In September 1909, Julius Stone, an Ohio financier, hired Utah adventurer Nathaniel Galloway to take him on a boat trip on the Green and Colorado rivers. It was a time when navigating the rugged and isolated canyons of western rivers was an arduous necessity for scientists and geographers. But Stone and Galloway’s river voyage was the first for the sheer pleasure of boating, and signaled an emerging interest in the idea of discovering remote landscapes just for the fun of it.
Inspired by John Wesley Powell’s travels on these same rivers, Stone was passionate about the wild outdoors. Galloway was a prospector and trapper from Vernal, Utah, known for his experience on the Yampa and Green rivers. Galloway guided the journey and Stone funded it, including building boats built to Galloway’s new design. These flat-bottomed boats were facing forward, so the rower had better control of the vessel and could see – and maneuver through – potential obstacles. Previous boat designs had rowers rowing the backs downstream, resulting in frequent flips.
Galloway, Stone, and a small group of men set off on four boats from Green River, Wyoming. Although the trip was made for fun, it was not without hardships. The men were relatively inexperienced and had to carry their boats and cargo around unmanageable rapids. Only Galloway sailed efficiently through the rough waters, rowing in the current rather than trying to overpower it. Yet the men marveled at their awe-inspiring surroundings and devoted themselves to enjoying the beauty and magnificence of the river. Crossing canyons, catching fish, and exploring distant landscapes left a lasting impression on the group.
The Galloway-Stone expedition ended five weeks later in Needles, California. Pleasure travel foreshadowed the popularity that river racing would enjoy in the 20th century and the impact it would have on the Utah economy. Tourists paid to appreciate the natural beauty of rivers. By the late 1920s, shopping tours were organized from Vernal – and Galloway’s boat design was the preferred choice of river guides until the 1950s.
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