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Exhibition Illuminates Rich History of River Running

Amos Burg in CHARLIE, Buzz Holmstron and Willis Johnson in the JULIUS F, 1938.  Burg’s boat was the first inflatable craft designed for river running, while Holmstrom’s represented the pinnacle of wooden river boat technology.

July 9, 2013 – If you’ve ever taken a river trip and fallen in love with the experience, you will especially appreciate the “Rivers and Dams of the Colorado Plateau,” an exhibition featuring materials from the Utah River Running Archives at the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library. The public is welcome to attend an opening reception and speaking event on Tuesday, July 16, and the exhibition, which will be on display until September 1.

Founded in 1985, the Utah River Running Archives consists of a wealth of materials chronicling the history of river running in the Intermountain West. Oral histories, photographs, films, publications and manuscripts paint a lifetime of stories surrounding the love for recreation on the Colorado River system.

“We set out to save as much of the history as possible,” explains Roy Webb, Special Collections’ multimedia archivist and author of Lost Canyons of the Green River: The Story before Flaming Gorge Dam (2012) and several other books on western rivers. “With the help of many passionate people, the archive is now one of the largest of its kind – dedicated to the history of river running and the legendary individuals who charted the course.”

Highlights of the archives include collections from early river runners: Norman and Doris Nevills, Hatch Rivers Expeditions, Charles Eggert, Aaron Belnap Ross, J. Frank Wright, Ralf Woolley, Kent Frost and the French Kayakers, including Genevieve De Colmont, the first woman to ever paddle her own boat.

The impetus for this exhibition, Webb said, came from the fact that there are several significant anniversaries in 2013. It was 50 years ago that Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon Dams were completed, and 75 years since the French kayakers, Norman Nevills, and Amos Burg and Buzz Holmstrom floated the river, all of whom are represented in the exhibit.  The exhibition also features the collections of SOCOTWA (a Mormon river-running cooperative that was in Glen Canyon in the 1950s), Utah Power and Light/U.S.Geological Survey trips, Leslie “Buckethead” Jones–an early solo river runner and creator of the scroll maps, original register books from Music Temple and many other topics of interest to river runners. Historic river films are shown all during the exhibit on level 2 and on level 4. Not only does the archive cover the recreational aspects, it also explores environmental issues, water use and development on the Colorado River.

Exhibition Details:

What: The exhibition, “Rivers and Dams of the Colorado Plateau”
Where: The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library, level 4
When: Now – Sept. 1.
Directions: See map:
Cost: Free and open to the public

Event Details:
“Colorado River Mile Markers” a reception featuring Roy Webb, Multimedia Archivist
Where: The University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library, level 4
When: July 16, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.; remarks at 5:30 p.m.
Directions: See map:
Cost: Free and open to the public