The Forgotten Women Who Shaped History On An Epic Grand Canyon Adventure

Perilous rapids. Hazardous rock-faces. Sharp cliffs. Yes, claims that the Colorado River was among the most lethal stretches of water on the planet weren’t without their merit in years gone by! Yet Lois Jotter and Elzada Clover didn’t bow to the fear. With the odds firmly stacked against them, the two ladies embarked on an epic adventure fraught with danger, making history in the process.

How it all began

This incredible tale began during the summer months of 1937 in San Juan County, Utah. At that point, a conversation was initiated between Clover and a hotel proprietor named Norman Nevills.

Together, the duo discussed the Colorado River and the possibility of charting an expedition across it via the Grand Canyon. But they each had different reasons for pursuing the idea.

Different aims

Clover was a botanist out of the University of Michigan, and she wanted to make a record of all the plant life found near the river. No one else had managed to do it, so she was aware of how important this would be to her field.

For Nevills, though, he only had eyes on the financial gains that could come from a successful expedition. It takes all kinds!

Nevills’ hopes

To go into more detail about that, Melissa Sevigny, a science writer, spoke to Orion Magazine. She noted, “[Nevills] wanted to start a commercial river-running business and, unlike many of his fellow river-runners, was willing to take women down the river.

“His idea was that if he could convince people that rafting the Grand Canyon is something even a woman can do, then it must be easy. Right?”

“A terrible idea”

“Then more people will sign up to do these river trips,” Sevigny continued. “I’m sure Elzada realized that, but she was like, ‘This is my chance. This is my opportunity.’

“It was really amazing to see her chase this dream despite many people telling her it was a terrible idea. People at her university treated her as both foolhardy and far too adventurous.”