DAVE RUST: A LIFE IN THE CANYONS, by Frederick H. Swanson, University of Utah Press, 354 pages, $29.95

David Rust, a young placer miner from Caineville, Utah, believed that travel should be "more than a pastime" — a chance to enrich one's mind.

So writes Frederick Swanson, a Salt Lake author who is especially interested in the Colorado Plateau province of Utah and Arizona. In his well-appointed biography, "Dave Rust," Swanson explores the life of the explorer (1874-1963) and expert on the sandstone cliffs of Glen Canyon.

In the fall of 1897, Rust had been looking for gold but turned his attention to the landscape. He started guiding visitors around the canyon in canvas-covered canoes. In the summers, he led month-long pack trips through the cliffs and mountaintops.

Rust has found his best possible biographer, who has used an abundance of source material, starting with the David Dexter Rust Collection in the LDS Church archives in Salt Lake City, which includes Rust's diaries, unpublished writings, correspondence, news clippings and other materials, as well as very interesting photos.

Swanson has utilized these as well as articles and books relating to the Colorado Plateau to build this intriguing story of a previously unknown but terribly interesting man.

It is an impressive accomplishment. Not only does Swanson effectively trace Rust's life as a naturalist and thinker, but his political interests as well. He also pulls out genuine nuggets that tell the reader how Rust's personal values measured up.

For instance, Swanson became close to an Eastern couple, George and Jane Fraser, who often visited Rust and allowed him to give them special tours. When an agricultural depression hit the country in 1921, Rust lost money, especially when the Kanab bank closed. Fraser quickly sent his friend some money, and Rust expressed his feelings about it in an unpublished essay, "My Best Neighbor."

Without using Fraser's name, Rust extended the concept of neighborliness across the continent: "This genuine neighbor of mine is a lawyer and he lives the Law of Leviticus toward his fellow men, with the compassion of the Good Samaritan. When my bank suspended and he found me 'stripped' and 'half-dead' financially, he relieved my embarrassment by extending a substantial loan without request. No one around me offered support — I didn't expect help; but this friend heard that I was 'wounded' and cared for me. And the big value was not in the money advanced (and the money was certainly needed) but the stimulant the kindness gave my soul which will cheer me forever."

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the book, however, is its rich descriptions of southern Utah. Swanson is a fine writer whose contribution to Utah's past will be remembered.

E-mail: dennis@desnews.com