Wet and Wild: Grand Canyon Rafting Adventure
June or July 2020
Rafting the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River
Witness the magnificent panoramas of the Grand Canyon. Experience the ride of a lifetime on dazzling whitewater rapids. Hike secluded canyons to mighty waterfalls. Enjoy the quiet of the wilderness and the roar of the river.
- Unwind in gorgeous, cascading waterfalls.
- Behold remote trails and canyons rarely traveled by most of the visitors to the Grand Canyon.
- Splash your way down whitewater rapids, like Lava Falls and Soap Creek, on a 14-person motorized raft.
- Relish gourmet food prepared by first-rate outfitters.
- Hike to the astonishingly fascinating ruins at Nankoweap.
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Moderate
Group Size Small Group
Take a wild, whitewater ride through history
Few places in the world invoke the word ‘frontier’ as much as the Grand Canyon. It is indeed epic in scale and beauty. The Colorado River cuts through 2 billion years of history. Millions of visitors see the park but very few make way into the depths of the canyons.
Our exciting adventure takes us down the full 280 miles of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. You’ll plunge through whitewater rapids on a motorized raft to keep us moving when the water is calm. There is no paddling involved so you can take it easy and enjoy the incredible vistas always changing around us. We’ll leave the water to explore hidden canyons. We’ll hike through incredible multicolored rock sculptures. We’ll witness and immerse ourselves in several waterfalls and swimming holes.
At night we’ll visit with new friends over a delicious dinner then sleep under the stars.
Optional Tour Choices (available at the shopping cart):
$260 Single Supplement (for solo travelers who want to have a private bedroom/bathroom instead of a shared suite while in Las Vegas)
$170 Upgrade to a studio for couples while in Las Vegas
Deposit is available: $1000 – call 800-825-9766.
- Excellent accommodations in a Las Vegas hotel on first and last nights. Usually, they are 2 bedrooms, 2 bathroom suites.
- A reception in Las Vegas on the first day and a happy-hour party with appetizers after returning from rafting.
- Professional, experienced river guides and our personable Out West Adventures Tour leader.
- A comfortable ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and back.
- One week floating the length of Grand Canyon National Park on a 14-person motorized raft.
- Camp by the river in 2-person tents with comfortable sleeping bags for 7 nights.
- Belknap’s Waterproof Grand Canyon River Guide book.
- Meals, beer, wine, and soft drinks during the rafting trip.
- Out West Adventures provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our tours for guests who do not have other coverage.
- Contribution to the Grand Canyon Conservation Fund.
- Airfare to and from Las Vegas.
- Transfers between Las Vegas airport and hotel.
- Dinner on day of arrival.
- Gratuities for guides.
Our rafting adventure uses an outfitter with a long history of safe trips down the Colorado River. The itinerary below is a general description of what you can expect. Some specific hiking routes, stops and other details may change, based on the weather, time of year, and other conditions.
Our adventure starts in Las Vegas. It’s a good launching point because flights to Las Vegas from most North American cities are frequent and generally inexpensive.
At 6:00 p.m. our group meets for a reception with hors d’oeuvres and an opportunity to get the know the other adventurers you’ll be on tour with. There are 14 on the raft and two guides.
We will then get an orientation by the outfitter. There will be time to review common questions about what to expect and what to bring along. Everyone gets waterproof containers.
You’re then free to explore Las Vegas or set your alarms and get to bed.
Onto The Rafts
Early in the morning we’ll take a bus to Lees Ferry.
We will meet with our experienced guides. These river runners really love the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon and white water rafting. They’re very knowledgeable about the canyon’s denizens, history and geology.
Before lunch we’ll reach the Colorado River and get started. Your river guide will introduce you to the positions to take whenever we go through rapids. Before you know it we’ll be splashing through whitewater at Badger Creek Rapids.
The front riders will get the most wild ride and the heaviest spray. The center section of the raft offers a smoother and drier ride — but only somewhat. As we plunge through Badger Creek Rapids, even those in the center feel as if they’re on a bucking bronco.
Your guide knows the history of the Colorado River’s geology and history and will point out areas of interest.
Later we’ll pull onto a sandy beach and set up camp for the night. You’ll get a choice of places to setup your spot. Select a riverfront site to be cooler or a sandy patch back in the rocks for more privacy.
An Anasazi Relic
After a tasty breakfast we’ll get back into the action. Before you know it we’ll be in the section of the Colorado River known as the Roaring Twenties. None of the drops or waves here are especially big but they are great way to start the day.
When we reach an area called the South Canyon we’ll take a short hike to some Anasazi Indian ruins. The Anasazi lived in this area around 2000 years ago. Here you’ll see remnants of the past. We’ll see more Anasazi ruins as we continue our adventure.
