Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Elusive Lava Falls Raft Flip Foto

The above photo appeared on pages 58-59 in the December 25, 1970 issue of Life Magazine.  Kenneth Klementis took the picture and received the 1970 First Place Prize in Life's Amateur Action Photo category.

The photo depicts a motor rig flipping in Lava Falls, probably in 1970 during the early days of commercial river running on The Colorado River through Grand Canyon.

A large format framed print of this photo hung in the Old Marble Canyon Lodge for perhaps more than 30 years.  The imposing scene was displayed in manner that grabbed attention of visitors to the Lodge.  Of the many unique, iconic features of the former Lodge, this photo was arguably the most notable.

The Marble Canyon Lodge burned to the ground June 17, 2013.

Recently, we began a search for this photo.  Our plan is to donate another large format print to the Foster Family who has owned the Lodge for decades.  We do not know if or when a replacement may or may not be built.  However, there is a small dining room serving customers behind the gas station.  It is our hope the framed photo can be put on display there. (More narrative about the replacement lodge appears at end of post.)

We began our search January 20th by posting a note on Facebook.  The search expanded with an additional Facebook post, calls and emails to NPS Staff at Grand Canyon and messages to several eBay sellers who deal in old Life Magazines.

Several people played a key role in helping us finally find the elusive photo.  We appreciate the kind assistance of Sharon Hester, Patrick Conley, Rob Elliott, Joanne Elliott, Michael Wise, and eBay seller "sammyjarhead."

This blog post serves as a record of the "discovery process" for finding the Famous Lava Falls Raft Flip Photo (FLFRFP).

(Formatting note:  all Facebook, email and eBay messages are in italics without quotes.)

Here is this the Facebook note that began the search:

Does anyone have a copy of that famous Life Magazine photo of the motor rig flipping in Lava Falls? It's the one where the rig in totally vertical balanced on one side tube. It's a famous photo. It was in the old Marble Canyon Lodge but the lodge burned down. I can't find the danged photo online and I find it hard to believe no one has scanned it in online. Come on, I mean like, really? Sharon Hester, Thomas Olsen, Rob Elliott, Patrick Conley, Nancy McCleskey, where can I find that photo?

Since we couldn't (at that time) find the FLFRFP, we used a picture of a 1993 raft flip in Crystal.  Meanwhile, Sharon Hester took a lead role in helping us find the photo.  Here's her initial comments:

Sharon Hester There is a photo of it, in one of BQR mags and a story about it a few years ago, think the BQR is online too.
January 20 at 7:04pm · Like

Sharon Hester That is the Life mag photo. I dont think anyone died at Lava on that flip.
January 20 at 7:05pm · Like

John R. Parsons Well, Sharon Hester, the photo I am remembering is the one with all the passengers in view as the moto rig was on the side tube. The entire roster of peeps was visible. It's an iconic photo. There were a LOT of people visible in the photo I am remembering.
January 20 at 7:08pm · Like

Sharon Hester yes that is the one I am visualizing too, with the guy on shore with camera at chest level and mouth agape

January 20 at 7:09pm · Edited · Like

Sharon Hester Just found the issue I thought it was in - it wasnt Still think I may have seen it there.
January 20 at 7:18pm · Like

Sharon Hester http://www.arizonahikers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=107940... here is one online on this blog
ArizonaHikers - Community Based Hiking Discussion Board :: View topic - Grand Canyon River...
January 20 at 7:19pm · Like · Remove Preview

John R. Parsons OMG, YES!!!! YES! This is it! Thank You, Sharon Hester, I have absolutely NO idea how you found this on such an obscure source. WAY TO GO! AWESOME! Now to find the issue date and buy an copy of eBay!

Patrick Conley Susan and I gave that framed print to the Foster's at Marble Canyon, as a thank you, years ago. I have a copy of the magazine. I don't believe anyone was killed in that flip. It should be detailed in "Over the Edge 0 death in GC"
January 20 at 10:55pm · Unlike · 1

Patrick Conley -Meyers and Q used that pic as the front cover shot on their book, with permission. Good old ARTA.

