clouds blends to make
the sweetest coloring.
typically used two or three collapsible canvas-covered canoes
to outfit his Glen Canyon voyages. Enjoying the scenic and
historical features of the canyon was the goal, not luxurious
Below the mouth of the San
Juan they stopped at one of Glen Canyon’s most outstanding features.
Dave had not been here before, but Powell’s book promised a worthwhile
stop. Dave’s journal shows his delight and wonderment:
2 miles N.W. [from the San Juan] at
the turn we come to Music Temple by Powell’s description. Sure
enough the most musical place we’ve ever seen. Everybody tries
his voice. Too far from boats to carry stuff so we sleep on
white sand in San Juan county & the Piute Reservation. This
is exquisite architecture!! The Temple is not an auditorium
but a music palace. More than expected. Should like to bring
Miss Poll- or some other singer here. Feature this with Rock
Cr. Rainbow trip. Try to find names of explorers but cannot.
--feel the solemnity & sacredness of place.
* * *
their visit to Music Temple, Rust led the young men on the
six-mile hike to Rainbow Bridge and also to the Crossing of
the Fathers--places he would feature on every subsequent Glen
Canyon voyage. He continued to guide parties down Glen through
1939, his clients ranging from young men and women to Utah
Governor George Dern. Rust felt that this was "a wonder
river and a wonder canyon," and he was among the first
to realize its potential as a stirring recreational experience.
courtesy of Rust family