Back on the raft and we soon reach Redwall Cavern. John Wesley Powell estimated the chamber could hold 50,000 people. It’s a great place for rock climbing if you’re interested.
We’ll see the damage done by a huge, thankfully, abandoned project that would have destroyed the Grand Canyon as we know it. The proposed Marble Canyon Dam was stopped due to a protest arranged by the Sierra Club.
At our next camp site we wash up in the river and get ready for another excellent meal. Tonight we’re having halibut steak with herbed sour cream sauce, slaw, black beans with rice and a fresh dutch oven baked cake.
Sipapu: The Big Navel
We’ll start our day with Blueberry pancakes, hot syrup, fresh fruit, sausage and coffee or tea.
Downstream we’ll come to Nankoweap Canyon. Here we’ll visit bigger Anasazi ruins. We’ll hike a zig-zag trail up the cliffs to ancient structures. Our guides will explain what they were and their history. Hanging out on the ledge of a structure that has been here since before the first Europeans reached America, we get a great sense of the Grand Canyon’s history.
However we still have not actually entered the Grand Canyon. Technically, the first 61 miles are known as Marble Canyon, the name Powell gave it. Actually it’s limestone and not marble. It is thought that Powell used the term marble metaphorically to suggest the grandeur of the space. As far as we’re concerned, it’s all a giant playground where blue tinted water has carved natural slides in the rocks. The Anasazi said the blue waters of the Little Colorado come from a place the Anasazi called Sipapu, the big navel, and the source of life.
The largest rapids we’ll hit today are called Unkar. This is a great ride where the water level drops 25 feet within the stretch of about a tenth of a mile.
Around the world, white-water rivers are rated on a scale of 1 to 6 with 1 as the easiest and 6 as too dangerous to raft. But in the Grand Canyon the rating is from 1 to 10 to allow more precise detail. Raft size and water levels alter the difficulty of any particular run. Generally, whitewater in the Grand Canyon gets about twice the rating it would anywhere else and is about twice the intensity. Rapids like Unkar require our guides’ full attention to navigate the crashing waves. But for us it’s a super fun, wild ride.
Wet and Wild
There are lots of rapids in today’s trek. We’ll hit several stretches of white water in quick succession. Get ready for the biggest drop so far. Rated 8 – 9, Hance Rapids drops 30 feet from start to finish. It’s a bucking Bronco of a ride.
Soon the rapids thin out and we can relax and enjoy the scenery of the cliffs towering above us. We’re still soaked from Hance when we hit a series of wild rapids called Sockdolager, Grapevine and Zoroaster Rapids. And we’re only 10 miles from last night’s camp site.
Next we float under Bright Angel Suspension Bridge. It’s a footbridge to Phantom Ranch, a resting spot for hikers from the rim.
Then we plunge into more rapids. We’ll hit Pipe Spring Rapids, Horn Creek Rapids (rated 8-9), Salt Creek Rapids, Granite Rapids and the scary Hermit Rapids.
We will get in at least one hike every day. Today we’ll hike to a short arching waterfall up Shinumo Creek. It features a tempting pool where the pounding waterfall can provide a water massage.
We’ll pull off the river to camp at Granite Canyon. All of our campsites have been beautiful but this one takes the cake.
A terrace overlooks the river where we enjoy margaritas before a tasty dinner of fajitas with fresh homemade salsas and guacamole.
Hiking and Waterfalls
Today four dramatically different hikes will lure us from the river.
You’ll visit a waterfall in a garden setting at Elves Chasm.
We’ll hike Blacktail Canyon to reach the spot called the Great Unconformity. This region is rich in fossils and our guide points out the imprint of a Nautaloid on the way.
Back on the raft we’ll plunge down the Dubendorff Rapids and then hike up a side canyon to a beautiful waterfall at Stone Creek.
We’ll stop at Deer Creek Falls. There is a waterfall that’s over 100 feet high. You can choose between relaxing here in the mist and shade or hike up a more difficult 200-foot cliff to another small waterfall in an idyllic location.
Our campsite is only a few miles downstream where we’ll enjoy stir-fried shrimp with vegetables, carrot cake and an after-dinner coffee with Tuaca liqueur.
Today we’ll splash through two major stretches of whitewater rapids and take two more scenic hikes. But first we’ll have a delicious breakfast of sausage, French toast and fruit.
Our first whitewater is called Upset Rapids. Its whitewater name comes from an early river runner that capsized in 1923. He survived but another rafter in the 1970’s was not so lucky. Our guide earns our confidence though as he navigates through the churning water.
After we pass the Hualapai Indian Reservation we’ll hike into National Canyon where a stream has sculpted a rock garden of swirling shapes. The process took millions of years.
We’ll stop at Fern Glen Rapids to lunch on a selection of cheeses, meats and vegetables. There is a hike here that leads to a wide, rounded room open to the sky. This area also contains a lot of fossils.
