The Wildest Boat Ride in America by Caroline Lockhart
[In May 1911 Ms. Lockhart rode with a flotilla of three flatboats that was hauling mining equipment on the Salmon River. This is an excerpt of an article published in the Outing Magazine in 1912.]
Cowards die many deaths before their time, it has been said, and I died so frequently shooting the rapids of the Salmon River between Salmon City, Idaho, and the placer diggings of the Salmon River Mining Company, one hundred and fifty miles below, that the grave no longer holds any terrors for me. Even the distinction of being one of the first two women ever to attempt this hazardous trip was no solace to me at times when I was less than a foot from my Everlasting Punishment, and at such times glory seemed a puny thing indeed…. [This excerpt resumes after the boats left Salmon.]
Drifting the sixty miles between Salmon City and the little settlement of Shoup was comparatively uneventful. The battle with the river did not begin until we reached the Pine Creek Rapids, three miles below Shoup. We camped for lunch a half-mile from the rapids.
“We don’t want to start through there feeling weak,” explained the Captain…. [After lunch, the party returned to the boats.]
The river valley had narrowed until the mountains rose from the water’s edge, and the natives of Shoup were perched among the rocks like eagles to watch the boatloads of imbeciles sink or swim in the notorious Pine Creek Rapids.
“Throw off the lines,” said Captain Guleke in his quiet voice, but I noticed that there was a different look in his mild face now, a steady shine in his level gray eyes.
There was something creepy, ominous, in the very quietness with which we glided from the stiller water of the eddy into the channel. Nobody spoke; it was silent as a graveyard, save for the occasional lap of a ripple against the boat. The big pilot, half-crouching over his sweep, made me think of a huge cat, a cougar waiting to grapple with an enemy as wily and as formidable as himself, and, for a space, we crept forward with something of a cougar’s stealth.
Then the current caught us like some live thing. Faster and faster we moved. The rocks and bushes at the water’s edge began to fly by. I thought I heard something. It sounded like the rumble of thunder far back in the hills. It grew louder with every beat of my heart. Preece, at the sweep, dropped his eyes for an instant and grinned.
“Hear ’em roar?”
Hear ’em roar? Oh, mother! Did I hear ’em roar! It sounded like a cloud-burst in a canyon—like the avalanche of water dropping over Niagara.
I stood up and stretched my neck to look ahead…. What I saw made my heart miss four beats. As far as I could see there was a stretch of spray and foam, short intervals of wild, racing water, then more spray and foam where it churned itself to whiteness against a mass of rocks. And from it all came a steady boom! boom!
For an instant it seemed as though the boat poised on the edge of a precipice with half her length in mid-air before she dropped into a curve of water that was like the hollow of a great green shell. The roar was deafening. When the sheet of water that drenched us broke over the boat it seemed to shut out the sun. The barge came up like a clumsy Newfoundland, with the water steaming from the platform and swishing through the machinery in the bottom. Guleke was there at his sweep, unshaken by the shock, throwing his great strength upon it first one way then that, to keep it in the center of the current—the tortuous channel through which we were tearing like mad.
There was an occasional low-voiced command from the Captain, and the man at the hind sweep responded before the words had left his lips, and responded with all the muscle of his arms and shoulders and weight of his body. There were places where a single instant’s tardiness meant our finish. There was no time to rectify mistakes. A false move, a stroke of the sweep too much or too little with that terrifying force behind us, and our boat would crash and splinter on a rock like a flimsy strawberry box….
Finally the boat ceased to leap, and the booming white water grew fainter and ahead of us lay a little stretch of peace. Guleke straightened himself, and there was satisfaction in his voice as he looked at the lolling white tongues behind him and said:
“Well, well, I declare, they didn’t get us that time!”
“That’s the worst, isn’t it?” I hoped that he would not notice the quaver in my voice.
“Oh no; it gets worse as you go further down.”
I stopped wringing my skirt. “Worse!” [But Ms. Lockhart was more courageous than she realized. The crew and passengers managed to overcome all obstacles on the remainder of the trip.]

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