The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Jan 1937, p. 182-193

Eddy, Clyde, Speaker
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The present disastrous flood in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. A description of the Colorado River. The speaker's experiences travelling on this river. Some figures with regard to those who have, and those who have not successfully navigated the Colorado River. Consequences of the flooding of the Colorado River, with figures. The Boulder Dam, with some statistics. Controlling floods in the Ohio and the Mississippi River Valleys by doing what was done in the Western United States. A word of warning from the speaker's own experiences in the Western States. Preserving the forests. The million people in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys who today need substantial aid. Medical supplies from Toronto.
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28 Jan 1937
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Thursday, 28th January, 1937

PRESIDENT: Floods have been, since Biblical times, the supreme visitation of Providence on humanity. Fires may destroy, earthquakes may terrify, but unharnessed runaway water is nature gone wild. Our press today is filled with accounts of agonies of our neighbours to the South as a result of the destruction of their property, loss of lives and the threat of 'disease. To. the sufferers we offer our sympathy.

To Mr. Clyde Eddy, who graciously accepted our invitation to address us on this very serious condition and the possibility of avoiding recurrences, we extend our welcome.

Mr. Eddy has had an adventurous career. Born in Texas of Scottish pioneer parents, he fell heir to many of the experiences of the early settlers of that Western country. At High School, in Cripple Creek, Colorado, he was the boyhood chum of Lowell Thomas. There, strangely enough, Lowell Thomas was editor of the school paper--and Clyde Eddy, head of the debating society.

The hum-drum of school was too drab for Clyde Eddy and at the age of sixteen he ran away and joined the Navy. After two years' service, his father found him and bought him out. He was sent to the University of California where he specialized in Chemistry. Naturally, he enlisted in the Great War and there performed unusual service in air photography, flying in every machine that would fly.

Since the war he has spent his time in journalism, the pursuit of science and finally in his present occupation, in the field of medicine, where he is succeeding in putting the distribution of drugs on a higher plane, at once producing scientific materials for the prevention and cure of disease arid reducing to a vanishing point the so-called remedies of commercialized quacks.

I have great pleasure in introducing Mr. Eddy.

Mr. CLYDE EDDY: When the subject of my talk today was suggested to me by Major Balfour, I hastened to assure him that I am not qualified by first hand observation to discuss the present disastrous flood in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. I did express willingness, however, to describe as well .as I could some incidents which occurred in the spring of 1927 when a group of us spent six frightened weeks fighting our way 800 miles at flood tide down the Colorado River, from Greenriver, Utah, through Cataract, Glen and Grand Canyons, past the present site of Boulder Dam, to Needles, California.

The Colorado River rises in a group of alpine lakes near Long's Peak in Colorado. It is joined in Eastern Utah by the Green and the combined river flows south through Utah, cuts across the northern end of Arizona, becomes the boundary line between Nevada and Arizona, and between California and Arizona, and flowing a hundred miles through old Mexico, empties at last in the torrid Gulf of California. The Colorado is a mad, crazy stream. In 1700 miles it falls 14,000 feet. Flowing at tremendous speed, its heavy, turbid water carries up to ten per cent of sand and silt. At a time of low water the Colorado flows like a normal river through its canyons; at periods of high water the powerful current picks up great boulders and rolls them down-stream along the smoothly polished river bed.

The amount of sand and silt carried by the western rivers in times of flood is almost inconceivable. We think of the Missouri as a muddy river. We speak of it as 'The Big Muddy.' At flood tide the Missouri River carries from three to six-tenths of one percent of sand and silt. The Colorado at flood tide will carry ten to fifteen percent of sand and silt. The San Juan River-the principal tributary of the Colorado flowing in from the south--at flood tide, according to government figures, carries forty percent of sand and silt and only sixty percent of water. A river of mud in which it is practically impossible to swim, a river so weighted with sand and silt, flowing with such terrific velocity that swimming in the mad, muddy river is out of the question. People have asked if you use canoes on these rivers. You don't use canoes because the river literally wraps canoes around the rocks.

On my first trip down the river in 1927, we covered 800 miles of the Green arid Colorado Rivers, through Utah to Needles, California. The first canyon we encountered was Cataract Canyon, which, is forty miles long with fifty-four bad rapids. People in the west speak of Cataract Canyon as the grave-yard. Government records show that twenty-nine men have gone down Cataract Canyon and never have been heard from again. The total fall of the river in Grand Canyon is 2,225 feet. The Colorado River is cliff-bound-mind you, there are only three places in 800 miles where is it possible to bring wheeled vehicles down to the water's edge--the river is cliff--bound ninetenths of the way from its source to its mouth. It is subject to floods of incredible violence, caused by the sudden melting of snow in the mountains, or by the torrential downpours of rain on the desert-like plateau through which it flows. If we call the volume of the Colorado normal at low water in December, then thirty-seven rivers go crashing down its narrow canyons at high water every spring. Its volume, strength and fury may multiply six times in a single night, raising the wate level fifty feet in the narrow canyons, sweeping away the boats of luckless voyagers, leaving them to die of starvation in the canyons where they cannot climb. I have found in the upper gorge of the Grand Canyon, water-piled driftwood, a hundred feet, above the normal level of the water, left by floods in recent years.

