National Geographic : 1978 Jul
Intermission in the dramatic 2,200-foot descent of the Colorado through the canyon is staged under the arch of Redwall Cavern (above), 33 miles downriver from Lees Ferry. Everywhere pocked by footprints, the beach here became such an overcrowded stopping place that authorities had to prohibit camping. As recently as 1948, fewer than a hundred people had run the river the length of the canyon. Today 14,000 travel some or all of it yearly. Writer-conservationist Martin Litton (right) adapted the lines of the Grand Banks dory in designing motorless boats for the canyon's rapids. An advocate of nature undisturbed and leader of float trips, Litton faces the wilderness paradox: As more people come to understand and travel in it, they impinge on each other's solitary experience. "Even the people who care for conservation must ration their use of wilderness," he says. Long committed to the cause of a pristine river, some of the professional river runners have for years conducted end-of-season "carryouts" of trash.