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Kristy McCaffrey
May 1st, 2012, 04:45 PM
Georgie White was the first woman river guide in the Grand Canyon. In 1955 she began taking customers down the Colorado River in a large rubber raft of her own design. These rigs were 37 feet long, 27 feet wide and consisted of strapping three large inflatable boats together, then mounting a 10 horsepower outboard motor on the rear of the middle boat. This mode was controversial, as those who ran the rapids in wooden dories held disdain for her methods. However, she was able to take paying customers in mass, introducing the rapids and the Grand Canyon to an entirely new group of people. Her effect on the river was tremendous. In 1955 only 70 people floated down the Colorado. By 1972, the number had risen to an astounding 16,400.</SPAN></SPAN>

Twice divorced, White first ventured into the canyon after the tragic death of her 15-year-old daughter in a hit and run accident. Georgie never shied from self-publicity, describing herself in a promotional brochure as “one of the nation’s foremost woman adventurers” who “has done more in a few short years to make this country’s most dangerous rivers and canyons accessible to the average citizen than any other person living, man or woman.”</SPAN></SPAN>

She kept her river-guiding business going for 45 years. At the age of 73, she could be seen holding her motor rig’s tiller with one hand and a beer with the other, wearing a full-length leopard-pattern leotard. Her last Grand Canyon trip took place in September 1991 as she approached her 80th birthday. She died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 81. In 2001 the U.S. Board on Geographic Names renamed Mile 24 Rapid in her honor.</SPAN></SPAN>