In 1938, three French adventurers were the first to kayak the greatest 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, travelers 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. Together their entire lives, they later settled in San Tropez, France where they crossed paths with Brigitte Bardot. One of their kayaks was later used by a Frenchman during World War II to escape Nazi occupied France. It now lives in a museum commemorating the French Resistance.
This film will be a lens through which to see the river as the French Trio saw it and the river as it exists today. We will set off on an adventure of our own to uncover the lost pieces of their story in small towns and silent canyons.
This is an opportunity to tell an amazing, untold story. Fall 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the French Trio’s adventure.