“I’m going to play you something,” my rafting guide Mike said to me. It was just the two of us as my other raftmates were in the kayak. Mike, a 40+ year veteran of the Colorado River set down his phone near me in the raft and I heard the familiar sound of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons start to play. I had played this concerto many times as a kid when I was in the orchestra; it was one of my favorites. The violins echoed off the canyon walls, as we floated through the narrowest part of the canyon in the Granite Narrows.
We were the sweeper boat in our rafting entourage. Mike and I ever so slowly floated through this intimate part of the canyon; I felt as if I was inhaling the billion years of grandeur around me. It made me dizzy.
I looked back at Mike who had put his oars in the resting position allowing the gentle current to take us wherever it wanted slowly rotating between the narrow walls. The current showed us a blue heron that was perched on the canyon walls. The heron watched our yellow raft drift through the green river, and I imagined that even the heron enjoyed hearing Vivaldi.
I watched the dragon flies flit around us as the music felt like it was in sync with my beating heart. I felt like the narrow canyon walls were giving us a big hug…embracing us in its billion years.
We were just a little speck of time floating through this natural wonder called the Grand Canyon.
The Beauty of Rafting Through the Grand Canyon
My journey through the narrowest part of the Grand Canyon was just one of the many beautiful experiences I had over 10 days rafting in the Grand Canyon. There’s something that draws me to journeys in which we achieve a harmony with nature (I don’t think I’m alone in this!). It’s a way to slow down, simplify, and have our heart beat in sync with mother nature. This is the exact reason why I loved hiking the Camino de Santiago too.
I have always believed rafting through the Grand Canyon is one of the most epic journeys one can take in the in the United States. And in 2020 when all of my travel was relegated to the US, it was the perfect time to tackle this bucket list item.
Why is a Trip through the Grand Canyon so Special?
It’s one of the most popular national parks and tourist spots in the US, but few people go beyond its rim. And even fewer float through it. For those lucky people, they get to see what I think is the real beauty of the canyon – the Colorado River.
This powerful river takes you on a ride through some of the least visited parts of the United States. It’s a literal journey as you float through a slice of the earth, cut a mile deep into its core.
Go for the Geology
I never considered myself a geology nerd, I originally took this trip for the pure adventure. However, when floating through canyon cliffs full of smooth, black Vishnu Schist and learning that what I was looking at was 1.78 billion years old, it felt as if Mother Nature pulled back her skin and exposed me to a deep, meaningful part of herself. It was the beginning.
Tip: If you REALLY want to geology geek out on Vishnu Schist – go for it here.
Go for the Remoteness
Besides my guides and tourmates, I didn’t talk to another person for 10 days. Granted, thanks to COVID19 I had already spent a lot of time alone this year, but this isolation was different – this was like a mind cleanse.
I didn’t see the horizon for 10 days, it was always sheltered by the canyon walls. It felt as if I was a horse wearing blinders…it kept me focused and made me really concentrate on what was ahead of me. There were no distractions (except for the occasional fears darting through my mind!).
Normally I love wide open spaces and I ache to see big horizons. Instead, I traded wide open space for slot canyons, layers of cliff, and constantly moving water.
Go for the Adventure
I will never forget the roar of the first approaching rapid we did. It sounded huge and powerful in the distance, yet I couldn’t even see it. My nervous adrenaline took over as my grip on the rope in front tightened. I slid to the front of my seat and leaned forward as our guide Scott told directed us. And then you see it – the smooth, beautiful tongue of the rapid. It looks like poetry, so clear and smooth like glass. Yet that poetry propels you downward into the largest water chaos I had ever encountered.
Screams ensued. Cold water slaps you in the face reminding you that you are still alive. And then comes the laughter.
It didn’t matter if this was the first rapid, or the last of the day – or the last of the trip. This was how my mind and body reacted to each rapid in the Grand Canyon. I can’t remember when I had ever screamed and laughed in pure joy and excitement over the course of a week. It was the kind of screaming and laughter you have as a kid – unbridled, uncaring, and pure.
The adventure doesn’t stop at the rapids. The entire 10 days was filled with hiking, rowing, and camping adventures that tested me, my fears, and mind.
