Multi-day Whitewater Raft through Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon, one of the US' most popular national park, is beyond description, but I'll try. MASSIVE: the canyon can be as tall as a mile...STUNNING: the red rock formations delight with each twist and turn and glow like fire at dusk and dawn…CHALLENGING: you can observe the canyon from up above, but to really appreciate its nuances requires paddling and hiking and that's what we are going to do today. Everyone should SEE the Grand Canyon, but NOT everyone should raft it. Check out the podcast episode (click the player button above) and read below to see whether this trip is suitable for you.
The Colorado River, over billions of years, has carved this amazing canyon that runs 277 miles (446 km) through the state of Arizona in the Grand Canyon National Park. The river can be 4 -18 miles wide (6.5 – 29 km) and the canyon walls almost 6100′ (857 m) high. You can raft the entire length on a 14-16 day rafting trip, or do either the Upper or Lower canyon sections (the Lower section being more, shall we say, challenging!), but to do the sections, you will need to hike in or out on Bright Angel trail, which is a challenging hike. The Upper Canyon trip takes 6-7 days and the Lower Canyon trip takes 9-10. You can also opt for motorized boat rides if you don't have the time, money or inclination for one of these longer adventures.
Come along as we explore rafting and hiking the Grand Canyon with our guest, Mike Grainger of Canada. Mike paddled the Grand Canyon's entire length at age 58. On his hybrid trip with his non-paddling wife, guests were able to choose multiple options to go down the river: you don't paddle at all on the dory or oar boats (the Captain does), but those physically fit will get exercise paddling the paddle raft. On Mike's trip (info in the FREE Travel Planner), you can choose to do all of the above throughout the adventure.
Here's a great video taken on the shorter trip to give you an idea of what to expect. Note the whooping and hollering, some trepidation and lots of thrills and laughter. You can HEAR the joy and happiness in their voices throughout their adventure! You'll experience it all when you raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Note this video also shows some footage of the hike on Bright Angel Trail (a difficult hike that you have to do if you don't paddle the whole canyon).
What's the weather like?
April: High 80-85F (26-29C) Low in mid 50's Often windy but rain is unlikely.
May: High mid-80's – mid 90'sF (29-32C) Low mid 60′ (18-20C) Change of season so can be transitional: cold and rainy OR warm and dry
June: High 110-115F(37-46C) Lows mid 80's (23-29) Hot and dry with some chance of rain. Hottest month.
July: High 100-115F(37-46C) Lows mid-70's -mid-80's (23-29C) Monsoon season so rains offer a reprieve from the heat.
August: High upper 90's – 100F (35-43C) Lows mid-70's -mid-80's (23-29C) Monsoon season so rains offer a reprieve from the heat.
September: High 95-105F (35-40C) Lows upper 60's (18-20C). Monsoon begins to taper and ends clear and comfortable.
October: High 80's (26-29C) Lows mid 50's (10C). Rains and wind plus shorter daylight.
Can I do it?
If you go the entire length, you don't have to be in strong physical shape if you ride in one of the oar boats or in a dory boat. You still need endurance for sitting half a day and for the heat and sun. If you are in a paddle boat, you'll need good core strength and upper body strength as well. If you do the partial rafting trip, you will need to hike the Bright Angel Trail which is quite difficult. It takes around seven hours and there is a 4400′ elevation change with an average 10% grade. Remember you HAVE to bring all of your clothes and gear, plus the day's food and most of your water, so this is a challenging hike, especially in the heat.
Usually the minimum age is 12. Usually NO EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED but check with your outfitter. Here are the National Park Service approved outfitters.
This is a trip of a lifetime and is VERY popular! Plan well in advance: a year or two is NOT too early! Be sure to pick up a copy of the FREE Travel Planner which can help you with the logistics of planning your trip with lots of active links to save you TIME!
Great family, friend or even a business bonding experience!
Many people form their own private group. Adventure travel in and of itself is quite a bonding experience. It is not uncommon for strangers who meet while on an adventure trip to form lifelong friendships.
You can reinvigorate your own relationships by forming a private CUSTOM group where you do something like whitewater rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. This adventure is perfect is you have mixed physical/mental abilities because each person can adapt his or her trip according to their own comfort levels. Some can paddle the whole trip, some can just take a thrill ride for the whole trip and others can mix it up!
