There was a time when the Colorado River and Grand Canyon of the southwestern United States were a much different place than today. In this era there were no commercial rafting trips or guided tours, this was a harsh wilderness and a slash of water considered to have some of the most ferocious rapids in the world, a place where only the truly brave or crazy tried to tame. It was on this fierce, unforgiving river surrounded by vast untamed wilderness that a couple came to do just this, to try and make the river their own on the adventure of a lifetime, yet they would soon go on to vanish into thin air and leave behind one of the most confounding mysteries ever seen in the area.
On April 10, 1928, Glenn and Bessie Hyde were married and immediately began planning a grand adventure for their honeymoon. While some people might typically go sightseeing or jet off to some sun drenched beach paradise to celebrate their new union, the Hydes had something different in mind. Their plan was to take a raft trip down the Colorado River and go straight through the rapids of the Grand Canyon in Arizona aboard a twenty-foot wooden sweep scow they had built themselves. It was a pretty ambitious undertaking, as if they were successful it would make Bessie the first woman to ever navigate all the way down the river through the Grand Canyon, and Glenn wanted to break the speed record for the run while they were at it, but he was a seasoned river rafter and it seemed like they actually had a chance to make their dreams come true.
The couple travelled from their home in Idaho to Green River, Utah, where they built their boat and began their journey down the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers on October 20, 1928. It took them twenty-six days to get from Utah to the Bright Angel trail in the center of the Grand Canyon, and after staying to get supplies for a while they then set on the last leg of their adventure on November 18, 1928, departing from an outpost on Hermit Rapid at river mile 165. They did so with their dreams right there in their grasp, but this would be the last time anyone would see them before they rafted off the face of the earth.
When the couple did not make their scheduled arrival at their final destination, Needles, California, a search was launched along the river, and on December 6, 1928, the boat they had been on was found drifting in the water around 46 miles from the exit of the Grand Canyon. When examined the scow was found to be upright, fully intact and undamaged, and containing all of their personal items and gear, including food, diary, guidebook, gun, clothing and boots, all dry and carefully stowed away. Bessie’s diary indicated that they had made it at least as far as river mile 226 at Diamond Creek, although what happened after that is a mystery, and there is no mention at all of anything awry or any kind of emergency that would make them want to abandon the scow. There was also a camera found in the boat, which contained what is believed to have been the last photograph of them ever taken, thought to have been taken at river mile 225.
A massive search of the entire area failed to find any trace of the missing couple themselves, and it just seemed as if they had evaporated into thin air to leave that eerily intact boat behind. It didn’t seem as if the boat had been overturned by the rapids or that they had had any difficulties as everything was dry and there was not a scratch on it, and it was also unlikely that they had been robbed by bandits, because nothing had been stolen. That scow was just sitting out there, fully loaded, and it seemed that the only explanation was that they had somehow been knocked into the water or had abandoned it, but why would they do this? They were in the middle of remote wilderness in winter, with no one around for miles, so why leave their boat and all of their things behind willingly? No one knows.
For decades there was no further sign of what had happened to the Hydes, but then things got strange. In 1971, an older woman was seen rafting by herself down the river at Diamond Creek, and she was invited to join another rafting group. Not long after this, talk turned to the old mystery of the missing Hydes, and this mysterious lady came out and claimed that in fact she was Bessie Hyde. She would then weave a sinister tale of her and Glenn fighting because she had wanted to end the trip, and when things had gotten heated he had beaten her and forced her to defend herself by stabbing him, killing him in the process. This fit in very well with testimony of others who had met the couple along their trip, who claimed that Bessie had seemed very unhappy with the excursion and had wanted to go home because she had realized it was too dangerous and beyond her abilities. Interestingly, when one of the men in the group later contacted this lady for a full interview on this amazing revelation, she denied everything and said that she wasn’t Bessie Hyde at all and had never claimed that.
There was another odd lead when the famous rafter and solo adventurer Georgia Clark died in 1992. Among her belongings were found some odd things, such as a birth certificate with her real name written as Bessie DeRoss, a pistol, and a marriage certificate to a man named Glenn, which seemed to point to her actually being the missing Bessie Hyde. However, the fact is that pictures of the two women when they were younger look very different physically, and Clark’s younger years are well-documented, most notably in a biography on Clark written by Richard Westwood, who incidentally denied that there was any chance they were one and the same, and said that these items were probably just souvenirs.
Another strange sequence of events occurred in 1976, when the skeletal remains of a man were found with a bullet hole to the head on the property of a local photographer named Emery Kolb as it was being clean after he passed away. What makes this significant is that the Hydes had visited Kolb and had their photograph taken at his studio just two days before they vanished, and indeed Kolb was one of the last people to have seen them alive. Because of this it was strongly assumed that the body was that of Glenn Hyde, finally found after all of this time, yet careful forensic analysis showed that there were too many discrepancies in the bone and facial structure for the skull to have belonged to the missing man. It still leaves us another mystery, though, as no one knows who the mysterious skeleton actually belonged to, what happened to this person, or what it was doing on the property of a very well-respected photographer and local figure.
We are left with the question of what happened to Bessie and Glenn Hyde, and why their boat had been left behind like that. One idea revolves around the unhappiness Bessie had been showing as the trip went on for weeks and weeks. She had apparently become disillusioned, apparently wanting to get back to civilization, and expressed that the adventure had turned out to be much different than she had envisioned, but Glenn had refused to turn back and so they had trudged on. Some witnesses have claimed that the couple had been seen arguing about this on several occasions, so perhaps they got in a fight and Glenn pushed her into the frigid waters of the river where she drowned, forcing him to go on the run and start a new life somewhere else. This tale of a romantic getaway devolving into violence and murder seems possible, but there is no real concrete evidence to prove that this really happened.
Another theory is that their scow hit an obstacle and knocked them overboard, or at least knocked one of them off, after which the other had jumped in to save them. There would not have been any significant damage because the boat itself was so massive and sturdy, and it is known that they had had no life jackets on board because Glenn had refused to stock them. If they had fallen into the water, hypothermia would have done the rest and their bodies would be swept away to never be found as the boat remained afloat and drifted to where it was found. It is true that Glenn was an experienced rafter, but they were in a homemade boat that was very large, unwieldy, and difficult to control, and this was a run that was at the time for professional adventurers only, sort of like climbing Everest. What happened to this adventurous couple out there? In the end we have no answers, Glenn and Bessie Hyde were never found, and the case remains as mysterious as it ever has been.