The stories are associated with deaths, boat wrecks, or archaeological or geological finds. Here’s an excerpt from Bob Ribokas’ website. It’s an interesting read because of all of the historical details he’s crammed into this personal account of a guided trip down the Grand Canyon. If the following piques your interest, we recommend Belknap’s Waterproof Grand Canyon River Guide [affiliate link; all earnings donated to the whalefoundation.org] to take with you on the river or relive the twists and turns of your whitewater rafting trip.
And this is just one cave on the river…
Stantons Cave was named for Robert Brewster Stanton, the chief engineer of the Denver, Colorado Canyon, and Pacific Railroad Company, a new company created by Frank Mason Brown. On the initial survey expedition Brown took 14 men down the Colorado from Green River, UT to outline a route for a rail line he planned to run from Denver to the coal fields in the deserts of the Arizona territory. His plan was to eventually supply coal to Los Angels. In order to make the survey more cost effective he decided that life vests were not needed. He may have saved some money, but at a very high price. It cost him his life. The boat that he was rowing with Harry McDonald steering flipped in a whirl pool just below Salt Water Wash a little over half a mile downstream from Soap Creek Rapids, and without a life preserver, Brown helplessly drowned. Peter Hansbrough, one of the members of the expedition, memorialized Brown with an inscription on the east wall of the canyon, “F. M. Brown, Pres. D, CC & PR was drowned July 10, 1889 opposite this point.
Brown’s cost effective decision continued to plague the remaining men. At 25 Mile Rapid, a couple of days later, Hansbrough’s boat collided with an overhanging cliff, capsized, and he and cook’s helper, Harry Richards, drowned. On another expedition 3 months later, Stanton found Hansbrough’s body , identified by his clothes, at a horseshoe bend in the river almost 20 miles downstream from where these men had drowned. In honor of his friend Stanton named the point opposite where the body was found Point Hansbrough.
The deaths of Brown, Hansbrough and Richards was a little discouraging to the remaining men. I suspect that the lack of life preservers weighed heavily on their minds. Stanton decided to temporarily discontinue the rest of the survey. He found a good sized dry cave well above high water where he cached the boats and some of their gear, (a revolver, some photographic equipment, tobacco, rice, flour, sugar, baking powder and some other stuff). In addition to the cave in this area there was an Indian trail leading up an adjacent side canyon, so he and the rest of the men could hike out and make their way back to Lee’s Ferry.
There are a lot of old Indian ruins around this area, and the cave held evidence of Indians having used it for something even though there is no evidence that they ever actually lived in it. Bus Hatch discovered the first of the famous split twig figurines in the back of this 140 foot deep cave in 1934, and in 1963 Robert Euler, who was appointed by the National Park Service as Park Anthropologist, recovered about 165 of them. They have been dated to 4,000 years ago.
Although all of these artifacts have been removed, the Park service has barred entrance to the cave with an impressive Iron gate, cross hatched in such a way as to keep vandals out while allowing the bats that live there to fly in. During our trips from 1988 until the present, Bill and I have seen that the Park Service has built more and more sturdy gates. Apparently signs, and simple bars have not been adequate to discourage dedicated vandals. The reason for keeping people out is that beneath the soil of the cave there is a lot of archeological information, – remains of ancient horses, Harrington mountain goats (from 20,000 years ago), Humpback Chub fish, California condors, and an extinct vulture that was even larger than a condor – and a lot of other items of scientific interest.