Kevin Fedarko's new book, The Emerald Mile is a white knuckle thriller that chronicles three Grand Canyon river guides epic and illegal run though the canyon in late June of 1983. The Colorado river was at flood stage and the Glen Canyon Dam was suffering a engineering collapse in its spillways. A plywood wall was fabricated at the top of Glen Canyon Dam to help stop water from cresting over the castle wall of the dam. The Bureau of Reclamation was releasing upto 93,000 cubic feet per second out of Glen Canyon Dam which created a massive flood through the Grand Canyon. Huge motor rig rafts were being tossed like toys and the National Park Service was conducting the largest evacuation ever of river runners at the bottom of the Canyon.
But three Canyon guides Kenton Grua, Rudi Petschek, and Steve Reyonlds thought the flood could make for an adventure for the ages. They wanted to set the recored for the fastest decent down the Grand Canyon, which is a 277 mile trek. A typical river trip down the Canyon takes on average two weeks. Little did they know that what they were about to do was illegal and borderline insane. The three men loaded up a wooden boat called a dory that held the name, The Emerald Mile. For their journey, they had a car battery and a spot light so they could row through the night. When they set off under a moon lit June night, little did they know what disasters had unfolded down in the depths of the Canyon.
The Emerald Mile is a story about man's drive for adventure; and man's drive to conquer nature though manipulating the arid west by the creation of dams. The Emerald Mile is a pointe conservation essay cleverly disguised as an adventure book.
Photo Credits: John Blaustein, Rudi Petscheck, Arthur Sylvester, the Tour West motor rig photos are courtesy of Jeffe Aronson. Footage from Challenge At Glen Canyon is in the public domaine. Special thanks to all the photographers that contributed to this story and John Dunn, Matt Sayre Easy Joseph of Grand Canyon Whitewater.