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River Rafting in the Grand Canyon

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

On Day 2 of our Grand Canyon Trip, we woke up early in the lodge where we stayed on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and went down to the lobby to check in for our rafting in the Grand Canyon excursion.

After waiting for all of the participants to arrive, we boarded a school bus that took us on a long trek via bumpy forest road to the launching point on the Colorado River. Along the way, the bus driver made several stops where we could get out to take photos and enjoy the sights.

The driver said he's never seen so many of the plants in bloom.

Prickly pear cactus (opuntia).

Staghorn cholla.

Barrel cactus with blooming, leafy ocotillo ("little torch" in Spanish) in the background.

Some more leafy ocotillo in bloom. Fun fact: Hummingbirds pollinate its flowers.

Barrel cacti (one growing arms) with leafy and blooming ocotillo behind them.

After about an hour in the bus, bumping up and down the gradual descent, charging through a few water crossings (who knew our school buses were so off-road worthy?), we arrived down at the launch site for the rafts along the Colorado River. We gathered on the soft, fine sand with our assigned tour guide, Kyle, as he stuffed any of our belongings into a large dry bag and handed us our life vests.

In preparation for this rafting trip, we had a somewhat difficult time deciding what to wear, what gear to bring, what to not bring, etc., having never done anything like rafting in the Grand Canyon before. Even the night before in our hotel room, we put our heads together to figure out what made the most sense and avoid over- or under-packing.

All 3 of us purchased economical waterproof rain suits before the trip to bring with us on the raft, as was recommended by the tour company, but ultimately, because the air temperatures were quite warm the day of our rafting trip, we decided not to wear them.

The dilemma is that the air temperatures are warm to hot as long as you are in the sun, but the water temperature is quite chilly at 45º F year-round. And to be sitting on a motorized raft, drenched from head to toe for several hours, in and out of shade, can be uncomfortable. But just before we boarded the raft, we decided to "risk" it and just wear relatively quick-dry hiking apparel over our swimming suits and bring our rain suits along in the dry bag with a change of clothes.

The entire 40-mile river excursion would take 10-12 hours, from the time we left the lodge in Peach Springs to the time we returned, with around 8-10 of those hours being on the raft in the water.

During the first 12 miles on the raft, we got wet. And by wet, I mean drenched. Our guide steered, gunned, and pivoted the raft through a series of 8 rapids, as all 7 of us (plus, 1 guide) aboard laughed and shrieked with delight, guaranteeing maximum drenching. It was thrilling, but due to the constant water factor, I did not take any photos during this portion of the ride. (But I assure you, we all had a blast.)

With the exception of the hike to Travertine Falls – I did take photos of this side excursion. In between rapids, we pulled off to a sandy shore, exited the rafts, and climbed up the rocks, through the creek, up to Travertine Falls. It was awesome.

Everyone started the short, rocky hike up to Travertine Falls.

The rafters were of varying degrees of fitness, age, and desire for adventure, so some chose not to climb up to see the falls. Getting to Travertine Falls did require using a couple sections of rope ladders to pull yourself up (and then back down again to return to the rafts). But the rest of us did our best to maintain sure-footed steps and we were rewarded at the top.

We were already drenched from head to toe from the rapids, and this creek water was warmer than the river water, so it wasn't a tough decision to just walk through the water to get to the falls.

Travertine Falls.

Then it was time to carefully descend the rock faces back down to the rafts and continue on to the next rapids.

Once we got past the final rapids, we pulled the rafts off to a sandy shore once again to have some sandwiches and snacks for lunch, and of course, enjoy the view.

After the lunch break, the remaining 25 miles on the river were smooth, so it was much easier to take more photos and videos of the spectacular canyon views. It was also an opportunity to chat with our shipmates a little bit. I was seated next to a couple from Australia, who were on a 3-month trip to the U.S. We also had a couple from South Carolina on board with us. One of the other rafts had two life-long friends from Florida, and a father-daughter duo from Europe.

Near the end of our Grand Canyon rafting trip, we actually went past the Skywalk attraction that we had been on the day prior. It is the small "loop" jutting out from the canyon, as visible in the below photo.

As we neared the end of our tour, some of the shoreline "walls" were actively eroding into the river right before our eyes.

Reaching the end of the trip, we exited the rafts and boarded the school bus, once again, for the lengthy ride back to Peach Springs. A long day in the sun and fresh air can really wear you out, even if you're not hiking!

Since rafting in the Grand Canyon took pretty much the entire day (and then some), we were pretty spent by the time we were returned to the lodge, but we were thankful that the onsite restaurant was still open so we could have a fulfilling dinner before getting some much needed rest for the next day's adventures, which would entail driving to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and hiking and sightseeing on the Rim Trail... or so we thought...


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