Mexican Hat Expeditions Grand Canyon river trip video, 1960

Overview of the Collection

Mexican Hat Expeditions
Mexican Hat Expeditions Grand Canyon river trip video
1960 (inclusive)
1 VHS videocassette
Collection Number
The Mexican Hat Expeditions Grand Canyon river trip video (1960) documents a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon taken by Mexican Hat Expeditions from Lees Ferry Fort to Lake Mead. Salt Lake City river runner Don Neff appears in the film.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT

Telephone: 8015818863
Access Restrictions

Materials must be used on-site; no use of original material, access copies will be made available for viewing. Five business days advanced notice required. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law, condition of the material, or by donor.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Mexican Hat Expeditions was a commercial river running company based in Mexican Hat, Utah. After the death of Grand Canyon commercial river running pioneer Norman Nevills in 1949, his company, "Nevills Expeditions," was acquired by Nevills' boatmen Jim and Bob Rigg and Frank Wright, who renamed the company "Mexican Hat Expeditions" in 1950. In 1957, the company returned to the Nevills family when it was acquired by Nevills' daughter, Joan Nevills Staveley, and her then-husband Gaylord Staveley. Until 1969, the company maintained the tradition of ferrying passengers in the same type of wooden cataract boats Nevills originally used, but, to remain competative, ultmately converted to pontoons. Gaylord Steveley runs the company in its current incarnation as "Canyoneers, Inc."

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Mexican Hat Expeditions Grand Canyon river trip video (1960) documents a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon taken by Mexican Hat Expeditions from Lees Ferry Fort to Lake Mead. Salt Lake City river runner Don Neff appears in the film. This collection has been digitized and is available to view on DVD.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material from the Mexican Hat Expeditions Grand Canyon river trip video must be obtained from the Special Collections Multimedia Archivist.

Preferred Citation

Initial Citation: Mexican Hat Expeditions Grand Canyon river trip video A0171, Special Collections and Archives. University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Following Citations:A0171.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Donated by Marc Smith in 1991.

Processing Note

Processed by Roy Webb in 2013.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 Grand Canyon river trip