Some highlights of my interview with Mike (scroll to the bottom to read the complete transcript with time stamps or listen on the Podcast Player at the top of this page):
15:24 Mike describes Upper and Lower canyons
17:28 Mike flips out of the raft on the Horn Creek rapid!
20:26 Lava Creek rapids
24:16 Grand Canyon rapid ranking scale
26:25 The physical and mental requirements for this adventure
28:15 A typical day
30:25 What are the people like on this trip?
31:41 Rafter's duties and chores
34:32 Concerning wildlife, bugs and the sun
38:29 Was it worth it?
Here's the complete transcript of the Active Travel Adventures podcast (#ATA for short) on whitewater rating the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon National Park. You can click the Google Translate button on the bottom of the page to translate to your native language if it is not English.
Kit: 00:00 What can be 18 miles wide up to a mile high and 277 miles long? I'll give you a hint. A river carved down the sides exposing two billion years worth of geological history. That's right! Today we're going to the Grand Canyon. We're going to whitewater raft the entire length plus takes some day hikes when we are not out on the water. Welcome to the Active Travel Adventures podcast. I'm your host Kit Parks. .
Kit: 00:37 In 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon, he said the Grand Canyon, “Fills me with awe, is beyond comparison, beyond description, absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it is now. Do nothing to mar its grander, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve upon it, but what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you as the one great sight which every American should see.”
Kit: 01:08 Well said Teddy! Located in the great state of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is the United States' 15th national park. The Grand Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the great wonders of the world.
Kit: 01:23 The mighty Colorado River, over billions of years, little by little, carved away the rocks, the soil and the sediment to create this magnificent gorge that should be on everybody's bucket list to see.
Kit: 01:43 To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little overview of the trip?
Mike: 01:48 Sure. My name is Mike Grainger. I live in Waterloo, Ontario Canada. I'm 64 years old and I did the full rafting trip of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 2011. I had a bit of whitewater rafting experience prior to that. Nothing too extreme but I really enjoyed it and I was able to talk my wife into coming along. We did this quite late in the season, the last trip of the season, starting mid October and then continued into the first of November.
Mike: 02:25 And one of the reasons we're doing it at that time was that we got a discount. And I'm always interested in discounts. But there were other good things about it, too, because it's quite a bit cooler at that time of year, which makes it much more pleasant for the hiking aspects of the trip.
Kit: 02:43 On most adventures I generally recommend that you do not bring any cotton. However this trip is an exception because of the heat, and the chance of heat, particularly in the summertime, I would recommend bringing long sleeved cotton shirts and lightweight pants. That way it will help keep the sun off of you. It holds the moisture and coolness a little bit better and would be a little bit more comfortable.
Kit: 03:07 So that's pretty cool : you're not just white water rafting, you're also going to hike. Is that correct?
Mike: 03:11 That's right. Generally speaking, at least with the commercial trips, they're not going to have you in the boat all day. Generally you're looking at an average of four hours a day in the boat and the rest of the time you're going to be getting out and preparing meals, and consuming meals, and other than that you're going to be doing the hiking… some of it's going to be really close to the river level and other times you get up thousands of feet above the red river level. And those longer hikes, you definitely do not want to be doing that during the hotter times of the year. You're just not going to be able to take the heat.
Kit: 03:53 What kind of heat were you getting in October?
Mike: 03:57 Well when we were there, the temperatures as you can imagine fluctuate quite a bit through the day and overnight. We're getting down near freezing at that time of year and in the daytime temperatures might get up to 60… 70… maybe, as far as on the river level you're not going to get above that. But as you go up above the river, temperatures climb. But even when we're getting up higher on hikes, we weren't getting anything higher than 80's, whereas if you were doing that June -July- August, you'd be looking at temperatures over 100 degrees.
Kit: 04:33 I want to point out something about what Mike just said if you travel in the shoulder season- early spring or late fall- you'll get the savings on the adventure itself. However if you don't already own the gear, the heavier duty sleeping bag and puffy jackets and all that, your savings might be eaten up in buying the supplies. So keep that in mind when you're planning your trip. Remember there's no Holiday Inns along the river. You will be camping.
