Grand Canyon author captures life of grand old man of the Colorado


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Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 - 12:00am

Brad Dimock, fellow river runner, will be commemorating the life of the man who has spent more time floating the Colorado River than anyone else in a 45-minute slide presentation at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25 in the College of Eastern Utah's museum.

Bert Loper became a legend when he died at his oars in a Grand Canyon rapid at 80 in 1949. He spent a lifetime on the rivers and covered more miles of its main forks than anyone else possibly could, Dimock wrote.

He began river running on the San Juan River in 1893 and spent much of his life working and living along the branches of the Colorado.

By the time of his death in 1949, he had spent more time on the river than anyone ever had, and covered more miles of its main forks than anyone else ever could, Dimock continued.

Loper's life started as an orphaned and abused child in Missouri.

He came West at 16 years old to work his uncle's ranch in southwestern Colorado, wrote Dimock. He worked as a ditch digger and mule skinner before migrating to Telluride and the brutal life of a hard-rock miner.

His 50 subsequent years as a river runner began in 1893 when the silver market collapsed and the mines closed. He acted as lead boatman on the 1921 government survey of the San Juan, and the following year for the Green River survey.

With river work spotty, he worked as a coal miner in Castle Valley for nearly a decade prior to the Depression. He first ran Grand Canyon when he was 70, according to Dimock.

Dimock spent six years researching Loper's life and in March 2007, Fretwater Press released the biography: The Very Hard Way: Bert Loper and the Colorado River. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Spending nearly 35 years as a river runner, Dimock tells the story as only someone who has stood around a thousand campfires can.

His 2001 Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde, won the National Outdoor Book Award.

The local event is free and open to the public.

Filed under: lifestyles