double clickUpset Rapids - A Colorado River Rapid Named in 1923
Grand Canyon
6 or 7 Day Rafting Vacation

Mile 150 - Upset Rapids

Before 1923, the rapid adjacent to 150 Mile Canyon held no significant name. That year, during the Colonel Birdseye U.S. Geological Survey Expedition, Emery Kolb suffered a head boatman’s worst nightmare when he dropped into the steep hole in the middle of the rapid and “upset” his wooden boat. Frank Dodge, another boatman on the trip and excellent swimmer, jumped into the river and retrieved the unmanned craft.

Bravery on the River »

In 1966, Western River Expeditions boatman Amil Quayle capsized his 33 foot pontoon rig on a single boat trip at Upset Rapid. Fortunately, due to the low water conditions of the river at the time, Quayle had his passengers, a husband and wife with their two young sons, avoid the rapid by hiking along the rocky shoreline on the right while wearing their lifejackets. After the capsize, Quayle grabbed the bowline of the boat and was immediately joined by the woman passenger as she jumped into the river, swam out to the pontoon, and assisted Quayle in towing it to shore. Once the group was reunited again the fivesome began the task of re-flipping the pontoon right side up. The boat’s superstructure had to be disassembled while it was still upside down, to make it light enough to pull back over. After re-flipping the boat, an inventory of the gear was taken. Most of the supplies had floated downstream, including two 14 foot oak oars. The outboard engine was intact, but was full of water and would no longer run. With no other trips anywhere nearby, the five brave souls had no choice but to continue on to Havasu Creek without a means of propulsion. On the way to Havasu they were able to recover one of the oars. They used the single oar as much as they could to maneuver through the riffles and swift currents in the 7 miles to Havasu. With coolheadedness and teamwork, the group made it into the mouth of the creek and tied up for the night. Two cans of tuna remained as their only food source, which they shared equally for dinner and breakfast the next morning. They lashed the pontoon as securely as possible to the cliffs in the mouth of Havasu Creek, then hiked out to the Havasupai village of Supai. Once there, Quayle was able to reach Western’s headquarters by pay phone, and it was arranged for the family of four to ride mules out of the canyon and then be picked up by Greyhound Bus for transport back to Los Angeles. After making sure the family of four connected with the mule train, Quayle hiked out on foot, met Western’s truck driver on the rim, and rode back to Kanab, Utah.

Shorty Burton »

In 1967 a Hatch River Expeditions guide by the name of Shorty Burton perished in Upset Rapid when his motorized 33’ “tail-dragger” pontoon rolled over in the giant hole sitting in the middle of the rapid. All other participants on the expedition took a significant swim, but all made it to shore without incident. Burton apparently became “hung-up” in the rigging on the back of the boat when it capsized, and wasn’t able to free himself once underwater. A lone pie tin is often visible below the rapid hanging on a boulder alongside the right shoreline, a reminder of Shorty Burton, a man dearly loved within the river community.

Lower Gorge Grand Canyon

Lower Grand Canyon Mile by Mile »

The lower Grand Canyon, as traveled by Western's 3 or 4 day expedition begins at Whitmore Wash (mile 188) and finishes at Lake Mead (mile 277).

See Lower Grand Canyon