Grand Canyon By Raft

While Google Earth may be perfect for finding out which of your neighbors’ hot wives sunbathes in the nude, it falls short when you want to do something more exploratory; like if you want to see the Grand Canyon for example…

Grand Canyon is one of those iconic American landmarks that most people want to see, but few actually make the trip until later on in their lives. And for obvious reasons; G.C. is boring. Even giving it this fancy acronym didn’t help. Other than just looking at it, there isn’t all that much to do. Or is there?

Well in 2007, the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened to the public, giving visitors an opportunity to see the canyon while on a glass bridge, 70 feet out from the edge, and 4000 feet above the nadir. And while it’s a really cool way to see the canyon, where you really want to be, is in a raft on the river below.

The Colorado River stretches for 277 miles between Lake Powell and Lake Mead, and somewhere during your trip down the river you may get the feeling that you’re on a drunk date. Things turn pretty intimate, pretty fast, as the Grand Canyon exposes its most breathtaking landscapes to you and just a handful of your companions. You’ll see parts of the canyon that there’s no way of seeing other than by raft.

grand canyon colorado river

But I feel I have to warn you, that since this is an outdoor adventure, the finer things in life you’re probably used to, like a toilet seat, or Facebook, will be unavailable. With that in mind, you can plan how long you’d like to go for. The better rafting trips are usually over 3 days long, but you can find trips anywhere from 1 to 18 days in length to suit your budget and free time. The shorter trips however don’t involve hikes, and don’t pass through the wildest parts of the river.

The upper part of the canyon is narrower and perhaps more visually interesting. Trips here usually take 3.5 days by motorized boat, and 5.5 days by oars. The lower part of the Grand Canyon takes 4.5 days by motor and 6.5 by oar and is quite a bit more adrenaline-filled.  The motorboats hold up to 20 people and offer a smoother ride through the rapids than the oar-powered rafts. But since the guides do the rowing (for a few months straight during the peak season), you can expect them to be strong enough to carry you down the Grand Canyon if the Colorado River dries up.

If you want to get more involved, there is also the paddle boat option where passengers actually pitch in with the paddling. So, if you’re considering Rowing the Atlantic, this could be a good practice. It’s also a lot more exciting on the rapids, because of your hands-on involvement.

The Grand Canyon is rated Class IV with a few Class V rapids and numerous Class I – III rapids. But to put things into perspective: the minimum age is only 12 years old and most trips organized by the top outfitters do not require any previous rafting experience at all! So for those of you a bit intimidated by the rating of these rapids; don’t be! This is a great way to see a landmark that attracts millions of tourists annually, but from a side that only a few thousand ever get to see.

The duration, prices, and options differ from outfitter to outfitter, so compare several companies and options before making your decision. For example, some outfitters will supply you with everything you need, while others may leave it up to you to prepare your gear. Some outfitters have the option of hybrid trips. These trips typically have a combination of oar boats, motorboats, and paddle boats, letting you decide for yourself, which one you want to be in, for the different stretches of the river.


Best Time To Go:

The season usually runs from May to September when Northern Arizona is warm and dry. The busiest months for commercial trips are July and August, when the more frequent rain storms make the rapids run wilder, but because the Colorado River is dam-controlled the water isn’t ever too wild.

Bragging Rights:

Michaelangelo – not the Renaissance painter/sculptor, but the Ninja Turtle. Sure he’s a brave BA, but he could never take on the bosses on his own.


There are a variety of packages provided by different organizations with prices ranging from $900-$6,000 based on the length of the trip and comforts provided. Take into consideration what kind of side-trips and modes of transportation are included in the price, and what kind of supplies are provided. For about $2,000 you can probably find yourself a very good package. Also, search for special deals and promotions before ordering. For example, in 2010 Wilderness River Adventures was offering discounted kids rates for all rafters through their “Be a Kid Again” promotion.

Insider Tips:
  • Go on some side-hikes, if not for the scenes, then to find some solitude from the guides and travel companions and to go #2.
  • After registration for the trip you may still need to make a few arrangements, like purchasing beverages and duffel services. Unless you arrange for duffle service in advance through the mule-ride outfitters, you’ll have to carry all your stuff on your back.
  • Here’s a tip from Fodor’s: “Some outfitters will provide gear-like lifejackets, sleeping bags and tents, not to mention the all-important dry bags. The extreme wet, sandy, and sunny conditions mean you’ll need to bring essentials like a rain suit, sun block and hat, bathing suit, bandana, sundries, and layers of fast-drying clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. A waterproof camera is a plus, even if it’s a disposable one.  Remember that you can’t restock along the way, and because of the dry environment you’re more likely to wish for comforts like extra contact solution and lotion than for an additional change of clothes.”
Learn More:

Here are some big names that offer Grand Canyon rafting trips:

[expand title=”Photo Credits:”]

Toilet Paper:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *