I’m Jessica. I’m new to the Hatch River Expeditions team, and I just completed my first ever trip white water rafting in the Grand Canyon. Now, I find myself in the unique position of being able to tell you not only what a trip can be like, but what it’s like traveling 188 miles down the Colorado River as the most famous canyon in the world rises up and changes around you for the very first time. Over the next few weeks, I’ll tell you exactly what my trip was like, rapid by rapid.



Sunflowers taller than I am stand stark against the blue sky. Their red cores pick up the red in the sandstone blocks of Cliff Dweller’s Restaurant, echoes of the Vermillion Cliffs beyond. These cliffs are the first taste of what the Canyon will be like—their layered rock beds exposed to the sunlight and the open air.

It is hot here, and dry. Walking through dust and gravel with the sun beating down on my shoulders, it’s as though my skin thirsts for the nearby river.

Launch morning: I ride to Lee’s Ferry with the crew and stand in the water letting it cool my sun baked feet. I look forward to more. Soon our guests join us and form the first of many "duffel lines" they’ll use to load and unload the boats throughout the week. The pumpkin-like orange bags pass through each passenger’s hands and are secured. Each passenger boards, and we’re off.

In one mile, we reach our first point of interest, the Paria Riffle. The Paria feeds into the Colorado River just south of Lee’s Ferry, and when it "flashes" (often during monsoon season), it pushes silt into the main river, turning it muddy, but today our adventure begins on clear water.

Navajo Bridge

Navajo Bridge

We drift beneath Navajo Bridge, our last glimpse of civilization for the next few days, and our guide, Rachel, tells us the first of many stories: When they first built Navajo bridge, it was narrow, too narrow for two trucks to pass side by side—a bridge of accidents. In the 1990s, officials decided to remedy the problem and surveyed the canyon only to find Navajo’s original site was also the best. Now two Navajo Bridges stand side-by-side, one accommodating pedestrians, and the other cars.

Throughout the day, we learn about F.M. Brown an early expeditioner and strong swimmer who shirked the need for a life vest and drowned in a riffle downstream from Soap Creek Rapid, about Georgie Clark who spent 45 years running commercial trips and serving meals of unlabeled canned food, and about the driftwood deposited in a 1957 flood atop the unfathomably high boulder of Boulder Narrows, that remains to this day. There is so much history here; so many have run this river, and I find myself wondering about the stories we don’t hear.

We run rapids. Badger Creek, Soap Creek, Sheer Wall, House Rock. When we reach House Rock Rapid, Rachel tells us it will be big on the left, and pulls all the kids in off the side tubes where the ride is most rough. We drop in and plummet through the white-brown water, red walls flying by as we bounce over the waves, and then we hit it—the spot on the left she had warned us about. Two dads on the trip are on the left side tube. In between waves, one throws his arms in the air like he’s riding a roller coaster, then grasps for hand holds when he sees the wall of water we are approaching. The side tube flings into the air and the men aboard it hold on, one’s floppy sun hat flying from his head and catching around his neck by the chin strap.

In a moment it is over. We’re all still here. "Way to hang on over there!" Rachel yells from behind her motor box, steering us back into calmer waters.

A few more rapids and tidbits of canyon history and geology pass, and we set up camp. Tonight we will spend our first nights between the rising walls of the Canyon, listening to the rushing of the river.


Did you take your first Grand Canyon rafting trip with Hatch? How about your latest? Your best? Tell us about it.

Email your stories from the river to info@hatchriverexpeditions.com, and you could appear on our blog. Include your name as you’d like it to appear if selected and type "Stories from the River" in your subject header. Optional: If you’d like to include an original photo with your piece, send that as well and tell us whom to credit. Only photos for which you own the rights may be submitted for inclusion with your entry.

Rapid by Rapid: A Hatch staffer’s first experience with white water rafting in the Grand Canyon (Part 1 – House Rock) was last modified: July 22nd, 2015 by Jessica Clark

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