It’s common to see bighorn sheep in this area but we’ve also seen them many times along the way.
Our last whitewater of the day is Lava Falls Rapids. It’s also known as Vulcan Rapids and it’s the Grand Canyon’s roughest, largest whitewater. Many millenia ago a volcano flowed lava into the canyon. That dammed the river for a time and still impedes the water’s flow today. It’s a wild ride that you won’t forget. Our guides handle it with ease though and soon we’ve reached our next campsite where we enjoy before-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres.
Pumpkin Springs and Filet Mignon
We’ve gone 200 miles and the Grand Canyon still offers amazing sights.
We’ll stop at Pumpkin Springs for lunch. It’s an odd sight. A huge bowl of geothermally-warmed water spills into the river. Deposits of dissolved stone were left behind as it has flowed, creating a rock known as Travertine. It looks like a giant squash. The water is warm but contains a dangerous level of arsenic.
This is the last full day on the river so we enjoy our last dinner with a touch of melancholy.
At this end of the canyon, Hoover Dam has raised water levels in Lake Mead. There are no more rapids after this but the canyon walls remain.
Now that we’re on Lake Mead and there are no rapids, the swimming is excellent. You can plunge into the water and float down the stream or stay on board. Either way you’ll enjoy the incredible scenery.
When we reach a place called Separation Point we take a speedboat and zoom to Pearce Ferry. From there we take a bus to Las Vegas. But on the way, an important stop is at an ice cream stand.
Las Vegas welcomes us. As much as we all had fun sleeping under the stars we’re all looking forward to sleeping in beds tonight.
In the evening we have a Happy Hour with appetizers at a nearby restaurant/bar. There’s still time to see a Las Vegas shows, try your luck at a casino or hang out with your new friends.
Until Next Year
Heading back home is bittersweet, but we all agree that the shared activities of the trip will create lasting friendships.
You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself in Las Vegas.
BTW – The activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends.
This tour starts and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada. Please plan to arrive in time to join the group for the 6pm orientation.
No rowing, paddling or other special skills are required for this trip, and we can accommodate most physical limitations. Guests will be hopping on and off of a large raft from the shore or water level, and a helping hand is always available. The raft stops several times every day for lunch and hiking opportunities…these range from easy walks over gravel and sand to challenging climbs with steep drops. Most participants will enjoy going on these hikes, which range from 10 minutes to an hour or two in length. But you can always stay by the raft and relax if you prefer.
As for bathroom breaks: We’re always close to the shore, and the guides are happy to pull over if you need an extra break in between regular stops.
You won’t be in it all the time. A typical day will include just four or five hours of rafting. There will be sections of flat-water during which you can relax and enjoy the scenery, as well as over a hundred whitewater rapids. The rest of the time we’ll be exploring the side canyons that are rarely seen by most visitors, hiking, swimming, or fishing.
No. You don’t need to swim unless you want to, and everyone will be wearing a life preserver while on the boat. Lots of non-swimmers take this trip.
You may find rainbow and brown trout when the River is running clear. You must purchase a fishing license in advance, and we are happy to send you more information upon request.
We suggest bringing a small folding rod, for easy storage. You must bring your own fishing supplies, or get them in Las Vegas; there is no opportunity to pick up supplies after that point.
Emergency Communications – the river guide carries a satellite phone to make medical calls out. If there were a true medical emergency, Life Flight would be called and a basket dropped down to the raft. However, the guide’s phone is not available for client use. You could rent a satellite phone if you had an urgent need to be in touch with someone back home, but it would be very expensive, and would certainly detract from the joy of being so remote.
Getting out of the Canyon before Lake Mead – there are two ways to get out of the canyon during the rafting, both at about the half-way point. At Phantom Ranch the trail winds down from the South Rim, crosses the river, and goes on to the Ranch. It is about a full day hike from the bridge up to the South Rim, and certainly not recommended, since you will be equipped for rafting, rather than for a long hike. The other way isn’t really practical either – there is a helicopter pad downstream from Phantom Ranch, but you would have to arrange your own helicopter in and out, and it is mighty expensive. And of course the problem with both of these options is that it will take 3.5 days to get there after we start rafting, and once you pass each point, that option is gone. Therefore, there is no practical way to leave the trip mid-stream. If you have an urgent matter back home that might require your signature, you might want to talk with a professional about the use of a Limited Power of Attorney, to grant someone the power to execute documents for you while you are gone, in accordance with your instructions.
Some river outfitters just raft half the Grand Canyon. If you start or end the trip halfway down, there’s no way out of the canyon except with a long hike. We raft all the way from Lee’s Ferry, Arizona to Lake Mead, with easy access at each end.