Experience a Unique Drop Pool River
As we headed for our first rapid, Horn Creek, Scott explained why the rafting in the Grand Canyon was so challenging based on water flows. It is a drop pool river – rapids are separated by calmer pools of water. The intensity of the rapids depends on water flow and speed, as well as water level which is always changing in the canyon.
Most rivers around the world use a class rating system from 1 to 6. However, in the Grand Canyon, the classes are more specific as they us a 1 – 10 rating scale. A 10 rating in the canyon is roughly equivalent to a Class V in the standard river scale. The quickly approaching Horn Creek rapid was rated an 8 with a 9 foot drop.
The rapids are spread out and at times the pools in between the rapids are several miles long. This gives you lots of time to recover and enjoy the canyon walls surrounding you. And it also conveniently gives you just enough time to dry off and feel hot again before you get to the next rapid!
The Horn Creek rapid was memorable to me, because it was the first. But as the days floated by, we saw bigger, louder, more tumultuous rapids that left me in awe of the talented oarsmen guiding us.
Grand Canyon Rafting Lottery & Commercial Trips
Interest in rafting the Grand Canyon seems to grow every year. The number of people in the canyon is limited for a multitude of reasons; the remoteness of the trip, the limited places to camp, and to keep the wilderness wild.
You can sign up for the weighted lottery with the park service here if you want to raft it independently. This process can take upwards of 12 years to get picked.
However, if you want to take a trip with experts (like I did), then you need to go with an outfitter (like OARS Rafting) who gets a specific number of those lottery spots for their commercial trips.
Doing a commercial trip is normally a faster way to get on the river than taking your chanced independently. However, even if you go with an outfitter like I did, there is still frequently a two-year waiting list for a commercial trip!
Being a Solo Traveler is a Benefit
This is one time when being a solo traveler is a benefit. It’s much easier to get a single space on a trip than if you have a group. In fact, normally the bigger group you have the longer you will wait.
I traveled solo on this trip and loved every second of it. Since it’s a group rafting trip you are always with people and the beauty is that you get the whole tent to yourself!
Other Tips for Getting on a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip Quicker
The more flexible you are on your dates the quicker you’ll get on a trip. If you can be flexible that means that you may be able to pick up on a cancellation at the last minute.
I asked the guides what the best time of year to get on a trip and they all agreed that early in the season (April/May) and late in the season (Oct) are the best times with the least demand. These times also offer fewer crowds, more mild temperatures and ideal conditions for afternoon hiking and evening campfires. I went in late September and I thought it was perfect!
I actually was lucky enough to get on a coveted trip by simply being on the OARS mailing list. I saw the newsletter in my inbox titled “The Trip That Might Just Change Your Life – Space Available!”. I opened it to find out they had last minute space available thanks to cancellations. I signed up about a month ahead of time and off I went to the Grand Canyon!
What to Expect When you Choose a Grand Canyon Rafting Tour
I must admit, I knew very little about the commercial rafting trips worked when I signed up. And quite frankly I still knew very little when I stepped onto the Bright Angel Trail and started heading down the canyon to meet the rafts! I of course had researched everything about gear and risks, but I knew very little about what to expect. As a writer I like to learn as I go so that I can capture the excitement of something new to me and not have preconceived expectations.
However, here are a few important things to know about the trip if you are considering it.
You Aren’t Rowing – The Guides Are
Rafting the Grand Canyon is incredibly technical and that’s why you aren’t doing the rowing! I think many people assume that you will be in a raft with 6 other people helping row and taking commands from a head oarsman – like many of the white water trips I have done in the past.
However, on this trip – you are along for the ride – and your job is to simply hold on tight and go to the high side when your oarsman tells you to!
Granted, there are plenty of opportunities to row in the pool section of the rivers. The guides are more than happy to take a break and let you try to read the river and master the oar work for a bit.
What is it like to row one of the 1,500 lb rafts? I can safely say that it’s nothing like what it looks like. The guides make it look effortless, in fact it looks fluid, calm, and it feels like poetry the way the oars hit the water, glide through, and with a gentle flick of the wrist the oars cut through the air and land in the water again with a little plop noise. I watched the guides row for long periods mesmerized by the repetition, ease, and sound.