Kit: 04:55 What kind of water temperatures were you looking at Mike?
Mike: 04:57 At that time of year, ice cold water. Now one of the things that we did prior to going on the trip, we went with an organization or a company called Arizona Rafting Trips and they are a well-established company that's been doing it for a long time. And one of the things that that they give us is a kit list and a couple of pieces of equipment that we didn't have previously that we bought (neoprene booties and neoprene gloves) and they came in quite handy. You know with that cool of water you want to bring lots of layers. You want to have a river bag with a dry set of clothes so that if you do bounce into that cold water, you can quickly get changed out of your wet clothes and back into dry. On the river itself, most days it's pretty nice but some days if you were picking up a stiff wind, it could get quite cold.
Mike: 05:59 There are people who are sitting in large boats not actually being physically active and pretty uncomfortable didn't have enough warm clothes on. I was usually in the paddle boat paddling and there staying warm is not so much of an issue.
Kit: 06:16 I understand there's lots of ways to get down the river. You can oar boat it, raft it use the dory boat and even a motor boat. And you used the raft, is that correct?
Mike: 06:26 We were on what they called a hybrid trip. So we had a number of standard oar boats. I can't remember whether it was 3 or 4, or something like that. We had one oar boat ,and we had a paddle boat so in the paddle boat we had six paddlers on them, and people rotated in and out of the paddleboat. The keener you were to paddle, and the better you were weaselling your way in, the more often you got to be in the paddle boat. Some people never went in the paddle boat. Some people just went one time just to have the experience and some of us were in it as often as we could get there. The Dory boat was another interesting alternative that you want to have a chance in. You're not paddling in that, but it's a much smaller, more agile craft compared to an aluminum boat.
Mike: 07:19 Originally it was modeled on Portuguese fishing boats and over the years has been modified for running the rapids in the Grand Canyon. It's been made wider and lower, but they're excellent because they have to have a lot of storage capacity on them, and they are a more exciting ride than the bigger rafts. So if you are passenger in that you're getting a bit of a thrill ride without actually having to do the paddling yourself.
Kit: 07:54 Can you tell us a little bit about the different vessels so that we understand what the different options are there, please?
Mike: 08:03 OK. Well, an oar boat, because it's going to be an inflatable raft, a fairly large inflatable raft, and you have one of the boatmen, the professionals, is manning two large sweep oars. One in each hand, and they do all the steering of the boat. So they might tell the passengers or warn them, “OK we'll, get down!” to make sure that you've got a good center of gravity and low. They might direct the wings to lean one way or another in the boat. But in terms of navigation propulsion of the boat, that's all up to the boatman and the passengers are along for the ride. Now besides passengers they're carrying a lot of gear. You have to be entirely self-sufficient on these trips. So they're going to be carrying all the food and everything has to be packed out there so food gets consumed, but there's still garbage and human waste to be packed out of there and they have a lot of compartments there and of course you've got all your camping gear sleeping bags chants etc. so that all that has to go somewhere, drinking water and all that kind of thing. That's your oar boat.
Kit: 09:19 In our last adventure to Cassi, I reminded folks that they need to bring a bag to pack out their used toilet paper. When you do this Grand Canyon adventure, you're not just packing out your toilet paper, you're also packing out your human waste. So if you're a bit squeamish about that this may not be the adventure for you. Now back to Mike.
Mike: 09:41 Those boats can be, those rafts can be motorized so that you can go down the canyon faster. Fewer days makes for a less expensive trip which is going to be more popular with some folks. Then, say, the Dory boats are made out of aluminum. They have a boat shape as opposed to sort of the round raft shape. You have a single boatman who is running that. And you'll have room for maybe four passengers on it. The paddle boat is a smaller inflatable raft. And you don't have any cargo on it. A captain is at the back of the boat, six paddlers on each side, and the captain is responsible for the navigation of the boat and he's reading the river. And when you're approaching rapids, he gives commands to the paddlers to position the boat where he wants to enter the rapid, and use commands to maneuver the boat as required going through the rapids to avoid big holes, standing waves, things like that. He'll shout out a command.
