Tim Cooper, kayak enthusiast, lectures on boating the Colorado River

Cuong D. Nguyen

Kayak and boating enthusiast Tim Cooper held a lecture in the Warch Campus Center on Monday, February 22th on his experience as a river boat guide in the Grand Canyon. He was invited to campus by Dan Miles, a member of the Outdoor Recreation Club (ORC) as a guest speaker in their annual lecture series.
Tim Cooper started the talk by detailing his early experience with kayaking. At the time, kayak was not as popular as a sport as it is in present. There was no technology available, and most equipments were old army surplus. When he first started, Mr. Cooper worked as a kayak ranger in the Salmon river in Idaho, “the only paid kayaking job I have ever known.”
He then explaining how he started his work in the Grand Canyon. As a kayak enthusiast, he went on a river trip with friends on the Little Colorado River, one of the main tributaries of the Colorado River in Arizona. The experience made him feel attached to the Grand Canyon. “It’s almost a spiritual thing because it really got a hold on me the first time I went down there”, said Mr. Cooper.
With slides of vivid images of the Grand Canyon, Mr. Cooper unfold his 13 years experience. He first started as a guide with motor boats for two years, then he switched to dory boats with oars. Mr. Cooper told fascinating stories of boating in the Colorado River; he then showed the audience videos of passengers on wooden dory boats riding through the violent rapids. It is the thrilling experience of overcoming these natural challenges that captures Mr. Cooper’s interests.
For his experience and enthusiasm, he was invited to play a part in the National Geographic’s movie which details the exploration of the Colorado river by major John Powell in the late 1869. Later, he opened a workshop that repairs and builds new dory boats for use in rivers. His most recent activities was accompanying scientific research trips in the Colorado river.
With the Grand Canyon as his main interest, Mr. Cooper still maintains his kayaking hobby in the off-season. With more than thirty years of experience, he has been kayaking on most major rivers in the West and some rivers in Canada. His plan for the future is boating in Alaska, the East coast, and Canada’s British Columbia.
River trips in the Grand Canyon are often conducted in an average of 20 days, with the shortest about 7 days in motor boats. Passengers are normally airlifted out of the river by helicopters upon reaching their destinations. Shorter one-day trips are offered, but usually do not capture the characteristics of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.