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Rebel of the Colorado

Updated: May 21

Rebel of the Colorado: The Saga of Harry Leroy Aleson by Renny Russell

Reviewed by L. Bennett

When Harry Aleson died in 1972 he left behind a plethora of papers that documented his hard-won life of 74 years. It was an unusual life spanning many occupations and locations but Harry’s passion for mastering the Colorado River was the heart of his experiences. While others were challenging themselves by floating down the Colorado River, Harry was working hard to find a way up the river. He had done the downstream stuff, including a nearly suicidal journey in a life-vest without a boat, but that wasn’t sufficient to satisfy him. He met others along the way whose river running adventures placed them in the memory books, but author Renny Russell believed that Harry was overlooked. Russell presents Harry’s story in a slick coffee-table book published in limited edition by Russell’s own press.

The story is told in river miles and years, not always in sequential order, using extensive quotations from Harry’s writing and displaying numerous photographs. The core of the book is bracketed by Harry’s life before 1939, when he first experienced the Colorado, and after 1963 when the rising waters of Lake Powell flooded his beloved canyon. He was a careful planner and inventive, but oblivious to personal danger. The dreams that burned in Harry and animated his unorthodox approach to the river leave the reader breathless, stunned at Harry’s audacity, foolishness, and luck.

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