Mike: 10:58 It might be ‘paddle forward', ‘paddle back' or he'll say ‘right forward' or ‘left forward' and the paddlers have to understand, on each side, what to do based on the command he's given. You may have something where the paddler who's closest to the captain will shout the command or repeat the command so all the paddlers hear it clearly. When you're getting it, when you're in really heavy rapids, it can be very noisy and it would be easy to have the captain's voice drowned out to a certain extent and the command not clearly heard by everybody. It's important that paddlers understand what the commands mean and they react to the commands instantly if possible because if the Captain sees alright if we don't change direction quickly, we're going to be upset by the river feature that we're coming into. Another command that he might give is ‘high side' which means that there's danger of of boat flipping.
Mike: 12:06 So he wants everybody to get the weight shifted over to the side that's about to be flipped up over to keep it down, if possible. So that kind of gives you an idea. The differences between the boats when you go on that sort of hybrid trip you can be someone like me who is looking for as much paddling action as possible, or you can be someone like my wife who had no previous whitewater experience whatsoever. She'd never been in a raft before and she had a good time going down the river in the oar boats primarily, although she did get in the dory a couple of times. She never went into an oar boat… not interested in paddling herself.
Kit: 12:50 I love how on this hybrid trip you're able to choose that day what kind of ride you feel like doing. Whether you want some excitement or you'd rather sit back and let the captain do all the work doing a hybrid trip allows for couples and families with different activity levels and adventure levels to participate in the same adventure but at their own skill and comfort level.
Mike: 13:11 Now you mentioned safety. And you are given a pretty good briefing about what to do if your raft is upset. The basic idea is: don't panic. Understand that the staff, the boatmen, are professionals and understand how to do a rescue if necessary. But most of the time all that's going to happen is you go in the water and you're going to come out and see where your boat is and you're going to come toward it and their going to come towards you. If it's necessary, they'll throw you a line. One of the things that they did say was that you should, as you're coming up, you should have your hands up above your head. Well if for some reason you have to come up right underneath the raft, you simply walk your hands out in any direction so that you come up from under the boat. That was basically the instructions we were given.
Kit: 14:14 Were there were you or your fellow passengers ever thrown from the raft?
Mike: 14:21 Yeah I had an interesting experience. Just to give you some background on what the whole view of the trip is you're going for 226 miles on the river through the Grand Canyon and that's called the Full Canyon Trip. Takes, at the time we did it, it was a 16 day trip. Apparently at other seasons with longer days, maybe different water flow, it can be done in 14 days. Also a 16. During that time you're going to go through roughly 50 significant rapids and maybe half a dozen pretty serious rapids Class IV Class IV+. There's also an option to do just the first half of the canyon for just the second half of the canyon. And the people who want that option they hike on the Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch and that's where the switch is made.
Kit: 15:24 If you don't have time to do the entire length of the trail an option is to do a two to a five day excursion. However this does require a very difficult hike on the Bright Angel Trail. This trail runs about four to five hours with 4400 vertical change of elevation and it's over seven and a half miles. There is the possibility of a mule to either pack your stuff or to pack you. However those get booked up like a year in advance. You can't necessarily count on that. If you choose to do the Upper Canyon which would be an 88 mile rafting trip, you will have to hike up the trail if you do the Lower Canyon which has that more aggressive rapids and 192 miles you hike down the trail. And don't forget for each. You have to carry your water food and your belongings. So this is not a good option for somebody that's not in pretty good physical shape. Rafting the entire canyon is an option for people that are not quite as fit.
Mike: 16:33 So when we had gotten through the first half of the canyon and did the changeover, we had a number of new people join us there. And our boat captain Brad Demmick, an extremely experienced boatman, he'd been on the river for 35 years and in that time he'd never had an inflatable boat or a raft flip on him. Never happened. And I guess maybe that gave him quite a bit of confidence, probably rightly so. He took on the paddleboat after the change over. Three new people who had never been in the boat before and there were three of us who had been in a quite a bit up to that point. And he went over the diving command. The newcomers did a little bit of practicing and then we headed off down the river. And in a fairly short distance, seven miles or so, you come to one of the major rapids called the Horn Creek rapids.
