Brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb first wandered into the Grand Canyon area seeking adventure. They were known for their crazy, death-defying antics. One photograph shows Emery lowering Ellsworth by a rope to capture a photograph of the newly discovered Cheyava Falls on the North Rim. Emery stands with his feet spread between two airy towers, Ellsworth dangles nonchalantly in space, camera in hand. Another image from those early years shows Emery near the mouth of Bright Angel Cave, which modern climbers say requires a difficult climb to reach, but the Kolbs made little fuss about their accomplishment beyond the creation of the photograph.
The two men established a niche for themselves, photographing tourists riding mules, and then developing the pictures in a small cave in the canyon wall to sell. Eventually, they built a studio near the top of the Bright Angel Trail to house their growing enterprise. In 1912, they boated through the Grand Canyon, still a rare adventure in those days. The film they created from this endeavor thrilled audiences and brought them worldwide attention.
You can tour the Kolb Studio, a ramshackle, five-story building perched precariously on the canyon wall above the Bright Angel Trailhead. Studio tours are offered daily, but are limited in size to 12, so reservations are required. The studio is a National Historic Landmark that continues to hold the spirit of adventure embodied by these two pioneers. In addition, the Kolb Studio houses changing art exhibits. Register for the tour at the Kolb Studio or by calling (928) 638-2771.