The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon
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From one of Outside magazine’s “Literary All-Stars” comes the thrilling true tale of the fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983.
In the spring of 1983, massive flooding along the length of the Colorado River confronted a team of engineers at the Glen Canyon Dam with an unprecedented emergency that may have resulted in the most catastrophic dam failure in history. In the midst of this crisis, the decision to launch a small wooden dory named “The Emerald Mile” at the head of the Grand Canyon, just fifteen miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam, seemed not just odd, but downright suicidal.
The Emerald Mile, at one time slated to be destroyed, was rescued and brought back to life by Kenton Grua, the man at the oars, who intended to use this flood as a kind of hydraulic sling-shot. The goal was to nail the all-time record for the fastest boat ever propelled—by oar, by motor, or by the grace of God himself—down the entire length of the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. Did he survive? Just barely. Now, this remarkable, epic feat unfolds here, in The Emerald Mile.
mission of the day. Clattering upstream, the helicopter dropped another round of plastic baggies filled with sand and a mimeographed note. By sunset, every expedition on the river had received a message that read, in part: The superintendent has closed Crystal Rapid to all passengers of both private and commercial trips. Passengers MUST walk around Crystal, with only boatmen and swampers to run Crystal. This closure is due to the extreme hazard of Crystal Rapid. . . . This closure is in effect
rudiments of reading water. The following spring, Powell took a train to Pittsburgh and floated the Ohio to St. Louis, tracing the classic natural-history route into the West that had been followed by Lewis and Clark, Thomas Nuttall, and a dozen other of the West’s first scientists. Then, in 1857, Powell rowed down the Illinois River to its mouth, and from there up the Des Moines. On the way, he put together a collection of mollusk fossils, a diverse class of ancient marine invertebrates, that
Bradley’s experiences in the New England cod fishery bore no comparison to the violent and wrenching hydraulics of the Colorado. a sleek design that had originated: Ghiglieri, First Through the Grand Canyon, 51. gangs of thieves who plundered: Dolnick, Down the Great Unknown, 26. all but impossible to pivot: Ghiglieri, First Through the Grand Canyon, 52. the trio of “freight boats”: General details and analysis of Powell’s boats come from Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, 46–47;
11/16/12). hydraulic sweet spot around 45,000: Reilly, “My High Water Experience,” 3. “In my opinion, our 1962 trip provided the best flow for river running that I ever encountered; from June 25 through July 14 we averaged 45,500 cfs per day. This level was pure pleasure.” boats were ferrying nearly thirteen hundred guides and passengers: According to the Park Service’s river permit records, between 94 and 150 commercial passengers launched from Lee’s Ferry on twenty-six out of thirty days in
booze within the first three days of their trip, Grua volunteered to hoof it all the way up to the South Rim for a resupply. He returned the following day, toting a backpack stuffed with $240 worth of hard liquor. His colleagues noticed too that he understood the boats—their strengths as well as their limitations. This was as clear in the repair shop as it was on the river, and it was equally evident that he was good at reading water. Even though he often lagged behind the other guides when they