Mike: 17:28 It's one of the trickier ones to navigate. In some of the rapids, you just enter them in the right place and you'd just take the ride. There's not a need to do much maneuvering while you're actually in the rapid. But in the Horn Creek rapid there's a couple of obstacles that you have to actively avoid. Brad gave us the commands. Our team just did not respond fast enough, strongly enough, so he didn't get the movement out of that paddleboat that he needed and we highsided. And I was on the high side… got driven down into the river. So I'm off the boat, down the river, and it's pretty much completely black.
Mike: 18:13 I've got my, I couldn't see any light at that point, so I put my hand up above my hand and wait for myself to surface and wait, and wait a bit more. Then start to think to myself, “You know, I'm thinking that I have to breathe again sometime.” So screw this putting my arm up in the air and I start pulling for the surface as hard as I could. And I was very happy man when I broke the surface of the water. And once that happened, the drama was pretty much over. I've got back into the boat relatively easily and we got off on the shore, and change of clothes, dried out. And really the only long term casualty was my waterproof camera which, waterproof or not, I was down deep enough that it forced some water in, and it kind of worked but the was condensation in it, so most the pictures from then on weren't that great. I don't know how deep I was. I'm guessing I was probably somewhere between 20 and 30 feet. That was exciting enough.
Kit: 19:15 I'll bet! I'm sure your adrenaline was racing. Tell us what it feels like to go through the rapids.
Mike: 19:20 Well we went through a big rapid when you hit a standing wave in the front end of the raft goes up in the air. That's exciting! There's a lot of whooping and hollering going on. When you're in the regular oar boat or the dory boat, you're just along for the ride, and it's just it's a thrill ride. You know like a roller coaster. When you're in the paddle boat, you're having to, as well as the thrill of the ride, there's also all the tension and the excitement. You don't want to screw up. You want to make sure that you're on the ball , that you're listening to your Captain, that you interpret what the captain saying correctly, that you respond immediately. And one little added ripple I had when I was in the paddle boat was that one of the guys was in the boat was pretty deaf.
Mike: 20:09 He would sit right up next to the captain. But even then I wasn't sure he was always getting the command. So even though I was sitting furthest away from the captain I would immediately bellow the command. This was a craft just to be sure that this guy got it. He was a really good guy.
Mike: 20:28 But the slight hearing loss some point is a bit of an impediment. The other really exciting thing is that there is the most famous and I guess you might see an intimidating opponent rapids on the river's Lava Creek Falls. And it doesn't happen until about Mile 79. So for much of the time you're on the river you know that you've got that ahead of you. That was pretty exciting because what you do there is, before you get there, you pull off to the side. And in our case it was Brad Demmick, the paddle boat captain. He got out and had his boat crew with him. And you hike along and you get up onto over sort of lava warmed rocks and you get up on the big rock that overlooks the river. And he scouts the river and takes a look out… it makes judgments about where he thinks the best place to enter it is, where is the best the best part of the channel to be in as you're going through.
Mike: 21:36 And he's got a walkie talkie and he reports back and then sort of the most experienced and confident of the other boatman will take the raft through and see whether Brad's reading of the river made sense. Then you watch them go through and get bounced around pretty good. If they get through all right. And then you have the the other raft go through and so on and so on, and then finally we in the paddle boat went through last . And we did have one of the rafts flip there. But it wasn't us this time. But again we had no difficulty rescuing the people. We've had lines set up along there so that we were able to get a line out to the people in the water and get them into shore pretty readily.
Kit: 21:36 That rapid sounds super exciting! About how long is it?
Mike: 22:33 Well, I don't remember how long it is in distance, but it does it is pretty long but you go through it so fast, it's only about 20 seconds.
Kit: 22:42 When they say falls are we talking a big drop? What are we talking about?
Mike: 22:48 Well they call it falls because, first of all you have to understand that the Colorado River going through the Grand Canyon is almost just a flat water river. There is very little actual elevation change compared to most whitewater rivers… maybe about a quarter of what it is on many whitewater rivers. And it isn't really at any steeper than the River Lake in Missouri which most people don't consider to be a river that you would do any rafting on at all. What makes the rapids is where you've had side streams that empty into the Colorado. At certain stages of the year, they have extremely high flow rates and they wash huge amounts of debris into the Colorado which has the act of narrowing the channel at that point. And that's what's increases your river speed and that's what also these various huge boulders and beds of boulders that wash in provide some of the obstacles that create your holes and your standing waves.
