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.
A swallow skims the surface of the river, riding the air currents our boat stirs just above the almost still water. I see another pass above our heads, and another. The tiny birds dart in and out of the nests they’ve tucked back in the hollows of the Redwall Limestone that we dropped into early this morning.
This, like all limestone, is full of holes where the water it’s come in contact with has dissolved the calcium carbonate it’s made of. The holes range in size, some perfect for violet-green swallows with dark backs and white bellies to build their nests in, others forming cave systems miles deep.
In what feels like only minutes on the river, we come upon one of these—Stanton’s Cave, the entrance to which is now blocked by a large iron gate to prevent visitors from disturbing the rich archeological site that once contained artifacts such as 4,000 year old split twig figurines and the remains of ancient horses. Although the bars were put in place to protect this cave’s history, we learn that they had a detrimental impact on its present and future—disrupting and blocking access to the maternity roost of the largest colony of Townsend’s big-eared bats, and driving this species from the canyon. I’m reminded how easy it can be to marvel at the history of a place, or even our own pasts, and forget to appreciate the present. But, on the river, away from our daily lives, we live so much more in the moment.
Around the next bend, we stop at Redwall Cavern where the many children in our group (and the children at heart) play whiffle ball in the most epic stadium they’ve ever seen—an eye-shaped cavern that Powell claimed (in exaggeration) could seat 50,000. Here, it’s easy to see that the limestone named for its color is not actually red. Formed beneath the oceans that once covered this continent, its sediments were never exposed to oxygen, and therefore could never have rusted and turned red. This grey rock is stained by the iron oxide from the Supai Group and Hermit Shale that are deposited above it. I find a large rock that affords me a view of the river we’ve already traversed and write for a while about what it means to be named for a thing you’ve touched and listen to children’s shouts and laughter echoing off the cavern walls.
After Redwall, we continue on, visiting Nautiloid Canyon, where fossils of the modern nautilus’s ancestors are plainly visible and almost as interesting to our youngest group members as the tadpoles darting through a puddle nearby. The girls point out the tiniest tadpole and decide to name him Tim.
After a day of floating and sight-seeing, we finish with Nankoweap Rapid—not huge, but enough to remind us that we are here for white water. We are getting better at setting up camp, passing the pumpkins down the line to the beach, assembling cots, spreading chairs into a circle that grows with each person who joins it until the entire group is sitting together, playing music, telling stories, and reflecting upon the day. Eventually, we sleep. Canyon walls rise in silhouettes against the night sky, and we imagine what tomorrow will bring.
Did you take your first Grand Canyon rafting trip with Hatch? How about your latest? Your best? Tell us about it.
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Rapid by Rapid: A Hatch staffer’s first experience with white water rafting in the Grand Canyon (Part 2 – Nankoweap) was last modified: July 24th, 2015 by