When I signed up up for the “smooth water” rafting trip, I kind of imagined that there might be 20 – 30 people in our group, all assigned to the same boat. For some reason, I didn’t think it would involve a lot of humanity.
Wrong. We had enough people and enough boats to launch an assault on the beaches of Normandy. It took 3 buses and a number of vans to get everybody from the meeting point in Page to the base of Glen Canyon Dam. That involved driving through a long, dark tunnel that began at the top of the dam and went down to the river below. Kind of spooky in a bus full of strangers when you can’t see much of anything.
Then you had to wear a hard hat from the bus to the launch point (that’s my wife in the picture holding the hat on with her right hand). Then all the boats were loaded and then, finally, departure.
Not a bad ride all in all. The water on that part of the river is calm and it’s quiet down there (most of the time). All you had to do was sit and watch, and listen to the guide describe what you were seeing. Our guide was a young girl named Megan, working to earn some money to return to college (a biology major, I think). That’s her below.
My only problem with Megan was that one of her “stories” (near the end of the trip) was not exactly true. Now, I know almost nothing about the Colorado River, but I do know the story of John D. Lee, the guy who built the ferry crossing at Lee’s Ferry. Lee’s Ferry, if you didn’t know, is the start of the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. It was here that the Mormon Church ordered Lee to go in 1871, to build a ferry that would allow Mormon settlers to cross the river. At the time, there were very few spots along the Colorado that could be safely crossed between Moab, Utah and Needles, CA. Very inhospitable terrain.
Well, Megan told the story correctly – up to a point. Someone in the boat asked her what happened to John Lee (and his many wives). Megan responded by saying that Lee died a very rich man, since much of the money used to cross the river went to him.
Definitely not true. John Lee, you see, was involved in an incident called the “Mountain Meadows Massacre” in southern Utah in 1857. In a nutshell, a wagon train headed west was attacked by what appeared to be hostile Indians over a number of days. The wagon train folks, however, managed to create a well fortified defensive position and the thing turned into a siege of sorts.
But while Indians were certainly involved, it was the Mormon militia of southern Utah that was really responsible. For a number of reasons, they weren’t keen on non-Mormons invading their territory. And they were there during the attacks. After a few days, the Mormon leaders (including John Lee) decided that the siege had to end. So they rode into the wagon train encampment and told the settlers that if they came out unarmed, the Indians wouldn’t harm them.
And that’s exactly what the settlers did. At which point 120 of them (all but the smallest children) were shot and killed at close range. And then hurriedly buried.
The U. S. government finally caught up with Lee in 1877. After 2 trials in Utah, he was finally convicted and executed by firing squad. He was the only person involved to ever be punished for this atrocity.
Anyway, he didn’t die rich (or peacefully). The wife who was running the ferry operation finally sold it a couple of years later for 100 cows.
I didn’t, by the way, say anything to Megan the river guide. Heck, maybe she’s a Mormon herself. I don’t know. But sometimes it’s best to just keep still.