Mike: 24:00 So there will be, a place like Lava Falls will be an actual drop in elevation that is more than you typically get and the channel has been narrowed by debris. You've got both those things operating. So it's not like a waterfall, It is as you see it, more like a series of rapids that you're going through.
Kit: 24:25 Most whitewater rapids are rated on a grade of one to six with six being impassable. The Grand Canyon has a unique rating system of one to ten and you'll hit most of those on this adventure. So do you consider the second half of the river the more challenging half?
Mike: 24:41 Well I think well obviously Lava Falls is in the second half and so is Horn Creek rapids and they are two of the worst of them. So actually if you did the first half you would avoid those but you're still going to hit some class 4 rapids. But, if you're in the oar boat the chances of you coming out of that oar boat are very very small.
Kit: 25:10 I've been to the Grand Canyon but I've only seen it from the top. Can you describe what it's like when you're down below looking up? What does the landscape look like?
Mike: 25:15 Oh it's fantastic. When you're going through some of the narrower part of the canyon just looking and seeing how the river is framed by the rocks and points and there are some areas where it is just really cool looking just the rock is just really cool to look at. You can see the different layers of rock that you know the color of the rock, the directions, whether it's sort of the horizontal or vertical, whether there's fault lines, those change in layers. It's always changing and it's always exciting and interesting. And some of these side canyons that go up you go for little hikes up. Sometimes you walk on trails beside the canyon sometimes you're actually walking up the little streams. Some of it will be water in the side panes of little pools where the water's a bit warmer and you can just sort of soak your feet in them for a while. It's pretty cool.
Kit: 26:19 What kind of physical shape do you need to be to do this kind of trip and do you need to train for it?
Mike: 26:25 Well if all you want to do is just go down a canyon in the boat, you don't need to be particularly physically fit. Obviously you have to have reasonable fitness but nothing that's dramatic… nothing that's out of the way. If you want to do the hiking then you need to have good health and fitness. Because you're dealing with a situation where you're going to at some point reach a fair amount of elevation and you're going to be and these are not constructed trails. So there's going to be a certain amount of walking over rough uneven terrain. And you don't want to hold the group up. The group wants to move at a fairly good clip.
Mike: 27:12 And you have to be able to deal with, depending on what time of year you go, you might be dealing with quite a bit of heat and dehydration. So some general hiking fitness is probably worthwhile. Now if you're wanting to be actually in the paddle boat, then you need to have quite a bit more upper body fitness and it helps if you obviously you have the better. And also you need good core strength. You don't want to be straining back muscle, abdominal muscles, et cetera. So you need more fitness to be doing that. But then again if you're going in one of the motorized rafts, you're not going to be out there as long either. Besides physical fitness, I guess you have to say there's a certain amount of mental fitness required because you're potentially 16 days on the river and that's kind of what there is.
Mike: 28:15 There's the river, and the and the canyon, and the other people in your group, and not a whole lot of outside distraction. And you start the day by getting up and helping make breakfast, eat breakfast, and take down your tent. Everyday you load the boats up. You do a couple of hours, maybe two to three hours on the river and then stop and you get out the table and equipment you need to prepare lunch, make lunch, do some sort of activity, maybe go for a hike and then another hour or two on the river. someone gets out a guitar for a singalong. group travel situation is going to be some folks who really enjoy some not so much. And you've got to a certain you go alone.
Kit: 29:27 Mike's description of the idle times reminds me a bit of backpacking. I'd wondered before I first started backpacking, “What am I going to do in my downtime?” I mean, I'm hiking anywhere between six to 10, 12 hours a day, depending on the day. But you've got all this leftover time. You don't have any electronic devices. You're out in the middle of nowhere. I was shocked to find I was not once bored. I think Mike is saying the same thing here in the Grand Canyon that for some reason when you're out in the wilderness everything just fascinate you and relaxes you. And it's not like anything I've ever experienced. But I was definitely never ever bored in the wild. That being said you need to seriously consider your ability to be out on the river this length of time. There are very few options to getting off the river outside of, of course emergencies. So you are once you're on, you're pretty much committed for the route except for the one or two exit points.
Kit: 30:25 Speaking about the people in the group can you tell us a little bit about them?
