John Wesley Powell made the first float trip through the Grand Canyon in 1869, and in the next 80 years no more than 100 people were able to emulate his feat. But since 1955, when an enterprising woman named Georgie White took a party of 30 people through the canyon on Navy surplus rafts lashed together, the spectacular 280-mile trip has become commonplace, a commercial venture. By 1968, there were 4,000 tourists floating through the canyon. Last year the total was 6,700. This year it is expected to be between 8,000 and 10,000.
Vast as it is, the Grand Canyon cannot sustain that many visitors. There are only four pit toilets along the river. Driftwood for fires is disappearing and the few sandbars available for campsites are contaminated with all kinds of debris. The 100,000 cubic-feet-per-second Hoods that once cleansed the river are no more; dams have regulated its flow to around 16,000 cubic feet. The Park Service has put a ceiling on the number of permits for commercial river runners, but it may be too late. "They've barred autos from some areas of Yosemite," says Senator Barry Goldwater. "It won't be long before they'll have to bar commercial boats from the Colorado."
FOR TWO CENTS
Maybe the Grand Canyon should adopt a clean-up technique used with overwhelming success in Skagit County, Wash. The First Federal Savings and Loan Assn. of Mount Vernon, the county seat of Skagit County, announced on July 3 that on July 11 it would pay 2� for old cans and bottles picked up along country roads. E. W. Mersereau Jr., president of First Federal, figured that as many as 25,000 cans and bottles might be turned up, maybe even 50,000, but on payoff day the line of pedestrians, station wagons, sedans, convertibles and pickup trucks stretched for five miles. When the count ended, 551,762 cans and bottles—or about 10 for every resident of the county—had been turned in. The cost to First Federal came to $11,035.24, instead of the $500 to $1,000 it had anticipated, but bank officials insisted, "It's the best $11,000 we ever spent." Rex Wilson, an assistant vice-president of the bank, said, "We're thrilled to death. I've driven miles and miles and I haven't seen a single beer can anywhere. We're pleased to hear that other communities and businesses are interested in the idea and plan to pick it up."
In a burst of chauvinistic generosity, alumni and friends of Kansas State University underwrote the expenses of a Hawaiian vacation this summer for Cotton Fitzsimmons, who coached K-State to the Big Eight basketball championship last winter. But when July came and Fitzsimmons and his wife were out there basking on the beaches of Hawaii, the Kansas State boosters could not help but wince a little, since in June Fitzsimmons had resigned suddenly to take over as head coach of the Phoenix Suns. On his return from Hawaii, the coach, a man of aplomb, said, "I figured they were rewarding us for something I had already done. If they did it for bribery purposes to keep me at Kansas State, well, I guess they just lost."
At the National Four-Ball golf championship this week most of the top pros are teamed with other top pros, but Lee Trevino—wouldn't you know it?—is playing with somebody named Urshell Whittendon. Urshell Whittendon is a rabbit on the tour and not a very successful rabbit. At last report he had appeared at 12 tournaments this year, failed to qualify seven times, qualified but withdrew (presumably because of poor scores) twice, and qualified but failed to make the cut the other three times. Batting average: .000. Why in the world did Lee Trevino pick such a fringe player as a partner? Well, Urshell Whittendon may be a nothing to you, but if you knew that his nickname is Jesse you might remember him as an outstanding defensive back a few years ago with the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi. You might even recall that Jesse Whittendon and his cousin own a golf course called Horizon Hills outside El Paso, Texas, and that they were the ones who gave Lee Trevino his first job as a club pro. Trevino remembers, but then one of the nicest things about Trevino is his memory.