“It’s like pushing a door open,” Mike said when he tried to teach me how to row while facing forward.
I clumsily tried to mimic the motions I had been watching and suddenly felt severely uncoordinated. I couldn’t even keep the oars steady or at the same height or movement. For me it was more like falling through a door than pushing a door.
Push rowing is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy – it’s not natural to our brain. You have to train your brain to do it and it take a lot of thought and practice in the meantime. Once you sort of do get the hang of it you realize that the rowing is less about powering through with big muscles, and more about reading the river current. (Which I also wasn’t too good at). It gave me an added appreciation for their roles and ability to guide us down river.
On my trip we also had a special treat (I don’t believe it’s normally available) – we had inflatable kayaks that we were allowed to use and even take it through some of the rapids if our head Oarsman, Cliff, deemed it safe enough.
Camping Every Night
I know this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but there are no hotels at the bottom of the canyon. In fact, there is nothing; no people, no structures, nothing. You will be camping every night. Most people in my group didn’t even bother putting up a tent and just slept under the stars on pads. However, I actually like tents – and I put up my tent every night.
That’s right – you are putting up your own tent, and lugging around your own gear. Don’t expect the guides to help or do it for you. This means you need to be comfortable with camping/roughing it or that you have a willingness to learn something new.
This trip is not cheap, but the cost doesn’t equate to luxury. The cost of rafting the Grand Canyon is because it’s one of the most remote places on earth inside the canyon.
I wasn’t sure how I would handle the camping element. I like camping, but it had been a while since I had done 10 nights of camping. However, I was pleasantly surprised – it was just what I needed – what most of us need. I was sleeping 10 hours a night, not looking at my phone (there is no connection in case you were wondering), and I didn’t have any cares about the world outside of the canyon walls. I quickly lost track of day of the week.
Each night I fell asleep looking at the stars through my tent ceiling while being lulled asleep by the sounds of the rushing river. It was Mother Nature’s white noise, and all I could think about was how much I would miss the sound when I was out of the canyon. It was like listening to gravity.
This is an adventure that puts things like sleep and slowness back into perspective.
Toilets and Hygiene
If you haven’t camped much in the past, this is normally the part that people are most worried about. The National Park Service has rules around Leave No Trace camping, which means NOTHING is left behind.
Welcome to the Groover
Remember how I said that this wasn’t a luxury trip? That means that you will need to get comfortable with going #2 in the Groover. Before you freak out…just know that this is the best bathroom view you will ever have.
So maybe instead of being grossed out by the thought, embrace it.
Quite frankly, the toilet situation was waaaayyy better than I was expecting – at least for #2. The only problem was sometimes the line in the morning! If you want to get all the details on the Groover and the ‘bathroom rules’, as well as how it got it’s name, then check out this Guide to the Groover from OARS.
In a way, this is the one thing that you can leave behind. However – you can’t leave it anywhere on the land which means you’ll be peeing in the river. Since it is so hot in the canyon and there is very little rain, you cannot pee on land, the beach, or behind a bush because the whole place will end up smelling like a toilet. And no one wants to camp in a place like that.
The general rule seems to be “If it’s liquid, it can be sent downstream.” This might not seem like a big deal…if you are a man…however as a female, this was probably my most disliked part of the ‘roughing it’.
I know, I know – you are probably thinking…Sherry, what’s the big deal? Well, the temperature of the water is between 45 and 50F. This is because the river water flows from the bottom of Lake Powell behind the Glen Canyon Dam when it is released upriver. It’s a strange contrast when the days in the canyon are blistering hot and the water flowing through the canyon is frigid cold.
There isn’t much privacy in the river since the camps are right along the riverbank and the guides all sleep in their boats by the one stretch of riverbank which is where you normally want to pee. This normally meant that as a female – you needed to go into the water waist deep to pee if you wanted ‘privacy’. Brrr.