Mike: 30:30 First of all you're not going to be doing this trip unless you can afford certain financial investments. I know you don't want to hear dollar figures as it dates it, but it's not huge, but it's not insignificant either. So right away that puts a certain limit on who's going to be doing it. So you're going to have more professionals, etc. than the general population. Now they tend to be people who are interested in life, looking to challenge themselves, looking for new experiences. People of both sexes, all ages. I was practically the oldest person on that trip. At that time I would have been late 50's and there were people I'd say into the early 70s on that trip. People from North America but also people from Europe, as I say generally speaking nice people. But there is always going to be some people who are maybe a little bit too Type A, too focused on their experience and not focused enough on how their actions impact the group.
Mike: 31:41 It is always interesting to note that after a day or two you can sort of identify who's who in those different categories. This was a trip where you can't expect the boatman to do everything. There's work to be done, there's gear to be loaded and unloaded, there's food to prepare, there's cleanup to be done. It was interesting to see how there are some people who are always right at the front of the line to pitch in and some people who for some reason or other always seem to have something else they're engaged in at the time and just sort of missed the opportunity to help. I'm sure they would have helped if they were there in just in the right place at the right time but it just didn't happen that often.
Kit: 31:41 That seems to happen a lot in life, doesn't it? How about the night sky? There must be very little light pollution.
Mike: 32:31 I have to admit I'm by no means an astronomer but if if that was your thing it would be a great place to be. Yes that nice sky was fantastic. Some of the boatmen knew quite a bit about it and were able to identify all the different constellations and planets and stars. It's a great place to view them. It's really a beautiful place to be on those beaches as you're going down there. It's just great. It's interesting too that each year some beaches and campsites get washed away and some new ones formed, so for the trip operators, there's always a fair amount of adaptability, flexibility, planning required to make things go smoothly.
Kit: 33:25 Speaking of outfitters, the National Park Service has a list of pre-approved quality concessionaires that have permits to run commercial river rafting and boating trips down the Colorado. I have a link to that on the ActiveTravelAdventures.com website. In the Travel Planner for this episode, I'll have the recommendations that we got from Mike today too as well.
Kit: 33:46 Do all the outfitters camp at the same campsite so at night all the different rafting companies are all camping in the same area, or do you split up?
Mike: 34:03 I think they try to avoid that. These beaches are not very big, and they try to keep impact as low as possible. Now I really don't know for sure because I don't think there were any other commercial groups on the river at the time of year that we were there, the last half of October. So it's possible that at other times of the year and more peak periods, that you end up sharing. But I would say that generally speaking, they would prefer to give you an experience where you're the only group on that particular camp site.
Kit: 34:32 Were you able to see much wildlife while you're out there?
Mike: 34:35 Well there's birds but tell you the truth I didn't see a whole lot of critters. That was not something that made a big impact on me.
Speaker 4: 34:42 How about bugs?
Mike: 34:45 Bugs were not issue.
Kit: 34:47 So what do you have to be concerned with?
Mike: 34:49 Really you have to worry about sun exposure and temperature regulation. And that is mostly what your issues were.
Kit: 35:00 Did going on this trip change you? And if so, how?
Mike: 35:06 Well I'll be honest here. I don't really think will change me a whole lot.
Mike: 35:09 I guess I've already had a propensity for pushing myself physically, and for taking on new experiences, and taking on a certain amount of risk, and this was just kind of in that vein. But at the same time, it is definitely a highlight of things I've done. For someone who had maybe this was their first step into something with this much commitment, this much isolation, I can see where we might see more of alife changing event.
Kit: 35:46 Where most of the people on this trip experienced rafters, or were they first timers?
Mike: 35:54 All over the place! Some of them were, I would say, with considerably more experienced than I was. Some of them no experience. So that was a very broad spectrum as far as experience goes. Whitewater rafting experience is not required at all to go down the Colorado, the Grand Canyon.
Kit: 36:16 Let's talk again about safety and what kind of risk there are with the different vessels.
Mike: 36:22 Well when you're in the full sized inflatable rafts with a boatman, I would say that the risk level is pretty low. It's never going to be risk free though because of the river changes, the flow rate level changes quite a bit. Rapids can change from year to year based on new debris brought into them, the side streams that bleed into it. Even professional boatmen are human. They could make a mistake. So you could be someone in all of those rafts and flip. And if everything went wrong, you could die.
