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NAVTEC: It all started when Doc Williams came to town...
By Linda Schmidt

In 1896, Doctor John Williams became Moab’s first physician. Doc was a young Colorado cowboy who was inspired to pursue a medical profession after working in a drugstore for a time. Being the only doctor for miles around Moab, he traveled days on horseback to visit cowcamps, ranches and the other settlements in the area. On his trips up to Thompson, he would take a short cut through what is now Arches, and he fell in love with its unique beauty. He joined Bates Wilson and others in successfully campaigning for governmental protection of the fantastic redrock treasures of what are now Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, which earned him the title of “the Father of Arches National Park.”

Doc’s son Mitch shared his father’s enthusiasm for the wonders of this area, and with his wife Mary started Tag-A-Long Adventures, first leading others on ventures into the back country, and later driving their customers themselves. They also ran rafting trips down the Colorado River on the “daily” section.

When Doc’s grandson, NAVTEC’s John L. Williams, was a child, family vacations were spent exploring canyon country far and wide in their Willys jeep. He remembers at least one occasion of joining his parents on a Moki Migration, an expedition with government officials in army surplus jeeps led by the Williams, Bates Wilson, and other advocates of parks’ planning. By the time he was 16, John was driving Tag-A-Long tours to Angel Arch in the Needles district of Canyonlands and running Colorado raft trips (two years before he could get his boatman’s license).

When Mitch and Mary retired, John created NAVTEC (short for technical navigation) Expeditions. Intrigued with the idea of running fast, tough, and highly maneuverable boats in Cataract Canyon, he designed his own whitewater RHIB boat, a rigid hull inflatable boat with a bottom of aluminum and fiberglass that could hold up to the rocks and rapids, and plane swiftly through the calm sections. It made one-day Cataract trips possible, opening that river trip to visitors who had little time. (Today several different NAVTEC trips are available in this high-performance craft!)

Though NAVTEC Expeditions has become a successful river company, and John is an expert boatman (see him piloting his RHIB boat in the company logo!), he wanted to share more than rivers with his customers. When a rare land tour permit became available, he happily purchased it. This opened up the possibility of giving tours throughout the big, beautiful desert with which he was intimate, in addition to his exciting river trips. The company has grown greatly and matured since then; today NAVTEC offers the most comprehensive selection of Colorado River whitewater rafting and 4x4 trips in Southeastern Utah. It has secured contracts with movie film crews and research scientists, and by combining water and land options, provides both functional and exciting specialty trips.

NAVTEC’s tough FJ80 series Land Cruisers take visitors all over the remote backcountry, and various water craft are used on the Colorado and Green Rivers. The extensive choice of trips includes everything from half-day river tours on the Colorado, thrilling one-day RHIB runs, four days in Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River, to six day tours of Cataract Canyon and lots in between. Land tours in the national parks and beyond can vary from half-day to four days, or longer. Several different canyoneering adventures are also available.

Investigate all the exhilarating possibilities provided for your own expeditions in the Moab area at NAVTEC Expeditions’ website at Just reading the detail of each trip is compelling! Lifelong memories await, a fact to which this writer can attest, having personally experienced the wonders of the Needles, Horseshoe Canyon, and the Maze with this great outfit. To set up a reservation, you can book online, call 1-800-833-1278 toll free, in Moab at 435-259-7983, or email

And be sure to mention you read about Navtec Expeditions in Moab Happenings!

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