Oral Histories

Mitch Williams

b. 1916

Mitch Williams

When we took groups down Cataract Canyon, we chartered the airport people to go pick them up. I flew down with my plane and brought Sophie and Jean Pierre back and took them over The Needles and Cataract Canyon so they could see it from the air. They were very impressed! They had never seen anything like this area before. We made arrangements right then and there for them to advertise our tours all over France. We set up certain dates so they could sign up for any of those particular dates. The tourists flew from Paris to New York to Grand Junction then on to Moab. We took them from the airport to the hotel. We picked them up early the next morning and took them to the put in point for a 120 mile river trip – wonderful! We took them to Hite and flew them back to town from there.

Some people didn’t like flying in small planes, so they came back with the truck. We had a big bus with a trailer on the back for 30 foot boats and gear when we started out.

We became quite well-known in Europe. Mary went to Europe one or two times a year. One year she went to Munich, Germany and got in contact with a man from Austria who was good at getting groups together. There was a meeting of all tour agencies in Berlin. Each company had different booths so they could see what each had to offer. Mary went every year and met so many different people. She met the Ambassador to Finland who became a good friend of ours.

He invited us to Finland, but we didn’t end up going. We got offers from allover and took most of them. Mary was so very good at selling the company. The man from Munich said, “Nobody over here knows about Utah or Moab, but they all know about Tag Along Tours.”

I liked to train people to be good at jeep trips and boat tours, too. It took at least a year to train a top-notch guide. All of my guides were very good and I was very proud of our personnel. We had 8 people in the office during the tourist season and 52 guides. Most of my guides could do any tour, but some preferred to only do jeep tours or only do river tours. I charged much more than any other tour company and I had many more clients than anyone else!!

All of our guides were top cooks. We baked bread and cakes, especially for birthdays, dutch ovens, etc. We fed our guests better than any other company I know of. Everyone had a sleeping bag with a tarp around it tied with a rope. Most people slept well, but some had a hard time the first night. By the second night, everyone slept well and comfortably.

The superintendent of Canyonlands National Park came down and I took him down a side canyon. It looked like it was going to rain, so we got under some rocks that jutted out. He said, “Boy, I tell you, you are in big, big trouble!” Above his bed someone had carved “Tag Along” in the rock. Vandalism in a national park is a bad thing! He knew that I didn’t do it and that it was probably a customer …what a relief! We laughed our heads off about it back at camp.

We had a J rig raft with a 20 horsepower engine. The motor exhaust was under the water, so it ran very quiet. We went along with the current and saw the Indian ruins and Petrified Forest. We took hikes up the canyon and showed clients the ruins. The French didn’t care about the Indian ruins and Sophie explained to us that France had better ruins, even if they weren’t Indian ruins. I said, “Yes, but you don’t have any Indian ruins at all.”

We camped at the mouth of Lathram Canyon. We just barely got stopped there and heard someone yell, “Help! Help!” We jumped in the boat and found a man and a boy in the water. They were stuck in the current and were headed straight for the center of the river. Boy, we put the power to that 20 horsepower motor! We pulled the boy in and held the father up to where he could relax. He was 1/2 in the water and 1/2 out. We had a strap under his arms, but we couldn’t get him all the way in the boat. We got them both back to shore and saved their lives.

We saved another life when we were going up the river in a jet boat and passed a guy who was about to drown. He wouldn’t have lasted another 5 minutes, I don’t believe. People think that they can swim in high water, but it’s very dangerous. We’d get ’em back to shore and tell them not to go back in. When they got their breath back, they would say, “Yes, sir .”

I t is very scenic and nice on the upper part of the river and we would go under Dead Horse Point. By the second night, we would be near the rapids –they can really be something! You have to know what you’re doing to get people through safely, that’s why we had so much training.

Our boatmen’s assistants worked with the top boatmen. They checked the boats for leaks etc. and could run the first rapid. The top boatmen and I would add to the training and by the next year, the assistants would become boatmen and would help train the new assistants.

We had the most attractive boats in the business; we painted ours every year. Some other companies just let theirs go. We’ d pass them on the river and the other companies’ clients would see the difference in their boats and ours.

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