Glen and Bessie Hyde
Glen and Bessie Hyde were newlyweds who disappeared while attempting to run the rapids of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, Arizona in 1928. Had they succeeded, Bessie would have been the first documented woman in history to do so.
Glen Rollin Hyde, born December 9, 1898 was a farmer from Twin Falls, Idaho; Bessie Louise Haley, born December 29, 1905, was a divorcee originally from Parkersburg, West Virginia. They met in 1927 on a passenger ship traveling to Los Angeles, California, and married April 12, 1928, the day after Bessie's divorce from her first husband was finalized.
Colorado River trip
Glen Hyde had some experience with river running, having traveled the Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho with "Cap" Guleke, an experienced river runner, in 1926. Bessie was more of a novice. In 1928, Hyde built his own boat, a twenty foot wooden sweep scow, the type used by river runners of that time in Idaho. The couple set off down the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers in October 1928, as a honeymoon adventure trip. Glen wanted to set a new speed record for traveling through the Grand Canyon, while also putting Bessie in the record books as first documented woman to run the canyon.
They were last seen in November 1928, when they hiked Bright Angel Trail out of the canyon to resupply. They approached photographer Emery Kolb at his studio and home on the canyon rim, where they were photographed before returning down into the canyon. Some historians note that Adolph G. Sutro traveled back into the canyon with the Hydes, taking photographs and even riding a short distance with them in the scow. Sutro was the last person to see them, on November 18, 1928, as they launched back into the river at approximately river mile 95.
A search was launched when the Hydes did not return to Idaho by December. In mid-December, a search plane spotted their scow adrift around river mile 237; it was upright and fully intact, with the supplies still strapped in. A camera recovered from the boat revealed the final photo to have been taken near river mile 165, probably on or about November 27. There is some evidence to indicate the Hydes made it as far as river mile 225, where it is believed they made camp. No other trace of the Hydes has ever been found. It is thought to be most likely that they fell or were swept out of the boat in heavy rapids near river mile 232.
Note the Sutro reference regarding riding with the Hydes for one day and possibly being the last to see them, is not mentioned by name, but the story is mentioned specifically in the Ken Burns PBS documentary series National Parks: America's Best Idea.
The romance of the story, coupled with the lack of any conclusive evidence as to the fate of the Hydes, has led to a number of legends and rumors. An elderly woman on a commercial Grand Canyon rafting trip in 1971 announced to other rafters that she was Bessie Hyde, and that she had stabbed her abusive husband to death and escaped the canyon on her own. The woman later recanted this story. There was some speculation after the death of famed rafter Georgie Clark in May 1992 that she was really Bessie Hyde, due to some documents and a pistol found in her effects, but no conclusive evidence for such a link was ever found, not to mention that Clark and Hyde do not look alike in photos.
Skeletal remains found on the canyon rim in 1976 with a bullet inside the skull were later proven not to be those of Glen Hyde. Suspicion had turned to photographer Emery Kolb, the last person to see the couple, because the remains were discovered on his property. However, a later forensic investigation conducted by the University of Arizona concluded that the skeleton belonged to a man no older than 22 and who had died no earlier than 1972, ruling out the possibility that it was the remains of Glen Hyde.
References in literature and culture
Glen and Bessie Hyde's story was the subject of a novel, Grand Ambition by Lisa Michaels which was nominated for an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and optioned for a film. Investigations and reports on the legend of Glen and Bessie Hyde include Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde, in a National Public Radio report for NPR's Morning Edition, and the musical River's End by Cheryl Coons (book and lyrics) and Chuck Larkin (music). Both Grand Ambition and Sunk Without a Sound were chosen for the ONEBOOK Arizona program in 2005. Their story also was included in the PBS series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Araya from the show Mystery Hunters also investigated the Grand Canyon to see what had happened to the newly wedded couple.
- Grand Canyon
- River rafting
- Colorado river
- Missing persons
- List of people who disappeared mysteriously
- Glen & Bessie Hyde - A Folksy and Interesting Tale
- Guide to the Glen Hyde collection, Northern Arizona University
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