Martin Litton was not only a great American conservationist. He was also the founder of Grand Canyon Dories, a legendary fleet of small, colorful five-person boats with a captivating heritage. Litton named each of his boats after natural treasures that were lost to development projects, such as those now underwater behind a dam in places like Glen Canyon. Litton, who passed away in 2014, left an indelible legacy in the southwest. The full story of Martin Litton, his dories, and so much more is captured in the riveting book, The Emerald Mile, by Kevin Fedarko. (see Resources). They are also memorialized in, Martin’s Boat, a masterful 22-minute on-line documentary directed by photojournalist Pete McBride. I heartily encourage you to consume both book and video. Having just finished viewing Martin’s Boat again, I feel determined, if at all possible. to do what I can to have this experience.

Eventually, Litton sold his fleet to Oars, another venerable commercial rafting outfit that specializes in smaller craft. According to Oars, the dories are: “Hand-crafted using fiberglass and closed-cell foam, … hardwood-hulled and ultra-buoyant. At an elegant 17 feet, dories slice through waves and buck through rapids and land large drops with ease …” The Emerald Mile describes these boats as sitting lower in the water than an inflatable raft, which provides more stability for a craft of this size. In any case, it’s another experience of the river that sounds mind-blowing.

Oars Dories in the Grand Canyon (source: Oars River Guides)


Copyright © 2021 Craig Spielman, All Rights Reserved

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