VHS videocassette
Mexican Hat Expeditions leads a river trip down the Colorado River from Lees Ferry, Arizona to Lake Mead. Mileage in the following shot list is given as per United States Geological Survey (USGS) practice in miles downstream from Lees Ferry. "Left" and "right" always refer to the view downstream. The large, pre-dam beaches visible in the film are no longer in evidence along the modern Colorado River. Shot list:
  • The first 28 seconds are upside down and backwards, but show unloading of trucks at Lees Ferry, Arizona
  • 00:29 Lees Ferry Fort
  • 00:50 Lees Ferry Fort from different angle, Vermillion Cliffs in background
  • 1:04 launch ramp at Lees Ferry (then just an opening in the tamarisk trees; now a paved ramp with a large parking area and room for at least a dozen boats to launch.) Hauling supplies down to boats, loading.
  • 1:44 Another view of loading boats, looking downstream. Vermillion Cliffs in right background, mouth of Paria River in middle ground, Lees Backbone (rock formation) and old route of road in left middle ground.
  • 1:52 Don Neff (shirtless) appears from right side of screen. Not sure of identity of others in the scene or on the trip. More final loading of boats.
  • 2:26 launch of boats
  • 2:43 Navajo Bridge, mile 4.5
  • 3:12 Gaylord Staveley on shore waving hat, giving signals for running of Badger Rapid [this practice was a holdover from Norman Nevills, and you can see him giving the same signals in other films in our collections]
  • 3:23 Badger Rapidm mile 8
  • 4:43 Soap Creek Rapid, mile 11
  • 5:12 unidentified rapid
  • 5:21 break under overhang and in shade
  • 5:44 small rapid
  • 5:52 Sunset on cliffs
  • 6:00 looking back upstream at Boulder Narrows, mile 18.5
  • 6:16 Vasey's Paradise, mile 32. Boats tied up, getting water, bathing in clear water, sliding down waterfalls, filming. Note clear water before it mixes with muddy river water.
  • 7:26 looking back upstream at Vasey's Paraside
  • 7:38 Redwall Cavern, mile 33 [obscured by shadow]. Boats landing at Redwall. Huge pre-dam beach.
  • 8:20 Bert Loper's boat, mile 41.5. [No longer recognizable, just a pile of small pieces of wood, as of about 2000.]
  • 8:52 driftwood pile aflame at night. [once a common practice, now very illegal!]
  • 9:23 morning, boats on shore. Frank "Fisheyes" Masland standing, far right.
  • 9:40 sign on piece of driftwood "Mexican Hat Expeditions…illegible dates]
  • 9:42 man carving on piece of driftwood
  • 10:02 sign on piece of driftwood "Mexican Hat Exp. 7-10-58 [;] 7-5-59 [;] 7-8-60 [;] 8-20-60'
  • 10:10 party hiking up Nankoweap trail (mile 53.5), view downstream from Nankoweap granaries, view of granaries, view out over Nankoweap Delta
  • 11:36 running Nankoweap rapid. Good examples of "fisheye-ing," passenger lying flat on stern of boat while running rapids.
  • 13:30 boats along cliff, picking salt crystal off of cliff. Salt precipitates out of the Tapeats sandstone and forms "soda straws" such as shown in the next scene. [such salt deposits are found whenever the Tapeats Sandstone appears, but harvesting salt as depicted in this scene in this area is now highly illegal and culturally insensitive, as this salt is sacred to the Hopi Peoples]
  • 14:12 man holding salt crystals
  • 14:35 morning, loading boats at camp above Little Colorado River (Comanche Point downstream in background]
  • 15:07 Mouth of Little Colorado River, mile 62 [again, note big sand beach; no longer there. Also note mixing of blue water from the LCR with the muddy Colorado River water]. Wading and swimming in the LCR.
  • 15:50 Desert View Watchtower on South Rim, sunset on cliffs. [must have hiked up above the mouth of the LCR for that shot]
  • 16:00 breakfast campfire, coffee. Frank Masland at 16:10, pancakes at 16:18
  • 16:55 Gaylord Staveley signaling with a mirror toward Desert View Watchtower on rim.
  • 17:10 Desert View Watchtower [this must have been added later, as this is several thousand feet above river level and this view is from the Watchtower itself] Woman signals back with mirror.
  • 17:20 looking from Desert View Watchtower out into Tanner Flats
  • 17:30 Unkar Delta, mile 73. depressions for pit houses (Anasazi), pottery shards, ruined walls, Unkar Rapid in background.
  • 18:15 scouting Hance Rapid, mile 77
  • 18:22 lining boats past upper end of Hance Rapid
  • 18:45 boats running middle section of Hance Rapid
  • 19:30 sunrise, cooking eggs in camp for breakfast
  • 20:00 entering Upper Granite Gorge (also called Inner Gorge) just below Hance Rapid; big white patch on cliffs on upper right is Captain John Hance's asbestos mine.
  • 20:15 scouting Sockdologer Rapid, mile 79
  • 20:52 Phantom Ranch entrance (one mile up Bright Angel Canyon from river at mile 88) "Phantom Ranch Welcomes You" sign
  • 21:00 Phantom Ranch swimming pool [removed in 1972]
  • 21:35 jetboats from the 1960 uprun in river at Bright Angel beach, making circles, uprunning below the Bright Angel Bridge [Black Bridge], zooming back and forth, including some footage taken from the boats, so some of the MHE party must have been invited to board the jetboats for a ride. [this sequence is important historically because this is the last known footage of the Wee Yellow , one of the four boats that made the only uprun of the Grand Canyon to that point. Less than two hours after this sequence was taken, the four boats headed upstream to complete the uprun, but one, the Wee Yellow, sank in Grapevine Rapid, mile 82. After the semi-successful completion of this uprun, such feats were banned in the Grand Canyon]
  • 24:52 MHE party back in boats to run…
  • 25:00 Horn Creek Rapid, mile 91. Good rapid running sequence of boatman hitting left Horn, losing oar, trying to get it back on
  • 26:20 boats on calm water
  • 26:38 almost too dark to see, but probably trying to film bighorn sheep in low-light conditions. The white patches on the rumps of the sheep are distinguishable, and their motion is consistent with bighorns.
  • 28:11 campsite on sandy beach; breaking camp, rolling up beds, packing
  • 28:49 entering Middle Granite Gorge (starts around mile 126)
  • 29:00 morning at Tapeats Creek, mile 134.5. Hike to Thunder River. Thunder River at 30:00. View from inside Thunder River cave at 30:10. Close-ups of Thunder Riverat 30:25. Don Neff looking down over waterfalls at Thunder River at 31:03. Walk back to river starts at 31:25
  • 31:38 prickly pear cactus patch
  • 31:43 crossing Tapeats Creek near mouth, drinking from Tapeats Creek.
  • 31:13 clear water of Tapeats Creek mixing with muddy Colorado River water, boats, Tapeats Rapid.
  • 32:32 view up Granite Narrows from top of cliff on hike to upper Deer Creek (mile 137) , before entering grotto.
  • 32:40 unidentified rapid, low light. Good "fisheye" sequences.
  • 33:23 Ledge Hole at Lava Falls, mile 179. [skipped about 40 river miles] Nice slow-motion sequence of boat running right side of Lava Falls.
  • 33:38 looking downstream toward ancient lava flows off right cliffs, around mile 185.
  • 33:55 Ocotillo on top of ancient lava flow
  • 34:05 calm water, then small rapid. Good "fisheye" sequence from inside boat. Lava cliffs in background.
  • 34:35 205 Mile Rapid.
  • 35:15 stop for lunch at Granite Park under " Grandmother Willow," (Paiute sacred site) mile 209
  • 35:50 burros (extirpated from canyon in the 1970s). Looks like across from Pumpkin Springs, mile 213.
  • 35:16 Lake Mead; tow boat on shore. Lunch.
  • 36:49 towing boats on Lake Mead. Boat driver, passengers inside tow boat playing cards.
  • 37:45 END

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Rivers--Recreational use

Geographical Names

  • Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)
  • Grand Canyon (Ariz.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Moving images