Ted explains what a swamper does and talks about his friend Ed Lowry’s twenty-first Colorado River raft trip. To this day, Lowry runs the river every single year. 2015 marked Lowry’s 51st trip down the river.

Grand Canyon white water rafting - swamper

E. Sowards: How do you pick the young men that help you on the rapids? They seem to be really "top-notch" fellows.

Ted: Well, thank you.

E Sowards: How do you pick them?

Ted: They have a trial period where we interview them. They apply for the job. Then, we put them on as a "swamper" to start. A swamper is a "roust-about" or cook’s helper. He helps do everything that the boatmen need to have help with. Then later, after he has gained a lot of experience, they let him, in the calm water, run the boat and gradually work in to the rapids. Now, it takes… well I had a guy that was a swamper for five years… and he got his first trip last week. He may have been on your trip. Lowry?

E. Sowards: Ace? He was going to take his dad’s trip down the river.

Ted: He did. He launched.

E. Sowards: Oh, good! He was excited about that. I think he probably was a little nervous about it, but then, he’s a real super person. I really like Ace.

Ted: Oh, his dad is such a pleasant guy. His dad’s one of my best friends. He is an attorney in Phoenix, and his dad has gone with us twenty years in a row.

E. Sowards: Is that right?

Ted: He is on his twenty-first trip, because one year he did two trips. He’ll call me and say, "This desk has gotten so big in this law-firm. I’m coming up there. I have just got to get away from the phone. Have you got room? I say, "Come on, Ed, I’ll put you on a trip!"

E. Sowards: Did he ever bring Ace with him when he was a little boy?

Ted: Oh, Ace was a little guy. He’s on about his fifth year… he’s run five years going on six.

E. Sowards: So it takes them a long time to get in to get their own boat, I understand. That’s what the boys were saying.

Ted: We can train them in less than that, but to be good, they need at least a year and a half. Because they need to know all the camps, the safety, the emergency procedures… all the things.

E. Sowards: Even to cook and that. They are excellent cooks! All the boys were.

Ted: Thank you. They learn the rapids. You see, there are sixty major rapids that they have to memorize. There are probably another forty camps, and then there are a lot of little canyons all through. You have to learn those. There is so much that it takes really years to learn them all. Because a guy will sit there with a map and he will say what’s the next rapid coming up? He will ask you and you better know. How long till camp? How deep is the river? They always ask that.

Next week, we’ll bring you more of Ted’s conversation with Sowards.

Flashback Friday – What is a Swamper? What is his job on a Colorado River Raft Trip? was last modified: August 3rd, 2015 by Jessica Clark

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