RAFTING THE GRAND CANYON

 

G and I had rafted the Salmon River. Now we wanted to raft the Colorado. Gerry’s sister H joined us. This Iramis’ favorite trip to date.

Some facts about the Grand Canyon and our trip:

  • The canyon is more than 1 mile deep – that means you can stack (3) empire buildings end to end inside and still have room to spare above.
  • New York City (24 Sq mi) would be able to fit inside the Grand Canyon (2000 Sq mi) many times.
  • Average width of the canyon is 10 miles across – maximum of 18 miles
  • Average 12 deaths per year, people fall off the edge or die of dehydration.
  • North Rim & South Rim both receive snow. The snow turns to rain by the time it reaches the river.
  • There are two dams Glen Canyon and the Hoover Dam. Between them is 277 miles of river. Both are hydroelectric dams. Hydroelectric energy cannot be stored. Once produced it must be delivered and used.
  • The Colorado River has a tide. Trust us, we experienced it.
  • Water in between the dams is about 46 degrees year round. Taking a shower sucks.
  • We ate a cup or two of sand while “below the rim”.
  • Shoes melt when they touch the sandy banks.
  • Scorpions don’t like to share toothbrushes.

We hiked 8 miles into the canyon via the Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim at an average grade of 10%.

The drop offs included sheer cliffs on both sides of the trail, we shared the road with hikers going up, and mules going down carrying our back backs. There is water and toilets until mile 4.5 after that it was 3.5 miles of the hottest environment I have ever been exposed to. 120°+ in the sun. When we reached the Colorado River the sense of accomplishment I felt left me speechless for several minutes. This was the Colorado. WOW. Then I ran to use the last real toilet we would see in many days!

We rafted 100 miles from Phantom Ranch mile 88 to Whitmore Wash mile 188.

This is called a Lower Canyon trip and it included Granite Rapid, Crystal Rapid, Hermit Rapid, Specter Rapid, and Lava Falls Rapid. These rapids are famous around the world. They are waterfalls within the river that are navigable on inflatable rafts, kayaks, wooded dories, or speed boats.

The Colorado is rated different than other rivers. Rapids are 1-10 vs Class 1-5. Most of the rapids we went on are 5-10. When we went all rapids were well above their typical rating. The water in the Colorado was flowing at a higher rate. Typically it is 17,000 cubic feet per second. When we were down there it was about 20,000 cubic feet per second. This does not sound like a major change, but adding that much water on a rapid that is rated a 10 on a regular day makes for challenging rafting conditions.

The oar boats are 8’W x 16’L –these have (1) guide and 3-4 guests. (2) in front (2) in back. Total weight of raft is between 1800 lbs – 2300 lbs. Depends on what it is carrying.

The boats carry food, camping gear, day packs, clothes, and drag bags with our booze. This is how any beverage is kept cold. Touching anything that is plastic or metal and has been exposed to the sun will burn you. Everything has to be soaked with river water before you touch it, including lifejackets. That is a challenge all on its own.

The waves in the 8+ rapids can exceed 10’ tall. The holes before the waves start were over 14’ deep. That means that the entire boat is underwater for several seconds before it breaks through the wave on the other side. Those are the moments when you don’t know if you will be swimming the rapid or rafting the rapid.

There are eddies, boils & up river winds that make it fairly impossible to have a relaxed paddle under any conditions. When the wind blows it is equivalent to a blow dryer set on high for minutes at a time. We started saying “Here comes the blow drier”. A few seconds later we would jump in the river climb back on the boat and wait the 5 minutes it took to be completely dry again.

At mile 188 we departed the Canyon via Helicopter ride and landed in Bar 10 Ranch. There we showered in an AC shower room with warm water and used a flushing toilet. We had lunch and took a chartered prop plane to Boulder City (home of the Hoover Dam) where we picked up a rental car and headed to see the other (3) National Parks in the area

 

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