double clickBuzz Holmstrom - A Rogue Boatman with a Grand Story

Buzz Holmstrom - A Rogue Boatman with a Grand Story

Rowing More Than a Thousand Miles... Solo

In the annals of whitewater rafting history, Buzz Holmstrom stands tall. A gas station attendant turned river legend, Holmstrom wasn't just a skilled boatman - he was the embodiment of grit, determination, and a thirst for the unknown. His thousand-mile solo journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1937 was a feat of sheer audacity, forever changing the way we view these iconic waterways.

From the Rogue to the Grand Canyon

Holmstrom's passion for rivers ignited in his native Oregon, where he honed his skills on the wild Rogue. Building his own wooden boats, he learned through trial and error, reading the rapids and mastering the art of maneuvering through treacherous waters. But it was the allure of the fabled Grand Canyon that captured his imagination. With its reputation for unnavigable rapids and unforgiving terrain, the Colorado was the ultimate test— a siren call that Holmstrom couldn't resist.

The Impossible Voyage

In 1937, armed with a homemade 16-foot wooden boat dubbed the "Portafold" and an unwavering spirit, Holmstrom embarked on his 52-day solo journey. Provisions were minimal, safety gear virtually nonexistent. His grit and ingenuity were his only true resources. Along the way, he faced monstrous rapids, near capsizes, and the constant threat of the unforgiving desert. Yet, with every challenge, Holmstrom's resolve hardened. His journey became not just about survival, but about a profound connection with the river’s indomitable spirit.

The Legacy

Holmstrom's successful run shocked the world and sparked a new chapter in river exploration. His detailed maps and accounts of the rapids challenged long-held beliefs about the 'unrunnable' Colorado. He proved that with skill, determination, and a touch of madness, even the seemingly impossible could be conquered.

But Holmstrom wasn't just a conqueror – he was a steward. He recognized the fragile beauty of the canyon and the importance of preserving it for future generations. His legacy lives on not only in the annals of adventure but also in the ethic of respect and responsibility for the wild places he helped to open to exploration.

The Enigma of Buzz

Sadly, Holmstrom's life ended in mystery. Theories abound as to his cause of death, but the true circumstances remain shrouded in the same wilderness that he so fiercely explored. Yet, even in death, Buzz Holmstrom remains an enigmatic and influential figure in the history of adventure.

The Call of the River

Holmstrom's story is more than just a testament to human endurance. It's a reminder that within us all lies a thirst for the untamed, the unexplored. Whether we face the heart-pounding rapids of the Colorado, Rogue or Green Rivers or the challenges of our everyday lives, his journey reminds us to always remember that it is in the doing of the thing, that our best adventures and joys in life come.

Buzz wrote this while still in the canyon:

"...the bad rapid - Lava Cliff - that I had been looking for, nearly a thousand miles, with dread - I thought: 'Once past there my reward will begin, but now everything ahead seems kind of empty and I find I have already had my reward, in the doing of the thing. The stars, the cliffs, and canyons, the roar of the rapids, the moon, the uncertainty and worry, the relief when through each one 0 the campfires at night, the real respect of the rivermen I met, and others..."

Further Reading/Viewing

Kam Wixom
Kam began guiding in the Grand Canyon in 1991, met & guided with his wife in 2000, and is the proud daddy of 5 kids. He now works as the Marketing Director for Western River Expeditions.
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