Updated: March 24, 2006
Rafting the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River
A rafting journey through one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is highly coveted and hard to come by. The Grand Canyon is the longest rafting trip in the United States, and definitely one of the most spectacular as well. While thousands of tourists visit the Grand Canyon Rim, and some even venture down the nine steep miles to the Colorado River, it is said that the only way to really experience the Grand Canyon is to float through it.
With limestone walls rising over 1000 feet from the canyon floor, side hikes to crystal-clear, turquoise swimming holes, incredible wildlife, and house-size rapids, the Grand Canyon is a one-of-a-kind adventure. From relaxation and quiet moments of observation, to heart-pounding, adrenaline saturated drops, such as the most famous rapid, Lava Falls, the river takes its travelers from one extreme to another. Many people say a whitewater vacation on the Grand Canyon is a life-changing experience, and everyone agrees it is definitely the experience of a lifetime.
People can choose to experience the Grand Canyon in a variety of watercraft. For more excitement, opt for a hard shell kayak, inflatable kayak, whitewater canoe, or a rubber raft. Three women even river boarded all 300 miles during the winter and made a film about it, Three Women, Three Hundred Miles. Dories can also be a delightful experience, and are rarely seen on other rivers, so many people say natural wooden dories are their first choice. Large, motorized rafts are an option for less athletic and less adventurous travelers.
The waiting list for permits is temporarily closed for private boaters and a new system is currently being negotiated. During peak summer dates, there is often a two or three year wait to reserve a spot on a commercial trip. So, if the opportunity arises for you to join a Grand Canyon trip, drop everything you're doing, pack your bags, and head to Arizona.
For more information about rafting the Grand Canyon, check out allaboutrivers.com's Colorado River page.
There are several places that private boaters and commercial trips put-in and take-out along the Colorado River. The most popular put-in is Lee's Ferry. It is also the only place in 700 miles along the Colorado River that you can drive your car right up to the river. Many trips consider Phantom Ranch the easiest half-way point. If there are people looking to leave or join a full-length trip, they can hike in and out of the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim. For a full 277 mile trip, the take-out is Lake Mead.
Directions to Lee's Ferry Put-In:
From Phoenix – Head east on I-40. Take the Hwy
89 North exit toward Page/ Grand Canyon. Continue 110 miles. Turn left
onto Highway 89A toward the North rim of the Grand Canyon and continue
for 15 miles. You will cross the Colorado River. Keep going for 9 more
miles. Turn into the Glen Canyon/ Lees Ferry Recreational Area.
It is recommended to hire a shuttle service to the Lake Mead Take-out.
Canyon REO is a great shuttle service that offers full-service on your Grand Canyon trip. They can also do food drops and equipment rentals.
Arizona River runners
Colorado River and Trail Expeditions
Diamond River Adventures
Grand Canyon Expeditions
Hatch River Expeditions
Moki Mac River Expeditions
Western River Expeditions
Wilderness River Adventures
Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.
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