January 20 at 10:57pm · Unlike · 1

John R. Parsons Thanks, Patrick Conley--really appreciate your note--I had a hunch you would know the story. Which issue of the magazine was the photo in? Do you know who took the picture? THANK YOU so much for giving that print to the Foster's--it was always THE image I looked at first whenever visiting the Lodge.
January 21 at 6:48am · Like · 1

Rob Elliott I don't get on FB much, but it has been fun to follow this thread (THX John, Marti, Rob, Sharon, Patrick, et al). Sharon is correct: no one died. Sorry John, I don't know the Life mag issue, but it was NOT the cover. Here's more: It was a 3-boat Sierra Club charter with ARTA over Easter week in 1969. I wasn't working for ARTA at the time (worked for Outward Bound then). Lou Elliott, my dad, argued long and hard with Life not to publish ARTA's name, which he came to realize in later years was a HUGE mistake. I believe John Benedict is in the rear with left hand at his face (probably saying oh shit or worse), but I'm not certain he was piloting. My sister Joanne Elliott may have the photo framed at her place in Flagstaff.
January 21 at 10:01am · Unlike · 2

John R. Parsons WOW! That's Awesome, Rob Elliott. THANK YOU! What a back story! This is turning out to be an incredibly fun FB conversation!
January 21 at 10:05am · Like

Joanne Elliott
Yes, I do have the framed photo on my wall here in Flagstaff. I remember visiting Patrick with Amil Quayle once a couple of years ago in Flagstaff where I saw that photo greatly enlarged on Patrick's wall. Is that the one you gave to Marble Canyon Lodge?
January 21 at 1:30pm · Like

Joanne Elliott 
Life mag published this in the Dec 1970 issue. Yes, it wasn't actually a huge mistake that the ARTA logo was airbrushed out (see my bro's comments above) since, as my dad said later "We wouldn't have been able to handle all the business in our tiny off...See More
January 21 at 1:41pm · Like

Patrick Conley No, I had another made for Marble Canyon. (Good memory, Joanne!) The magazine is difficult to reach; I'm pretty sure where it is archived.
January 21 at 2:15pm · Like

After Sharon Hester found the photo, we then created a second facebook post using the photo


This photo is from Life Magazine. We're pretty sure it is a cover photo. Thanks to Sharon Hester for finding and sharing it in answer to our request. Now, the challenge becomes finding the "issue date" of this issue of Life Magazine so that we can seek it out on eBay and buy a copy to own forever. We really want to own the issue that included this photo. THANKS, Sharon!

Sharon Hester good luck on that, was this in the late 60's?
January 20 at 7:27pm · Like

Sharon Hester I am pretty sure no one died in this flip, atleast I have never heard mention of it.
January 20 at 7:28pm · Like

John R. Parsons Well, I don't know, Sharon. I am thinking 70's and that's where I am focusing my search. The 60's were a wee bit sketchy as far a moto rigs go. The 70's where much better defined.
January 20 at 7:28pm · Like

John R. Parsons In the flip shown in this Life Magazine cover I am 99.9999 percent positive no one died.
January 20 at 7:30pm · Like

Sharon Hester Well good luck I did an image search on google and Life mag did not show up. You know who might help you is Bill Bishop he can probably find it do you want his number he deals in GC history and books/manuscripts
January 20 at 7:32pm · Edited · Unlike · 1

John R. Parsons The interesting thing about this photo is that, as you now, it was featured prominently in the old Marble Canyon Lodge. I can almost "see" it in its position on the wall. It was a cherished icon of The Lodge and printed in a faded large format context. I'm gonna go on a "mission" to find the original image and get permission for a high quality large format print to be made so that it can be someday hung in the new Marble Canyon Lodge. As far as I am concerned, it was arguably the most iconic of the images adorning the walls of the old lodge.
January 20 at 7:34pm · Like · 1

Sharon Hester it burned up in the fire last year
January 20 at 7:34pm · Like

Sharon Hester A noble pursuit
January 20 at 7:35pm · Like

Sharon Hester Ask Lynn Hamilton at GCRG I swear this image was in an issue
January 20 at 7:35pm · Like

John R. Parsons Yes, I am well aware of the fire. Hence the quest. We stay on Badger Creek Road at Vermilion Cliffs coming and going from Idaho and have Dear Friends in Marble Canyon. This is something I am doing this winter to bring that motif back to life. I realize it's going to be a Long Haul to get any semblance of a Lodge back up and running in Marble but, hey, we can Dream. This is, afterall, the patron Holiday of People Who Have a Dream!
January 20 at 7:37pm · Like · 2

