In 1938, three French adventurers were the first to kayak the great rivers of the American West. Newlyweds Genevieve and Bernard de Colmont, and their friend Antoine de Seynes, were three dashing young Parisians seeking adventure. The Trio traveled from their homes in France, boldly setting out to be the first to kayak the Green and Colorado Rivers.
The Trio captured their 900-mile journey on 16mm color film, but the film has remained unseen in an archive for years. It offers a vivid window to a time when the Wild West was transitioning to the Modern West, when the rivers flowed wild and undammed, before guidebooks and GPS. They set out as a new vanguard of outdoor recreationalists, packing a new set of equipment and expectations, to seek out adventure merely for the joie de vivre.
They called themselves, Les Voyaguers Sans Trace—voyagers without trace, gliding lightly down the river, packing minimally, and vanishing into history.
Genevieve, who turned 22 on the journey, became the first woman to solo paddle the two rivers. She and Bernard were on their honeymoon, having been married just weeks before the trip.
Seventy-five years after their pioneering journey, filmmaker Ian McCluskey stumbles across a small historic marker in the corner of Wyoming. Inspired by their adventure, Ian learns to kayak, and sets out with two friends to retrace the French Trio’s path. Seeing firsthand the places the French experienced, meeting colorful locals along the way, Ian’s journey leads him through the heart of the American West and eventually back to Europe.
He uncovers unexpected connections to World War II, the French Resistance, Brigitte Bardot, and the spirit of adventure.