The Dory Experience
If it is indeed true that experience is the best teacher, there is no greater means than by dory to experience—not just see—some of America’s greatest rivers.
Dories are designed with a blend of rationale, romanticism and adrenaline. No other boat is as capable or elegant on the wild waters of the American West. Beyond their stout, thoughtful design, dories hold a soulful connection to the river and a heritage of western exploration. Combined, the qualities of the vessel make for an unmatched and unforgettable journey.
Hand-crafted using fiberglass and closed-cell foam, dories are hardwood-hulled and ultra-buoyant. At an elegant 17 feet, dories slice through waves and buck through rapids and land large drops with ease (and more than enough splash). They’re also fine-tuned to provide classic amenity.
In rippling waters and inconsistent currents—conditions that would make other vessels more unruly—a dory is unbelievably sleek and lounge-like. Naturally smooth sailing. Decked over, there is room for hundreds of pounds of gear, dry and out of sight. Above board, there’s ample space for four passengers and a central cockpit for a guide manning two powerful oars.
Each dory is named after a wild place that was lost or compromised by the hand of man, like the Emerald Mile, Dark Canyon, Roaring Springs, and Teneya.
But aside from the incredible places these boats will take you; aside from the wonderful experiences you will have there; aside from the dories’ heritage and elegance; these boats, more than any other on the river are just plain fun.
The History of Dories
Our story—the history of Grand Canyon Dories—would not have been written if it weren’t for those who found and fought for some of the West’s wildest waters.
In essence, our story started over 130 years ago, in 1869. Major John Wesley Powell led a bold, four-boat expedition down hundreds of miles of uncharted water on the Green & Colorado Rivers. Powell’s men were the first American explorers to behold the enormous beauty of the Grand Canyon, today, one of the world’s seven wonders.
A century later, a young environmentalist named Martin Litton began running trips down that same river. Inspired by the canyon’s grandeur, and driven by a will to save it from proposed dams and inevitable destruction, Litton founded Grand Canyon Dories, the canyon’s first dory operation.
About the same time, in 1969, George Wendt launched OARS—the first exclusively non-motorized rafting company permitted to run river trips in the Grand Canyon.
Today, Grand Canyon Dories and OARS are part of one integrated family born of the Grand Canyon. That’s because in 1988, Martin Litton entrusted Wendt to carry on the legacy of Grand Canyon Dories on the condition that the company would exclusively run dories and that the trips would always be oar-powered. Many of Martin’s early boatmen continue to row dories for us today and the entire organization takes great pride in carrying on the dory tradition in the Grand Canyon as well as on other rivers of the West.
We now have second generation dory guides on a number of our river trips; sons and daughters who’ve inherited their love and knowledge of rivers from parents who guided before them. We particularly covet the legacy of Martin Litton, a man who many credit with literally saving the canyon and who, until his passing in 2014, tirelessly advocated for the threatened wilds of the West.
In 2015 OARS built a new dory, the Marble Canyon, dedicated to Martin Litton.
See the movie:
Martin’s Boat is a film that honors the legacy of Martin Litton and follows the newest boat in the Grand Canyon Dories fleet, the Marble Canyon, on its maiden voyage down the legendary Colorado River through the grandest canyon on Earth.