My expedition of 1927 left Greenriver, Utah, on the morning of June the 27th. There had been unusual rains. The entire mountain country is an arid section but the rains that season had been unusual. The snow was melting in the mountains. The natives of Greenriver told me it was suicide to try to go through the canyons at that time of year. A motion picture outfit from: Hollywood had been planning to use the river as a motion, picture background. I knew they were planning to go through and Z wanted to get through ahead of them. They actually didn't get started until November. When they did get started, I was their guide. We got away on the 27th day of June and the next point at which we could (leave the river was Lees Ferry, 320 miles down stream.

On the first few days I watched the level of the river. I watched for rains, I watched for possible floods at night. I made it a point to sleep just at the edge of the water, so that if the water came up it would waken me anti I could get up and move higher. I made it a point to wake up every two hours during the night of my six weeks on the river. I established a beautiful habit of waking every two hours, a habit which I continued far months after I got home. I made it a point to mark the level of the water at night when I went to bed. I would put a stone on another stone or ,a stick against the rocks, and as the markers disappeared in the morning I knew the river was rising.

The night of the 5th of July we were camped in the steep central section, of Cataract Canyon. We had rain all day on the national holiday, the 4th of July, and didn't celebrate--we worked on the boats. On the 5th, we worked hard all day--and covered three-quarters of a mile. We were tired at night when we drew our boats up against the talus slope at the foot of a cliff. We could see the point three-quarters of a mile up-stream that we had deft that morning. There was need to hurry because our food supply was limited and we still had many miles to go. I laid down that night, thoroughly tired out, as usual just at the edge of the water. We went to bed shortly after sundown, thoroughly tired, and as I lay down I heard a sound like thunder. Thunder is ordinarily not a frightening sound, but I was on the alert for anything of the kind and I sat up instantly and said, "Is that thunder?" I looked at the little crescent of sky arid I could see overhead the bright desert stars shining brilliantly. I thought, "That can't be thunder, and then a crazy idea came to me-I suppose I had in mind the great Johnstown Flood of 1889-and I said, "That is a wall of water sweeping down the canyon to destroy us!" Which showed that I was thoroughly nervous. The sound was not repeated and I thought it was just my imagination. I started to lie down again, and a second time I heard the sound, very distinctly and I located it. It was in the river. The rising water was tearing boulders free from the banks or from the rapids above camp and was rolling them over and over down stream and jamming them into the rapids below camp with a sound like thunder.

I remembered that Dellenbaugh, who went through with Powell, in 1869, had mentioned a similar phenomenon at the flood tide season on Powell's Expedition.

I sat for a few minutes and I thought, "As long as the rocks stay in the river they can't do us any harm." There was nothing else to do so I lay down and presently I was asleep. I had been asleep an hour and a half when I was awakened with a feeling that someone was tugging at my feet and legs. I sat up, knowing instantly what had happened. The river had come up and was sweeping over me. I grabbed a flashlight and in the ray of light could see our boats being hammered back and forth on the rocks. Our kitchen stuff was floating away. By that time I was standing straight up. I aroused the other members of the party and from midnight until dawn, we worked to recover what we could of our supplies. We hauled 3,000 pounds of boats and 3,000 pounds of food and camp equipment fifty feet up the talus slope. Along toward dawn we had got as high as we could go and stood at the foot of the cliff, a group of thirteen men and a dog. The dog didn't appear worried but the thirteen men were, I assure you. We stood there in the dark, the river roaring and pounding, between the narrow canyon walls that stretched before us. With my flashlight I could pick out in the cliff above us pieces of driftwood, lodged in the crevices of the rock. I knew that the water had in former years been higher than any point which we could reach that night. I knew if there were another ten foot rise there would be thirteen more men added to the twenty-nine who hadn't got through Cataract Canyon. However, a few hours after dawn the river began to recede. I looked at figures later compiled by the Federal Government and found that the river in six hours had risen from 40,000 cubic feet of water per second to 120,000 cubic feet of water per second. Three rivers were pouring down the narrow canyon where there was only one before.

The only thing that kept my expedition together that morning in Cataract Canyon were the walls of Cataract Canyon. The camera man wanted out, three of the other members of the party wanted to leave. It was interesting to see the behaviour of these four men who decided that morning that they couldn't stand another mile of the river and yet who had to go to the finish of the 320 miles to Lee's Ferry, the first place to get out.

