The only way to deeply appreciate the Grand Canyon is within its walls and amid the raging whitewater of the Colorado River.
Types of Rafts
There are several raft types from which to choose – paddle, oar, motor, hybrid, and dory. Each travel at different speeds and provides unique experiences that cover varying miles per day. Motorized trips are the most common and available.
They cover the most distant for a selected length of time. Some float trips travel 280 miles through the Grand Canyon. They go from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead. Other tours take the lower or upper canyon or float for a specific number of miles.
There are overnight trips that involve hiking from the rim of the canyon to the water, where boats and guides begin a rafting trip mid-canyon. A helicopter can also place guests at the starting destination. Grand Canyon rafting trips sell out quickly.
Ideally, book a trip a year in advance to get the trip you prefer. If you are unsure about how to begin planning a trip, Advantage Grand Canyon has a free website that has data from the 16 rafting outfitters that allows users to filter by price, canyon route, raft type, and start/end dates to find and book the ideal trip.
Motor rafts are longer and powered by a quiet outboard motor. They are steered by a captain and cover more distance in a day than non-motorized rafts. Motor rafts have space for storage and about 15 people.
The difference in oar and paddle trips is who does the rowing. A guide rows the raft on an oar trip. Passengers row on a paddle trip. A hybrid trip rotates rowing among passengers. Dories are classic, rigid hardwood boats. They travel a bit faster than oar rafts and are rowed by the guide.
What to Take on the Trip
All personal items – a camera, sunscreen, hat, toiletries, water and hiking shoes, and clothes are the passengers' responsibility. The outfitter provides tarps, tents, sheets, pillows, sleeping bags, cots, snacks, meals, bathroom supplies, and dry bags.
Typical Day on a Rafting Trip
A day on the trip begins at sunrise. Guests hear shouts announcing hot coffee and water for tea as they stumble out of their tents, have a coffee, and pack up bedding. After breakfast, the group convenes to finish packing and load the boat assembly-line style.
About eight o'clock, everyone is sitting on the edge of the raft and watching the canyon walls towering above and anticipating the next big rapids. The group floats until lunchtime when the guide pulls off onto a sandbar and sets up a lunch spread.
Guests float for another hour or two before the guide pulls over to allow the group to explore a nearby waterfall or ancient ruins or take a hike up one of the gorgeous side canyons. The group encounters ten to 15 rapids each day.
In the larger motorized rafts, the guests are doused with cold river water, and their handholds are challenged. On the flat water, guides talk about the history of the Grand Canyon and the rock layers. About three in the afternoon, the group arrives at a sandbar to camp for the night.
Everyone helps set up the bathroom, kitchen, and hang out areas before finding an ideal spot for a cot. Guests then go for hikes or rest or play games until dinner is ready. When the stars peak out, the group retreats to their cots to sleep under the Milky Way.
Benefits of a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip
A Colorado River rafting trip in the Grand Canyon is life at its finest. Guests experience times of absolute serenity, moments of pure thrills, and a feeling of togetherness with the group. They experience a connection with nature.
All of this combines to create a life-changing experience. Guests learn about the geology and history of the Colorado River, make new friends, and form lifetime bonds. The group enjoys stretches of calm water and spectacular whitewater rapids.
They are encouraged to enjoy breathtaking scenery as they relax in the warm sun. For many people, rafting through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River is a dream come true. Beautiful scenery, dramatic contrast of calm waters and thrilling whitewater, guides that know the Colorado River, and spectacular meals combine for the adventure of a lifetime.