At the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, there’s a hall of fame lined with photos of river runners surrounded by whitewater and stories of men and women who have run the region’s wild rivers.
Each year, the museum recognizes two or three river runners who have influenced the Colorado Plateau’s river culture, including such legendary boaters as Georgie White Clark, Katie Lee, Bert Loper, George Wendt and John Wesley Powell himself.
This year’s honorees are Herm Hoops and the late Malcolm “Moki Mac” Ellingson, who will be celebrated by the river community at this year’s banquet on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the museum.
In 1965, as a Vermont college student, Hoops recalled watching a television special about river running in the Grand Canyon. He said he remembered thinking, “someday I’m going to do that.” He bought a boat the following year.
“I became infatuated with the Colorado Plateau,” Hoops said. Hoops said he realized he had a responsibility to care for the health of rivers.
Hoops worked as a national park ranger at Dinosaur National Monument and has spent his life running rivers on the Colorado Plateau – including more than 100 trips through Desolation Canyon.
“His whole life has revolved around the Green and Colorado rivers,” John Wesley Powell River Museum Executive Director Tim Glenn said.
Lauren Wood and Susan Monroe of Salt Lake City-based Holiday River Expedition nominated the 73-year old Hoops to take his rightful place in the hall of fame.
“Herm is a notable character in the river community,” filmmaker Cody Perry said. “If you’re in the mix of river culture it’s hard to miss his presence in the Colorado River basin.”
The Grand Junction filmmaker will introduce Hoops at the induction ceremony and will premier a new film, “Salad Days: The Illustrious River Career of Herman Hoops.” The 12-minute documentary includes a collection of interviews with Hoops and footage of a river trip that Hoops and Perry took through Desolation Canyon in October 2018.
“The film is timely because as soon as we were finished filming, the Green River in Desolation Canyon received ‘Wild and Scenic’ designation,” said Perry, whose media company was formed to specialize in films about rivers and boating. The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values.
Perry said he hopes that Hoop’s story encourages other recreational boaters to speak on behalf of rivers.
The other Hall of Fame inductee for this year passed away in the mid-1970s, but “Moki Mac” Ellingson remains famous as a character on the river.
Ellingson took groups of Boy Scouts through Glen Canyon before it was dammed, sparking wonder with his animated storytelling. He was a musician, the first park ranger at Green River State Park, and a “larger-than-life character,” Glenn added.
Founders of the former Moki Mac Expeditions and a handful of people who took trips with Ellingson will be at the ceremony, Glenn said.
The annual banquet is the museum’s major fundraiser of the year and is a great opportunity to hang out and chat with “old-timer” river runners and hear their stories
Guests will enjoy a catered dinner and appetizer hour, along with live music by the Moab band “Highwater,” formed by a group of professional river guides who were between trips.