Frontier Diary | PostIndependent.com

Frontier Diary

Willa SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyAlthough the waters of the Colorado River appear calm in this ca. 1911 photo, in 1905, R.H. Fishback ran this stretch of river in a boat during much higher runoff. Fishback and his passenger, Dan McPherson, survived the ride, becoming the first in a boat to successfully navigate the rapids in this stretch of water.
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R.H. Fishback viewed the rapids of the Colorado River as a challenge and as a business opportunity. He saw excitement in attempting to conquer the river by boat. He believed that others would embrace the chance to experience that same conquest.During the high runoff of the spring of 1905, Fishback launched a small boat into the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs for a trip to New Castle. Most saw his boating attempt as folly – and rightly so – for the mighty river had taken the lives of many a good man who had not respected its power. A tragic ending was predicted for the trip.Remarkably, Fishback’s water run to New Castle was successful. His survival, however, only solidified his plans to offer excursion boating trips from Glenwood to New Castle. Afire with passion for shooting the rapids, Fishback ordered a custom boat for his fledgling boating business. The W.H. Mullen Boatbuilding Co. of Salem, Ohio, built a 16-foot-long, 175-pound, oak-framed, steel boat for Fishback. The craft arrived in Glenwood Springs in mid-July.For its inaugural run, Fishback announced a launch at No Name with a destination of Glenwood Springs. Many were invited to join, but only Dan McPherson overcame foolhardiness and consented to shoot the rapids with Fishback.On the evening of July 26, 1905, a custom-built wagon transported the boat to No Name. Fishback and McPherson launched the boat into the Colorado River while an Avalanche Echo newspaper reporter recorded the two and one-half mile river trip.Immediately, the boat entered some rapids, and the fierce current pulled the craft into rocks. The crew navigated the best they could, but several times the boat was either on-end or nearly capsized. The boat, however, remained upright and the two men within. Seventeen minutes later, Fishback’s craft came to Glenwood Springs.This was the first time a crew had successfully navigated a boat through the rapids between No Name and Glenwood Springs. However, it, the observant newspaper reporter recorded, was a feat that should never be repeated. Fishback never again ran the rapids, and his excursion boating business never materialized.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


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