It’s virtually unknown for rafters to experience seasickness. The rapids are exciting but short, and the up-and-down motion of the raft is too brief to bother most people. Most of our trip is spent on calm water, where you can relax and enjoy the ever-changing scenery.
Thousands of people have safely rafted down the Colorado River, but a trip of this nature inevitably involves some risks. Emergency evacuations are possible, and we provide insurance to help cover the cost if such an occasion arises, but we recommend you check your own insurance policies as well, as ultimately costs of such aid are your responsibility.
No, the water is controlled by the Glen Canyon dam, upstream, so the rapids stay about the same year around. Water levels fluctuate 6-12″ some daily, you may not even notice until it is pointed out to you.
Typical temperatures in the Canyon, in Fahrenheit, are:
March, November: 60-70 degrees daytime, 40-50 at night
April, October: 70-85 daytime; 50-70 at night
May, September: 80-90 daytime, 60-70 at night
June to August: 90-110 daytime, 60-80 at night
While the numbers are high, the dry air, combined with opportunities for swimming or hopping under a waterfall, will help keep you comfortable.
The water is cold (55 degrees) at Lees Ferry, at the start of the canyon, because it’s being released from the bottom of Lake Powell, behind the Glen Canyon Dam. It gets only slightly warmer as you travel down the canyon.
Not much! We supply all the camping and sleeping equipment; waterproof river bags; portable toilets (always set in a private part of the campground, and probably featuring the best view of any bathroom, ever); and all meals. We’ll send you a suggested packing list a month or two before the trip. Don’t worry about investing in a fancy duffle bag, as the only luggage permitted on board is the waterproof gear provided by the outfitter. You can also leave a suitcase at the hotel with any items you want with you in Las Vegas, but will not need in the Grand Canyon.
The first and last nights are spent at a hotel in Las Vegas. On the river, we’ll camp outside; everything you’ll need is supplied. Tents are available, but except for the rare evenings when it rains most people prefer to sleep under the stars, enjoying the distant twinkle of the Milky Way as they fall asleep.
Here are some comments about the sleeping arrangements by a recent participant in this trip:
Sleeping on a cot becomes so insignificant in terms of the rest of the grandeur and adventure and camaraderie that the trip offers. For the first night in camp you get a bed-roll that becomes yours for the week. Included is a very nice sleeping bag, a blue tarpaulin for ground cover and a self-inflatable air pad, which is about an inch and a half thick.
All the campsites are on beaches, so you are generally camping on sand. Of course sleeping on a cot can never be as comfortable as sleeping on a bed. But the UPSIDE is that sleeping alongside a rapid provides some of the most soothing ambient noise that and best relaxation that you will ever find and the view of the stars is magnificent!
You’ll be amazed what our guides can prepare over the campfire! A typical dinner will include a meat course, fresh vegetables, salad, biscuits, soup, and dessert. Moreover, unlike most companies, we supply beer and wine with dinners, as well as fruit juice, soft drinks, and water throughout the day. (We carry several hundred pounds of ice along, just to keep everything cold!) The sublime beauty of the Grand Canyon, and friendships you form on the voyage, will undoubtedly be your best memories of this trip. But the superb food is likely to be a close second.
Many special dietary needs can be accommodated, and our pre-trip questionnaire will ask you about any such needs. If you have unusual requirements, we’ll be happy to supply storage space for food that you bring along.
If they provide good service, then yes, a gratuity at the end of the trip is customary and appreciated. We’re confident that you’ll be so impressed by the helpfulness, knowledge, and culinary skills of the guides, that you’ll be eager to show your appreciation. We suggest a 5-10% tip at the end of the trip, which will be divided between the captain and swamper. Because there are no ATMs on the river, you should bring cash for tipping the crew on board with you.
Out West Adventures Tour Director
Tipping your Out West Adventures tour director is at your discretion. Rest assured that he or she works hard behind the scenes to ensure that your vacation is a wonderful, adventurous, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Your host is there to deal with any snags or hiccups so that you can enjoy your well earned holiday. We suggest $10-12 per day depending on the level of service you receive.
Our first evening is fully scheduled, with a welcome reception and meal, and orientation. Guests then adjourn to their rooms to pack their things into the waterproof bags provided. The next morning is a 4:20am departure.
If you want to enjoy a show or the other delights Las Vegas offers, we recommend additional nights in Las Vegas. We are happy to help you arrange hotels for the duration of your stay.
We usually arrive back to our hotel by 4:30 or 5:00pm; construction or other delays can affect that. All of our guests really value a hot shower upon arrival, and many like to do a load of laundry rather than packing their suitcases full of dirty camp clothes. We walk to dinner together tonight and our hotel for this evening is included. You will find yourself more comfortable if you book your flights the next day (shown as the final date of the tour).
That said, if you must fly home early, book a flight AFTER 8:00pm.
For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174