Michael Wise at one point, Time, Inc. had a project to digitize the Life photo archive and make it it available online. I'm not sure how far that project went, but you might check out life.com and see what's put there
January 20 at 10:16pm · Unlike · 1

John R. Parsons Well, this photo has really taken me down Memory Lane, from Big Surf to Big Ol Campers to dozens of Life Magazines from the 1940's to the early 1970's. In spite of all that roaming 'round, I still haven't sourced this photo. The prevailing urban leg...See More
January 20 at 10:16pm · Like

John R. Parsons Thanks, Michael Wise. Yes, you are quite right. It appears to be a partnership with Google and is addressed in the Wiki about Life Magazine. I've spent most of the night roaming those archives. The archives are WILDLY interesting, entertaining, education, and even shocking. But, so far, no luck in finding that particular photo. THANK YOU!

January 20 at 10:17pm · Like

After Joanne Elliott's Facebook comment was posted the afternoon of January 21, we then began looking for December 1970 issues of Life Magazine on eBay.  At that time, Life was published week so there are four issues.  We sent messages to people selling December issues.


"Sammy Jar Head" told us:

Anyway, I have just went thru a five foot stack of Life magazines from that era. I have the December 4th and the Dec18 issues. The picture you are seeking is NOT in these two issues. That leaves the Life issues of December 11 and December 25 for your possibilities.

Sammy Jar Head sent another note saying he felt 99% positive it was in the December 25th issue and that's when we used Michael Wise's advice and learned how to correctly navigate the scanned archives of Life Magazine.  Here is the third Facebook post we put up:

SUCCESS! YEA! The Elusive Lava Falls raft flip photo appeared in the December 25th, 1970 issue of Life Magazine. It is actually on two pages inside the magazine--Page 58 and 59.

You, too, can now easily find it. Simply go to this link, click on "1970" and then use the sorta stealth slider bar to slide right until you come to the 12/25/70 issue. Click on the cover photo and then click on "Preview" this magazine and then click your way through the pages...or...use the table of contents and click the action section. It's really easy. It just took awhile to sort through everything and marrow it down to a few likely suspects.

Many Thanks to Joanne Elliott, Rob Elliott, Patrick Conley, Sharon Hester and Michael Wise for their help and encouragement in finally finding this elusive photo.

Kenneth Klementis took the photo and received First Prize in the Amateur Action Category. The photo caption notes, "No one was injured."


We then found a suitable copy of the issue on eBay and bought it which resulted in our 4th Facebook post:

GOT IT! We used "Buy It Now" on eBay to get a copy of the Life Magazine that includes the Elusive Lava Falls Raft Flip for $6.50, including shipping. We're going to try to find a bunch more of the issues. In the meantime, there are others available on eBay if you are inclined to bid and buy there.

Simply search for "Life Magazine December 25, 1970"

And now the story continues.  Knowing that Kenneth Klementis took the photograph, we began a search for him.  It appears 99.99% certain that Mr. Klementis was born December 1, 1939, in Cleveland, Ohio, and died July 21, 2005, at the age of 66, in Winnetka, California.  We believe Mr. Klementis may have been a Doctor.  It appears his estate was handled by his daughter, Nary Louise Klementis (AKA: Miam L Dufek, Miam Kelmentis, M Klementis, Mary L Klementis, Miam Leigh Klementis.)  She appears to be married to Michael Dufek.

We have been unable to contact her.

At this time, we will await the arrival of our copy of the 1970 Life Magazine.  We plan to have Pages 58-59 removed and professionally framed.  A small plaque will be attached to the frame with pertinent details of the photo.  We will then donate the framed pages to The Foster Family.

Much remains to be done and many more details remain to be determined.  Hopefully, we can contact whoever has the original photo and obtain permission or buy rights to produce a high quality print of the photo.  Time will tell and we shall see, as they say.


Anonymous said...

4:53 a.m. Wed 01/22/2014.The picture you are looking for is NOT in the Dec 4th or Dec 18th issues. Check out for the Dec 11th and 25th issues for your pic. Best regards, Sammyjarhead.

Anonymous said...

5:18 a.m. 01/22/14 I think, most likely, the pic is in the December 25 1970 issue. EBayer-- Sammyjarhead

Me said...

My dad Tim Allen was the guide on that trip and my mom went along as a cook, you can see her second from the front!