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Grand Canyon National Park: Historic Boat grca13727 Esmeralda II -03

RIVER BOAT "ESMERALDA II". WOODEN JET BOAT WITH INBOARD MOTOR. BOAT PAINTED GREEN, WHITE, & RED. 125 H.P. GRAY MARINE ENGINE, PROPELLED, SHAFT, CONTROLS, MODIFIED V SPOON- BILL BOW, INVERTED V STERN. 3/8" PLYWOOD SIDES, 2 LAYER 1/4" PLYWOOD LAMINATED BOTTOM, 1/4" PLYWOOD BULKHEADS, OAK & SPRUCE FRAMES, CANVAS SPLASH SHIELD. PAINT FLAKING.

 

THE 'ESMERALDA II' WAS THE FIRST POWER BOAT TO RUN THROUGH THE GRAND CANYON. IT WAS BUILT IN 1947, BY A SEATTLE MARINE ARCHITECT HIRED BY ED HUDSON, OF PASO ROBLES, CA, WITH CONSULTING ASSISTANCE FROM 'DOCK' MARSTON. HUDSON'S INTENT FROM THE START WAS TO USE THE BOAT TO RUN THE COLORADO RIVER THROUGH THE GRAND CANYON, UPSTREAM, STARTING FROM LAKE MEAD. THE BOAT WAS BUILT WITH A SPECIAL HULL AND AN INBOARD PROPELLER PROTECTED BY A SKAG, THAT HUDSON HOPED WOULD BE LESS LIKELY TO BE DAMAGED BY ROCKS. IT WAS 19 FEET LONG AND 6 WIDE, BUILT OF MARINE PLYWOOD OVER AN OAK FRAME.

 

IN 1948, HUDSON TRIED AN UPRIVER RUN IN THE 'ESMERALDA II', WITH PASSENGERS 'DOCK' MARSTON, WILSON TAYLOR, AND HUDSON'S 16 YEAR-OLD SON. THE BOAT WAS POWERED BY A 4-CYLINDER, 75 HORSEPOWER MOTOR. THE UPRIVER ATTEMPT WAS HALTED AT MILE 217 WHEN THE BOAT CRASHED INTO A TREE AT THE WATER'S EDGE.

 

THE NEXT ATTEMPT CAME THE NEXT YEAR, USING THE SAME CREW, WITH THE ADDITION OF BESTOR ROBINSON. MARSTON ADDED A CANVAS SHIELD TO PROTECT THE ENGINE FROM THE BIG WAVES BREAKING OVER THE BOW, AND UPPED THE ENGINE HORSEPOWER TO 125. THIS TIME THEY MADE A DOWNRIVER TRIP FIRST WITH THE INTENTION OF STUDYING THE RIVER ON THE WAY DOWN, AS WELL AS CACHING GAS AT VARIOUS SPOTS FOR USE ON THE UPRIVER PORTION. THEY LEFT LEES FERRY ON JUNE 12, 1949. UPON REACHING PIERCE FERRY, THEY WERE THE FIRST MOTOR RUN DOWN THE GRAND CANYON, ARRIVING 5 DAYS LATER. ON THE WAY BACK THEY COULDN'T MAKE IT PAST THE STRONG CURRENTS AT DIAMOND CREEK.

 

THEY TRIED AGAIN IN 1950, THIS TIME ADDING ANOTHER BOAT AND ADDITIONAL CREW. ON THE DOWNRIVER RUN, THE 'ESMERALDA II' CRASHED IN TUNA CREEK RAPID. HUDSON FELT THAT THE DAMAGE WAS BEYOND REPAIR AND SET THE BOAT FREE TO FLOAT DOWNSTREAM TO A WATERY GRAVE. UNABLE TO CARRY ALL SEVEN PEOPLE DOWNSTREAM IN THE REMAINING BOATS, HUDSON AND HIS SON WERE LEFT TO BE FLOWN OUT BY HELICOPTER.

 

THE BOAT WAS DISCOVERED BY ANOTHER DOWNRIVER TRIP ABOUT A MONTH LATER, AND ONE OF THE BOATMEN JIM RIGG WAS ABLE TO INGENIOUSLY REPAIR THE 'ESMERALDA II' ENOUGH TO GET IT DOWNSTREAM TO LAKE MEAD. A DISPUTE AROSE BETWEEN HUDSON AND RIGG AS TO THE OWNERSHIP OF THE BOAT WHICH WAS EVENTUALLY TURNED OVER TO THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE TO ADD TO THE BOAT DISPLAY IN THE SOUTH RIM VISITOR CENTER PATIO.

 

-THE BOAT REMAINED ON DISPLAY AT THE VISITOR CENTER UNTIL JUNE 2004.

-THE BOAT WAS MOVED 6/2004, WITH ASSISTANCE FROM WACC CONSERVATOR BRYNN BENDER AND MANY MEMBERS OF THE BOATING COMMUNITY, TO THE SCIENCE CENTER WAREHOUSE FOR CONSERVATION, AS PART OF THE 'SAVE OUR BOATS' HISTORIC BOAT CONSERVATION PROJECT.

 

NPS PHOTO BY M. QUINN

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Taken on November 3, 2010