Government records show that fewer than fifty men have fought their way successfully through Grand Canyon in the sixty-five years that have elapsed since the first exploration of the river in 1869 by John Wesley Powell. At least as many have died in vain attempts. Nineteen Major efforts have met with 'defeat or disaster and in that time only three expeditions, first, the United States; Geological Survey in the fall of 1923, and my own two Expeditions, first at high water in 1927 and again at the unprecedently low water in 1934, have successfully fought their way through Cataract Canyon and Grand Canyons.

It was extremely interesting to me to see the different character of the river at the two levels of water. At low water the river seemed to fall lazily along through the Canyon. At high water we didn't even think of it as, a river. We called it 'she,' and 'she' is a dragon. I was thoroughly frightened of the river. I woke up one night when we were camped on a gravel bar out in midstream-I had sent the other members of the party ashore to sleep where it was dry on the sand--it was along in the middle of the night--we had been on the way for five weeks and I had been afraid from the moment we left Greenriver, I woke up in the middle of the night and the rapids were roaring in my ears and I sat up for a moment, and I thought to myself, "You know, I think I would be afraid to swear right out loud now and say, 'You old devil'." The Indians in that section of the country are afraid to cross the river even, on bridges and they regularly sprinkle the muddy waters of the dragon river with sacred meal.

Four hundred miles below Greenriver, we came to the Sockdolager Rapids, one of the best known rapids on the river but actually not the worst rapids by any means, one of the best known, perhaps, because of its name. For nearly 400 miles we had been travelling through the brightly coloured sedimentary rocks and now we came to where the river dipped down into the granite, the very bed-rock of the world in a gorge, 1,000 feet deep, below 5,000 feet of sedimentary rock. We stood .at the head of the Sockdolager Rapids and tried to pick a channel through.

I had with me a government publication which said that previous navigators on the river, had over-estimated the height of the waves in the rapids. One of them, meaning Powell, said they were 36 feet high from trough to crest. The government publication went on to say that actually they were only 20 feet high from trough to crest. I wonder what height waves the government writer would require to make him say real high waves.

The current flows at 30 miles an hour through the rapids. Here are 20-foot waves. There are rocks in the way and our small boat was 16 feet long. I wondered what happens when a 16-foot boat goes into a 20-foot wave and whether you can really dodge the rocks. There was nothing to do but find out. There is no way out on this river. There is no way to climb up the 5,000 or 6,000 feet of cliffs. There is no way to get back upstream. There is only one way to go and that is on.

Accordingly, that morning, we pushed off. Galloway and I lead off in the smallest boat. At the head of the rapids it felt as if we had headed straight for the bottom of the river as we dipped into the trough of the wave. As we were hurled to the crest it felt as though we were going straight out of the top of the canyon, a mile above us. We shipped half a boat-load of water.

I looked back at one time to see how the other boats were faring. Directly behind us was a 22-foot boat with four men. Two of the men were fanning the air with their oars and the others were under the water waiting their turn to come up. Then I looked away and when I looked back again, both boats were safely through.

I leaned over to a water-proof pocket on one side of the boat and took out a pencil, thinking I would mark the hour that we were going through the rapids. Mind you, the crazy river had just let us through one of the worst of its hazards. Galloway was off guard for a moment. He was rolling a cigarette. We were not in the rapids but we were going along at a fast pace between sheer walls. There was no sign of immediate danger. Then, suddenly, so quickly that to this day neither of us know what did it, the crazy river tipped the boat over and caught both of us under it. I had told the men a thousand times to cling to the boats if they were thrown overboard. Whirlpools will get a man, they will not always get the boat. I reached for the gunnel of the boat. Of course, I had on my life preserver, which should have helped me but it offered such resistance to the water that I could hardly cling to: the boat. I was in the midst of one of the whirlpools. The water literally wrapped itself around me. I could feel it dragging me down and then, suddenly, I felt that I was free of it and I pulled myself out into the open .air. I crawled up on top of the over-turned boat and looked for Galloway. He was gone. I knew he must still be under the boat and I started -after him. Then, as I slid off one side of the boat, Galloway bobbed up on the other side. He said later that he had got tangled in the bow rope and had trouble getting free.

We both climbed up on the overturned boat -and called out to the other men to come to our rescue. One of the boats came to us and the other went to collect one of our oars which had broken free. As the boat came along side, the first thing I did was to take from between my teeth the pencil with which I had been writing when we upset. Somehow, in the excitement I had very carefully saved the pencil by placing it between my teeth.

We had been on the river five weeks, when we lost one of our boats, one of the big boats. Perhaps it was my fault. We had come to Deubendorf Rapids. I knew there was a possibility of clear water down stream where Tapeats Creek comes in.

