“In the annals of wilderness conservation, Martin Litton is a singular force of nature—a Category 5 hurricane of eloquence, passion, and pig-headed obduracy quite unlike anything that has ever blown across the American landscape.” Author Kevin Fedarko wrote these words in the March 2009 issue of Canoe & Kayak when noted conservationist and pioneering river runner Martin Litton was 91 years old. Fedarko’s remarks were certainly no overstatement. As a World War II veteran, writer, editor, and Grand Canyon outfitter, Litton left an unmistakable imprint not only on the commercial rafting industry but on the landscape itself. In the 1950s and 1960s, he took an unwavering stance against three dams in the Grand Canyon and inspired Sierra Club president David Brower to help him wage an all-out, ultimately successful battle against the flooding of one of America’s most iconic national treasures. Brower would later call Litton “my environmental conscience.” Litton passed away in 2014 at the age of 97.
Take a deeper look into Litton’s life and legacy by browsing through the gallery above. Many of the archival images appear in Martin’s Boat a new short film by Pete McBride and O.A.R.S., which operates the company Litton founded, Grand Canyon Dories. Now premiering at film festivals across the country, Martin’s Boat follows a dory built in Litton’s honor down the Grand Canyon and provides insight into his many conservation campaigns. Look for its release online this June.
— In 2012, C&K readers voted to grant Litton our Lifetime Achievement Award and we were humbled to have him attend the award show where he delivered a moving acceptance speech.