Mike: 36:59 So it's not risk free. On the other hand, I mean at the risk level being pretty darn low.
Kit: 37:08 Let's review again the safety and the risk involved depending on which kind of boat you're on.
Mike: 37:18 I don't see it as being a particularly risky activity. If you're in the dory it's probably a little bit riskier, just because the dory is more easily upset. But again, probably if you're in the dory, the boatman in charge of it is highly skilled and is not going to do anything stupid and you're probably going to be fine. Paddleboat is riskier because the Captain is only giving instructions. He can't carry out the instructions and he's got amateurs, and the amateurs are much more likely to make a mistake. And it's a smaller craft and it's more easily flipped. So the risk of getting in the water is considerably higher, I would say.
Mike: 38:04 But even if you're flipped, things would have to go pretty wrong… you'd have to somehow be knocked unconscious. Because you're you're going to come to the surface and there's going to be someone there to help you when you come to the surface. So there's there's a level of risk there and definitely higher than it is for oar, but again, I don't think it's outrageous.
Kit: 38:29 We mentioned before that this is an expensive trip. Looking back was it worth every penny?
Mike: 38:35 Yes definitely! You know, you're talking 16 days here. All meals and accommodation. So you know I don't think it was out of the way at all for what you get.
Kit: 38:51 So would you say you'd have to be really sharp physical condition to do this trip?
Mike: 38:56 No, not really. I think that it's something that is well worth doing and it's very accessible. If you think that you would like to do it and you can afford to do it then why DO IT!
Kit: 39:13 Our thanks to Mike Granger for sharing his experiences whitewater rafting the Colorado River to the Grand Canyon. You can see his photos and get more information about this epic adventure at the ActiveTravelAdventures.com website. It's titled Episode 9: White water rafting the Grand Canyon. On that page too, you can click on to get the FREE travel planner that will help you plan this trip for yourself or that comes automatically if you sign up for the newsletter. There's a button on the website there so you can do that as well. I would like to ask you all favor on both this episode's website and that podcast directory page. I've got a short quiz that takes less than 2 minutes probably less than a minute. It's completely anonymous but you get a little bit more information so giving you the kinds of trips that you want to learn about it takes an awful lot of time to put these programs together. On that page too, you can click on to get the FREE Travel Planner that will help you plan this trip for yourself, or that comes automatically if you sign up for the newsletter. There's a button on the website there so you can do that as well.
Kit: 39:51 I would like to ask you a favor on both this episode's Web site and that podcast directory page, I've got a short quiz that takes less than two minutes, probably less than a minute. It's completely anonymous but it helps me get a little bit more information so I'm giving you the kinds of trips that you want to learn about. It takes an awful lot of time to put these programs together, so if I'm going to do it, I want to make sure I'm giving you what you want. So if you could please, show me a little love, and take a minute or two to fill that out and let me know what you want to hear.
Kit: 40:17 Also a couple other things: I did figure out what was wrong with the Australian episode. Somehow the server deleted it but is now back online. So Episode 4: Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, hiking in the Daintree Rainforest, and whitewater rafting the Tully River is now available online again, and on and on your podcast player.
Kit: 40:35 Also I had a little glitch on the Mont Blanc website page and I re-did that. I did not realize when I re-did the page it was going to rerelease that so I apologize for that. Now I know that, it shouldn't happen in the future. Anyway and if you haven't listened to it, it's a great episode so please listen to the Mont Blanc episode that accidentally got released on Sunday.
Kit: 40:56 I can see from the statistics that this podcast is now being listened to in 27 different countries, many of which are not native English speakers. If you are a non-native English speaker, I would like to let you know that each episode podcast web page has got the complete transcript of this program for you. Just scroll down to the bottom and there's a Google Translate button. You can push that button and it should do a pretty decent job of translating the program for you if you need a little help. Anyway, I wanted to you know that.
Kit: 41:24 Make sure you subscribe. I have got some killer interviews coming up that I don't want you to miss. I will be back in 2 weeks for our last episode for 2017. Until next time. Adventure On!
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