Flashback Friday: Hatch Hosts a Trip of Famous Artists

Flashback Friday: Ted Recounts a Trip of Artists Painting the Grand Canyon Whitewater


Hatch has taken a number of famous artists, actors and politicians down the Colorado River over the decades


Hatch River Expeditions has had countless interesting and sometimes famous guests! Actors, politicians, and as you’ll read today, famous artists! Not long before his 1984 interview, Ted Hatch arranged for a trip of artists to paint on the river. The result was an incredibly successful exhibit at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts focusing on the many incredible views of Grand Canyon from the Colorado River.


Ted: We took a bunch of artists two years ago. Some of them are exceptionally skilled, you know, really good!


But anyway, Merrill Mahaffey called me, and he arranged a trip for these artists to go. He said […] “take us through the canyon, because we want to do paintings and work in there.”


I said, “Sure!”


“You know,” he said, “I won’t have any turkeys, they are all good skilled people.”


So we said, “O.K.”


They got to the river and they saw the boat and they painted it like this (on the back cover of R.A.F.T. – a booklet). (Laughs) That’s Bill’s boat – Bill Ellwanger’s – because they couldn’t go on just a mundane silver raft.



artist Merrill Mahaffey is standing on an electric lift so that he can reach a section of a large mural of the Colorado River

Merrill Mahaffey has spent decades painting the many views of Grand Canyon and took a number of trips down the Colorado River to get the perspectives he wanted.



E. Sowards: (Laughs)

Ted: But anyway, they did the Grand with us, and I have some of the nicest paintings you have ever seen. Merrill sold one of his paintings for $80,000.00, and he gave me one of Deer Creek Falls. Do you remember that fall that tumbles down into the canyon—oh, about 75 feet, and you can walk right up to the base of it. He gave me a painting of that, and he came out here to Vernal, and I flew him over through the canyons and showed him these Buckskin Hills and he wants to paint those. I said, “That’s great, but I want the painting if you do!”


He did some paintings for the Governor [Bruce] Babbitt of Arizona, and he did the mural in the Phoenix Air Terminal. If you ever have a chance to see it, it’s of Grand Canyon – it’s a big mural. But he is really fantastic. So, anyway, I got art from each one of these [… ] We did the art exhibit at the Scottsdale Center for Arts. Our first day we had a thousand visitors. The curator of the center came over and he said, “You have, by far, the best exhibit we have ever had.”


We had a band in there, and we had drinks set up. We had a slide show in one corner of this trip, and in the other there was a movie showing boats going down the river. Then we put this boat in the center of the museum on the carpet, and rigged it just exactly the same. We put the life jackets and everything, just the same. Of course, the guys repainted it.

E. Sowards: Uh-huh. (Laughs)

Ted: But, the publicity was just unbelievable. We had articles in the paper, and people were calling. It was fantastic! It was a beautiful exhibit.


It’s always fun to hear about the notable folks that have come on Hatch trips, including famous artists. Even today Hatch guides enjoy taking private trips down the river that focus on photography, geology, or human history. The beauty of the Grand Canyon that captivates and inspires the average guest, can really come alive in the hands of an artist. Come back next week when Ted tells Elizabeth Sowards more about his family’s history!

Book a 2024 or 2025 river trip today to experience the beauty of the Canyon first hand! And don’t forget to get your 90th Year T-shirt or sticker!

Want to take your creative group down the river? Give us a call or send us an email!