The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon
In the winter of 1983, the largest El Niño event on record – a chain of “superstorms” that swept in from the Pacific Ocean – battered the entire West. That spring, a massive snowmelt sent runoff racing down the Colorado River toward the Glen Canyon Dam, which sat at the head of the most iconic landscape feature in America, the Grand Canyon. As federal officials scrambled to avoid one of the most dramatic dam failures in history, they began releasing enormous torrents of water that created a maelstrom so powerful that the river was soon choked with wreckage of commercial rafting trips. IN the midst of crisis, a trio of river guides secretly launched a hand-built wooden dory named the Emerald Mile into the Colorado. A river run under such conditions bordered on the suicidal. But Kenton Grua, the captain of that dory, was determined to use the flood as a hydraulic slingshot that would hurl him and his companions through 277 miles of some of the most ferocious white water in North America and, if everything went as planned, catapult the Emerald Mile into legend as the fastest boat ever propelled – by oar, by motor, or by the grace of God – through the heart of the Grand Canyon. The saga of the Emerald Mile is a thrilling adventure, as we;; as a magisterial portrait of the hidden kingdom of white water at the bottom of the greatest river canyon on Earth.
Kevin Fedarko was a staff writer at Time from 1991 to 1998, where his work helped garner an Overseas Press Club Award. His writing has appeared in Esquire, Outside, and other publications and has been anthologized in The Bets American Travel Writing. He lives in northern New Mexico and works as a part-time river guide in Grand Canyon National Park.
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