We at Hatch want to share your “Stories from the River” on our website. Tell us about your trip, or even just a memorable experience from it–email your story to info@hatchriverexpeditions.com for a chance to be featured here on our blog. Check out Part 2 of our first guest submission below!

Grand Canyon Adventures (Part 2)
By Larry Barrett

Date: July 30, 2015

The adventure began at Lee’s Ferry, a river crossing opened in the 1870s. It sits 500 feet below the rim of the canyon above the river. Looking down from Navajo bridge to the river below near the put in is intimidating. We did not have to hike down. A wide road with many switchbacks allowed easy access to the river.

There, the Colorado River ran clear and cold just a few miles downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. In about a mile after the put-in the muddy Paria River entered reflecting rain storms of recent days. The Colorado River ran muddy for the rest of the trip, especially after the Little Colorado River joined us a few days later.

Our first real rapid was Badger Creek at mile 8 from the put in. It was rated at 4 to 6 on a ten point scale. I was a little apprehensive. I sat on the side of the raft, avoiding the front. I wondered if the guides would scout before rafting through. They did not bother. In fact, the only rapid scouted was the on last full day for the intimidating and historic Lava Falls. We glided through Badger rapids whooping and hollering and got only a little wet. Apprehension gone. Welcome relief.

By the third day I was sitting in front in what was called the bathtub, because one got a good bath in the rapids. Other times I shifted to the left side or the right side of the raft with cushioned seats. There were also pontoons on each side of the raft that one could ride like being on a horse. Curtis and I especially enjoyed riding on these outside flotation tubes which gave a good bounce and great views of the upcoming rapids.

We never lost anyone overboard except the third day through Granite Falls rapid. Mike was riding the pontoon behind Curtis for this category 7-8 rapid. The raft pitched right then left and Mike lost his grip just next to me. I tried to grab him but he was gone too quick. Our guide Tanner wheeled the raft around at the bottom of the rapid as Mike floated feet first down the side of the chute. Lena took charge with the help of a passenger in pulling him aboard by the life jacket, just as instructed.

We learned many facts about the river:

  • Depth from a few inches to 90 feet
  • Width from 76 to 750 feet
  • Speed of water 3-4 mph and 10-15 in steeper rapids
  • Average drop of 8 feet per mile
  • Covered about 188 miles in six days
  • Encountered 100 rapids
  • Flow of 18,000 to 22,000 cfs, which is above normal this season

The Grand Canyon is a gigantic geology lesson. It is hard to know where to start. Most impressive were the deposits of Vishnu schist at the bottom or the deepest parts of the canyon. These rocks are over 1.7 billion years old. Accompanying them would be Zoroaster granite, somewhat pink in color.

At the beginning of the trip we learned about the different layers with Moenkopi Formation about 250 million years old at the top of the canyon walls, then layers for the Kaibab Formation, Coconino Sandstone, Hermit Formation, and Esplanade Sandstone about 290 million years old. The deeper into the canyon the older the formations with amazing colors.

The Lava Falls Rapid was named appropriately for the lava deposits from 400,000 years ago. The canyon is believed to be about 5 million years old.

Lava Falls has the reputation for being the most serious rapid at a rating of 8 to 10. It was the only one scouted. After all the crew and most of the passengers got out to scout the rapids, Curtis and I decided to sit on the side most forward on the raft and nearest to the rapid. No one was allowed to sit on the pontoons. There was definite nervousness, indicated in part by the boisterous bravado of a few rafters. However, Lena guided us through in such great shape we wanted to go back for a second run. She accommodated by motoring upstream and then swinging into the first big wave. All were drenched again. It was exhilarating.

My favorite rapid was Crystal Falls, also rated 7 to 10. A friend had been through some years ago in four 16 foot rafts and two of them upset. So I was quite excited by the prospect of seeing this most serious rapid. And decided to ride in the bathtub at the very front of the raft. What a wild ride, holding on tight to the seat ropes, and bouncing from side to side through one of the largest and longest drops on the river. No problem. Piece of cake. Thanks again to Lena who took the rapids right down the middle with the biggest waves.

Wildlife was scarce. We saw pairs of big horn sheep about every day. No beavers were spotted although some of their homes were visible above the flood line. Swallows were abundant. A few hawks. No eagles. One rattle snake seen, another reported. No fish in the muddy water, except for one small carp on the last day.

Grand Canyon rafting - Nankoweap Granaries

Nankoweap Granaries (Photo Credit: Morris Outwater)

Each day featured several stops to hike into narrow canyons displaying amazing waterfalls and pools for swimming. One evening before dinner the guide led us to a Pueblo granary high above the river, where Indians stored harvested corn and other products. The location, Nankoweap, dated from 1100 AD on a cliff face 500 feet above the valley floor. The narrow path up the face of the cliff was enough for me to avoid future trails of a similar nature.

Half way through the trip we stopped at the famous Phantom Ranch. It is a long hot hike from the bottom of the canyon to either rim. Glad we could float in and avoid the hike. The campground was filled with backpackers and the restaurant was full of happy people.

Another hike took us through a narrow canyon to a dramatic waterfall. We were given an hour and a half to hike, see the falls, and simply relax. It was nice to contemplate and relish being away for a week from cell phones, computers, and TV. Most of us stretched out in the shade along shelves of rock lining the canyon. There was little talking, just quiet reverence for the wonders around us. After a while Tanner produced his guitar and sang a few songs with music echoing off the walls. Lena followed with a few numbers. It was sweet, relaxing, comforting, even spiritual.

Prepare for your own Grand Canyon Adventures by reviewing the Tips, Tricks, and Info section of our blog!

Stories from the River: “Grand Canyon Adventures” (Part 2) was last modified: August 3rd, 2015 by Jessica Clark

Back to Blog Home