The Emerald Mile – Fastest through Grand Canyon!

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.

Grand Canyon Crystal Rapid - Kenton Grua

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”.

Tour West - June 1983

8 Responses

  1. Thanks for giving me a mention in your review. That trip was something I will never forget. Kevin’s book should be required reading for anyone taking a Colorado River trip

  2. Hi! Brilliant memories for us – we rafted down the Colorado just around Easter 1989 with ‘Colorado River & Trail’. We were the first raft of the season on the back of high spring rains (but far less than The Emerald Mile had to cope with) and we camped out taking 10 days… Holiday of a lifetime!

    Is there an ebook version of the book, The Emerald Mile??

    Tksvm and bibifn

    1. John,

      There is a Kindle version on Amazon for The Emerald Mile.

      I really enjoyed that book, especially Kevin’s deep dive on Glen Canyon Dam and Crystal Rapid.

      I live in Page, Arizona…and was in High School during these events…so I watched it all happen and took my first Whitewater rafting trip in 1985 with Western River Expeditions.



    2. The ebook version of The Emerald Mile is epically BAD. The narrator could not be more annoying if he actually set out to infuriate the listener. The written version of the book is absolutely brilliant! I’ve read it twice and two days from now, I’m setting off on my rafting adventure on the Colorado River. Crystal scares the living hell out of me after reading the book but life should be filled with adventure, right?

      1. FWIW, ebook is not the same as an audio book. An ebook can be read on an electronic device and has no narration.

        I listened to the audio book on a road trip. I didn’t find the narrator annoying at all (neither was he fantastic).

  3. Just got off the river last week at mile 225. Read the book last month. Almost cancelled the trip as a result. Am a water engineer, and know what makes a 20 foot standing wave. But, thank God, Crystal Rapid let us through, all thirteen of us, with just big splashes. The 135 miles that we experienced, never lost its magic. If you ever get the chance, ride it through. And read the book first.

  4. I picked up this book for my teenage son while my husband and I visited the Grand Canyon. He absolutely devoured this book. He loved all the details and the “grip” as he called it. Do yourself a favor and check out this exciting literary adventure!

    1. Jessica,

      That’s awesome. I love Fedarko’s description of what was going on in Glen Canyon Dam and the accident at Crystal Rapid. He really went deep on those.

      Not to mention I live next to Glen Canyon Dam and love Lee’s Ferry…so, this book Gripped me hard too!

      Thank You for the Recommendation,


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