The Emerald Mile ties together a clear line through the tumult of the high water 1983 flood on the Colorado River of a dory’s speed run through the Grand Canyon. Still holding the record, even with a recent attempt at breaking it on January 7th, 2015 by Ben Orkin and Harrison Rea in Kayaks of 37 hours and 48 minutes, Kenton Grua, Rudy Petschek, and Steve Reynolds still hold the record of 36 hours and 38 minutes!
Watch “The Emerald Mile” Intro:
I just completed this Epic Novel on the Grand Canyon Dory speed run in 1983. Last June, I went and listened as Kevin Fedarko gave us a presentation and overview of the Emerald Mile. He had Rick Parsons and Henry Dhieux speak about putting up those plywood flash boards that held off the flood at Glen Canyon Dam in 1983 while the Bureau of Reclamation considered their options to contain and control the Colorado River. I purchased my copy that night…but it has sit dormant on a shelf until a second friend told me how good it was. So I re-engaged…and what a story it has to tell.
For me, because I grew up in Page, Arizona and witnessed this great event, the story starts off a little slow…because I had already lived that part. Yet, I found myself learning details or stories that I had not heard as the flood was taking place. I do remember the thrill it was to stand on the edge of the Canyon as both of Glen Canyon Dam’s spillways and all 4 jet tubes were roaring down below…THE WHOLE CANYON SHOOK! And, you could hear it from town. Also, the depth and level of detail that Kevin Fedarko takes us to…while weaving much of the background story of Grand Canyon into this epic tail…is fundamentally necessary to help us fully understand those moments surrounding the speed run. This I would come to appreciate as the novel is propelled to it’s crescendo.
The history of Crystal Rapid is detailed and very appropriate to prepare us for the ride ahead. Until the Marble Canyon Lodge burned down in 2013, they had a large photo of the 1983 flip of Tour West hanging on the wall that was taken by Richard Kocim. I often wondered if that was to remind the River Guides to respect the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon…as they would be dining there just before embarking on their next trip through “The Great Unknown”.