A gigantic map of all the cool plaques in the world. A project of 99% Invisible.

Bert Loper

This little monument is in O.K. Anderson City Park, a beautiful verdant patch on mostly dusty Main Street in Green River, Utah (population about 1,000). The primary commercial activity I saw during my 30 minutes here in August 2017 was melons. There were big melon stands, watermelons mostly, near the Interstate 70 ramps on both ends of town. Green River is also known for, or at least hosts, a melon festival each September. It's not all that far from Moab if you happen to be in that area. 

As to the monument, the text reads:

Bert Loper

Pioneer*Soldier*Prospector*River Guide

Born July 31, 1869, at Bowling Green, Missouri. Died July 8, 1949, in the vastness of the Grand Canyon, the land of the blue horizons and the desert mesas that he loved so well.

"I belong to the wonderous West, and the West belongs to me."

Reading the memorial, you think, "Gee -- there's a biography in that." And there actually is a recent one: "The Very Hard Way: Bert Loper and the Colorado River." If you're not up for 456 pages "that never once bog down," here's a brief summary of Loper's life by way of the Grand Canyon River Heritage Coalition. The denouement:

In 1939, as Loper neared seventy, a young boatman named Don Harris sought advice on running Grand Canyon. Loper’s advice: Let’s do it together. They launched in July and became one of the first parties to run every rapid. They pledged to do it again ten years hence.

For his return trip in 1949 Loper built a new boat, the Grand Canyon, incorporating design elements of Galloway, Nevills, and his own ideas. He launched on July 7, three weeks shy of eighty years old, leading Don Harris and two other boats. The next day, Loper flipped in 24-1/2-Mile Rapid. Loper was last seen motionless, floating downriver.
That evening they found his boat and dragged it high on the shore near mile 41, where it lies today. A half-century of sun, rain, rockfalls, and tourists have not treated it kindly. What remains is extremely fragile. If you visit it, please do not touch.


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