Conclusion To The Story of Dinosaur National Monument And The Birth Of Modern Environmentalism
(Continued From The Previous Blog Post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 8.”
To celebrate this final part in our series on Dinosaur National Monument and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism, below are excerpts from Ardis Hyde’s 1955 travel log of the Sierra Club river trip down the Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument.
(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)
This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers included an introduction and first chapter by Wallace Stegner with documentary and landscape photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton. It was the first book ever published for an environmental cause. An essay in This Is Dinosaur called “Fast Water”, written by Otis “Doc” Marston, an expert river guide, lyrically described the adventure down the Green River through Dinosaur National Park.
“The canyons of Dinosaur have had a reputation far worse than they deserved,” Doc Marston wrote. “Anyone who goes boating on them now goes with ninety years of experience behind him. The change by which a fearsome river has become a playground has involved two things: the dissipation of wild tales and bogey stories about Niagaras, ‘sucks,’ and cataracts on the one hand; and the development of suitable boats and techniques on the other.”
June 28, 1955: We met our river party near Vernal, Utah at the house of Bus Hatch, the river boatman. We piled into school buses, crossed the Green River near Jensen and headed into Colorado. A side road off U.S. 40 lead to a point on the Yampa River above Lily Park, a popular put-in four miles upstream from the Eastern National Monument boundary. After lunch the party of 67 people and six rubber ‘barges’ launched. I rode in Ray Simpson’s folbot as a bow paddler. The river meandered through a valley. This normally smooth section grew rough due to headwinds. The fun began upon entrance into the canyon proper at the National Monument boundary. We ran a series of healthy rapids, quite an experience to go through in small craft. We traveled about 15 miles to our first campsite at Anderson Hole. It was a long beach with springs in the sand and a large, flat sagebrush area above, good for campsites. We had a campfire every night on this trip.
June 29, 1955: “Brick” woke Philip and I. He sung us happy anniversary while playing the bagpipes. It was our eighth year of marriage and not unusual that our anniversary found us in a wild place. We logged 28 river miles, a long stretch for the day, highlighted by Big Joe Rapids which is a Class IV rapid in high water. Philip ran with Ray Simpson. I traveled in the boat rowed by Dave Rasmussen holding nine passengers including Dr. Putnam, a Geologist from UCLA, the Drapers of the Academy of Sciences, and Mosses, both photographers. We saw two beavers in the water near a sand bar and three Golden Eagles. In the larger rapids the boatmen customarily stood up in the rear of the raft and faced the danger, pointing the stern downstream. We could see Petroglyphs on the rock wall across the river with binoculars.
July 1, 1955: The first day of July took our Yampa River adventure through beautiful scenery but insignificant rapids. The cliffs were higher and the Yampa River sleepily undulated through giant horseshoe bends. We drifted leisurely down smooth waters under streaked, curving walls of Weber sandstone of an older vintage. Our boat made frequent stops for Philip to photograph. We ran through the heart of sheer 1,000 to 2,000 foot cliffs.” In the evening Charlie Mantle came to the campfire and answered questions about his homestead and living in such a remote place. Afterward the Park Geologist, Morey Powers, along for the day’s run, gave a talk about the Yampa River canyon geology. The moon, approaching full, gave soft illumination to the still river against the high canyon walls.
July 3, 1955: We woke to fire crackers and bagpipes signaling our last day on the river. We pulled out at Rainbow Park for lunch and the unloading of the dunnage. The rapids with the worst reputation, rated Class IV at high water, in Whirlpool Canyon and Split Mountain Canyon were exciting but not too thrilling in the rubber barge. In Moonshine rapid, SOB rapid, and Schoolboy rapid (all Class II-IV depending on water level) the wind blew violently and spray and sand filled the air. We took out for good at Split Mountain Gorge.
At Split Mountain today the road and river mosey to a meeting at the campground and boat ramp. The campground is punctuated by cottonwoods and sleepy aspens nestling with the river and studying the upturned strata on the other side. Bands of yellow and Tuscan red zigzag up the hills to gray-tan sheer sandstone cliffs, with sage and green grasses receding into a blue sky, while puffy white clouds roll away forever over the flowing river. I hear a faint rustling of leaves, a low brushing of soft riffles. I smell the clean mud in the dry afternoon sun. I sit back in this campground and let time slow down until I get a feeling of reconnecting to roots in the Earth, the immediacy of feeling, of knowing what is real, of linking in the moment with something beautiful. This place was a gift from my father to his son, from his generation to mine and all those to come. I want to tell the river runners breaking down their boats, that without those early Sierra Club activists, the rafters and the rest of this campground would be nearly 300 feet under water here. Maybe they know or can feel it somehow, or maybe the circling hawks will tell them when they are silent on a quiet day like this. In the moments of stillness on the river bank, standing at the place where the water meets the land, I say, “Thank you, Dad.”