You have read of people in need of water, with "water, water everywhere, nor any drop, to drink." It is so, on the Colorado. You can drink the water, but it carries ten to fifteen per cent of sand and silt, and does not make pleasant drinking. If you drink it, avoid grinding your teeth together to avoid wearing your teeth out. So we were hurrying on, hoping that we might get clear water at night for camp and late in the afternoon I gave orders to line the boats along the shore to see if we could get by. The river caught us off guard for a moment. It jammed one of the boats against a rock, 30 feet from shore, and held it there against our best ef forts to pull it out. Darkness comes early in the canyons and when we went to bed that night I had the very uncomfortable feeling that there was one of my precious boats out in the river being hammered to pieces. For four days we worked on that boat. I have shown people pictures of the boat caught in the rapids and if I should show them to a hundred of you now, and ninety of you were to suggest how to get the boat out of the rocks, I should say, we tried your way, and your way and your way. We tried every way. Ten men can think of a lot of things to do in four days, when their lives may depend upon what they think and do.

On the fourth night a flood came down the river. The boat simply disappeared from sight and the next morning I knew we had to hurry on because we were running short of provisions and had to leave it there. Seven years later I went through that section of the Canyon again. I was in need of oars. There is a great casualty among oars on, a trip of that kind. I found an oar that I had left there seven years before. I found it, and used it. Then, I thought it was such a fine souvenir that I brought it home with me.

Next May and June, spring floods will again sweep down the Colorado River. Again there will be a rise in the water of from 55 to 60 to 100 feet. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of muddy water will sweep down the Canyon-great floods of water which formerly swept over the levees and destroyed the irrigation projects in Imperial Valley and caused millions of dollars in damage. But this year, Boulder Dam will catch and hold the flood, all the sand and silt will settle out and the water during next summer will be delivered as it is needed to the largest irrigated area anywhere in the world. Boulder Dam is the largest government undertaking since the Panama Canal. It 'is number one dam of the entire world. It is 1200 feet across the top. It towers 630 'feet above foundation rock. It is 650 feet thick at the base and required 7,000,000 tons of cement to build, which is enough cement to build a standard 16-foot automobile highway all the way across the continent from Miami, Florida, to Seattle, Washington. The reservoir above the dam will hold 4,500,000 acre-feet of water--enough water to cover the entire State of New York to a depth of one foot. This water not only will irrigate the land below the dam but also will supply power for the thirsty cities of Southern California, to which it also will supply abundant drinking water.

Ultimately, we will have to do in the eastern part of the United States what they have done in western part. I see no way to control floods in the Ohio and the Mississippi River Valleys, except to do what has been done in the West. If we had today the money that has been lost in this present flood we could build a dozen Boulder Dams, up and down the Ohio and the Mississippi River Valleys.

I should like to say a word of warning from my own experience in the Western States. Do not destroy your forests unless you have something to take the place of them, because otherwise you may have your pleasant land washed away. Floods will not only destroy the beauties of your country but they also will destroy your industries along the lower rivers. Preserve your forests or have something else to take their place. That protection, so far as the present flood is concerned, is something we wish we had but we haven't at this moment.

In the meantime, there are a million people in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys who, today need not only our thoughts but our substantial aid. Typhoid vaccines are required. There are 800,000 people out there who have probably received now the first injection of their typhoid vaccine and that must be continued to prevent an epidemic of disease. Pneumonia serums, cod liver oil for the children, food, shelter-these are the things that are needed.

I was told last night that $16,000 worth of medical supplies left Toronto yesterday afternoon for the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. (Applause.) That is the kind of help we need and I believe that the community of interest that we establish in a situation of this kind will go a long way toward cementing the increasing goodwill that exists between our two sister countries.

Thank you. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT: Mr. Eddy, I wish to express the thanks of all present, and all within the sound of your voice, for this excellent object lesson you have given to us, and, in giving us and I trust, to others who may need; it, information regarding the danger from floods. By your splendid narrative of the two Expeditions in the Colorado, you have shown us the power of water, and by your description of the magnitude of Boulder Dam you have shown the remedial work that can be done to prevent destruction by that power. We are indebted to you for giving us these facts in such a way that we can draw conclusions with more force, probably, than if you had spoon-fed us with the conclusions.

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The present disastrous flood in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. A description of the Colorado River. The speaker's experiences travelling on this river. Some figures with regard to those who have, and those who have not successfully navigated the Colorado River. Consequences of the flooding of the Colorado River, with figures. The Boulder Dam, with some statistics. Controlling floods in the Ohio and the Mississippi River Valleys by doing what was done in the Western United States. A word of warning from the speaker's own experiences in the Western States. Preserving the forests. The million people in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys who today need substantial aid. Medical supplies from Toronto.