Philip Alan Nelson, 1952 ~ 2009

Philip Alan Nelson died suddenly Saturday, July 11, 2009 at his home in Green River, Utah. Philip was born July 10, 1952 in San Angelo, Tex., to Helen Louise Phillips.

Phil’s childhood was spent in many places, including Washington, Delaware, and El Paso, Tex., as his stepdad, Russell Nelson, was in the Air Force. He had special memories of the three years he spent in Scotland.

In the early 1970s Phil moved out West to Grand Canyon, Ariz. He was known as Phantom Phil for a while, hiking the canyon in the summers, and living in California in the winter. In 1982, Phil moved to Moab to become a boatman. Then he moved to Parks, Ariz. where he lived from 1983-1991 and continued his pursuit of exploring river canyons all over the southwest.

In 1991, he moved to Glenwood, N.M. and had a stint as a forest ranger, but then decided government work was not for him. In 1997 he moved to Green River, Utah to be closer to the rivers he loved.

His companion of 25 years, Katherine Brown, paddled her own boat right along with Phil on many trips. Phil and Katherine had bought a house in Green River and were planning to finally have a home base. This past winter, Phil had home-published a book of autobiographical stories called, “Desert River Stories.”

Phil had just recently boated the Escalante River for 18 days with a good friend, Gregg Baumgarten. In between river trips Phil made a living as a painter, carpenter, and all-around handyman in Green River. He also spent many hours building unique frames for his inflatable kayak – always perfecting his equipment for his next expedition.

Even though he did many trips alone Phil wanted to share his love of rivers and inspire others to slow down and enjoy life. As one of his favorite songs states, “Drink life one drop at a time” (Michael Murphy).

Phil is survived by his wife, Katherine Brown; mother, Helen Nelson; stepfather, Russell Nelson; sisters, Sally Nelson and Sue Savino, and brother, Russ Nelson. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Sam and Louise Phillips. There will be a memorial service Saturday, July 25, at the John Wesley Powell River Museum in Green River at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made through Key Bank in Green River, Utah to help with expenses.

Condolences may be sent to the family at