“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.” (Wikipedia)
Glen Rollin Hyde was born on December 9, 1898 in Twin Falls, Idaho. He was a farmer and on occasions would go river rafting on the Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho. While traveling on a passenger ship to California in 1927, he met Bessie. Bessie Louise Haley was born on December 29, 1905 in West Virginia. She was an art student, worked in a bookstore and loved to write poetry. When they met, Bessie was still married to her first husband. The day after her divorce was final, April 12, 1928, the two got married.
Even though Bessie had never done any river rafting and Glen was a semi-pro at it, he wanted them to spend their honeymoon traveling down the Colorado River inside the Grand Canyon in his homemade twenty foot wooden racing sailboat. His idea was to break the speed record for the fastest journey through the rapid river waters. He also wanted Bessie to earn her place in the record books as the “first documented woman to run the canyon”. In October of 1928, Glen and Bessie pushed off in their wooden boat for an exciting journey through the Grand Canyon.
In November of 1928, photographer Emery Kolb was at his studio/home located on the rim of the canyon when he met the newlyweds. They had just hiked Bright Angel Trail to get more supplies and walked by Kolb’s place on their way back to the trail. He took a picture of the young couple and some say they were joined by a man named Adolph G. Sutro. Sutro traveled a short distance on their scow to river mile marker 95, took some pictures, and watch as they departed down the river on November 18, 1928. Sutro was the last person to see the couple bustling with excitement and happiness. (Note: The Sutro reference was mentioned in a documentary but there is no proof he sat in their boat nor was the last to see them.)
When the Haydes failed to return to Idaho in December, a search party was formed to look for the young couple. While flying over the canyon near river mile 237, their tiny boat was seen floating and looked in good condition. Inside was the Haye’s supplies were still hooked on the boat along with their camera. When the film was developed, they were able to discover that the last photo taken was at river mile 165 and sometime in November. They also found traces of proof that the couple made camp at river mile 225, but after that the trail goes cold. The authorities are left to speculate that the couple probably got carried overboard near river mile 232 where the rapids are at their most dangerous.
There are so many theories swirling around on what really happened to the newlywed couple. With no irrefutable proof, lots of idle speculation and stories started circulating around throughout the decades. One tale was in 1971 and told to a group of people on a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. On their boat was an old woman who insisted she was Bessie Hyde. She went on to tell them that her husband, Glen, beat her and to getaway, she jabbed and killed him with a knife. Not long afterwards, she said that she lied and took back what she stated. Another story of what may have happened to Bessie was told after Georgie Clark, a famous rafter died in May of 1992. Documents and a gun were discovered amongst her belongings which they thought might have been Bessie’s. They were never able to connect the evidence plus photos of the two women showed no resemblance. Another story is that maybe Emery Kolb might have killed Glen, but what about Bessie? When a skeleton with a bullet inside the skull was discovered on Kolb’s land in 1976, a tinge of distrust turned to the last person who reported seeing the couple. After the remains were examined, they concluded that the bones belonged to a 22 year old man who died no earlier than 1972. The skeletal remains could not be that of Glen Hyde.
What happened to Glen and Bessie Hyde? It is a mystery that may never be solved. It is heartbreaking to think that this young couple, who had their whole lives ahead of them, fell over the side of their wooden boat, and disappeared in the cold waters of the Colorado River.