I was able to get over my fears of having no privacy pretty quickly. In the middle of the hot day it wasn’t bad to have to wade into the water to pee – it was refreshing. But at the beginning and ending of the day, I would wade out shin deep near the rafts where all of the oarsmen slept and simply tell them to look the other way. It’s a bit odd since they are essentially strangers at first, but necessity helped me get over any shyness pretty quickly.
The only place to ‘clean up’, wash your hair and body was in the cold river. It was a pretty intimidating proposition, but it needed to be done. I would bathe in my swimsuit in the freezing cold water as quickly as I could while the sun was still out to try to soak up any heat rays I could!
Food – It’s Not What You Think
Remember how I’ve been telling you that this isn’t a luxury trip? Well, this is the one area that you can expect not to ‘rough it’. Even though we were experiencing the remoteness of a backpacking trip, there is the ability to bring luxury kitchen amenities because the rafts can hold so much. The food the guides cooked was phenomenal. I had no idea that I would be eating so well in such a remote area.
We had pork green chili, hamburgers, mac & cheese, stirfry, peanut chicken, grilled fish, corn bread, steak, mashed potatoes, lasagna, garlic bread, ribs, brownies, and even carrot cake…yes…cake. Each night I was absolutely amazed at what food was laid out in front of us. By the last night I wouldn’t have been surprised if they pulled out ice cream!
It was evident the guides took a lot of pride in cooking. They were masters of dutch oven cooking (which is where our corn bread, lasagna, cake, and brownies came from). From how they set up the ‘kitchen’, hand washing stations, dishwashing area, and the appetizer table – it was a well-oiled machine. We all helped in dishwashing, but other than that, we didn’t lift a finger and ate incredibly well.
Hiking in the Grand Canyon
One of the parts of the trip I was most excited about was the hiking. By rafting through the Grand Canyon you are able to get to places you’ll never see any other way than by rafting in. Not only did we get to hike the famed Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim down to the river (a knee splitting 9 mile hike down), but we also hiked into remote slot canyons, and up to incredible waterfalls. We hiked practically every day – some short little jaunts, and some long extremely challenging hikes.
The one thing I was surprised about though was how challenging the hikes were. Some were downright risky, but with the risk, you got reward. Practically every hike was a scramble in some way; navigating over large boulders, or though knee deep water. I wasn’t able to do all the hikes thanks to a fear of heights that I couldn’t quite conquer on some of the trails, but I tried to go as far as I could as long as I could.
Grand Canyon Waterfalls
I used to think that New Zealand was the land of waterfalls, until I went into the Grand Canyon. The waterfalls were magical throughout the Grand Canyon, and I know we only saw a handful of them. One of my favorite days was at Deer Creek Falls at mile 136.9. The 187 foot high falls were spectacular and powerful.
As some of our group hiked up in to Upper Deer Creek Canyon, I decided to stay at the base of the falls due to some very intimidating sounding ledge hiking. I walked into the warm pool of water surrounding the base of the falls and took some pictures at first. Then I laid down in the sun on the rocks near the pool of water and proceeded to take one of the best naps of my life.
Sadly, due to the pandemic still raging on, we were not allowed to go to the most famous waterfall – Havasu Falls. It lies on the Havasupai land which allows no visitors during the pandemic.
Grand Canyon Rafting Guides
One of the many things that surprised me on this trip was the culture. I know what you are thinking – what is the culture of a canyon that no one lives in? Well – of course there is Native American history there. Archeological evidence suggests humans have been living near the Grand Canyon for approximately 10,000 years. Our guides were very knowledgeable about this history and kept us well informed.
However, the culture I hadn’t considered was the Guide culture.
Guiding in the Grand Canyon is a culture all to itself. We happened to have a guiding team of all men, but there are plenty of female guides in the canyon – just none working on our trip. There were 13 customers, 8 guides, and 6 rafts. The guides seemed to have their own language at times, they were all easy going, and incredibly hard working. Cliff, our head guide was fascinating. His father was also a long-time guide and author of multiple books about the Grand Canyon. Cliff was also studying to get his PHD in nuclear engineering. I spent one afternoon learning all about his thesis on molten sat reactors – basically the process of using salt as a coolant instead of water at nuclear plants. This was a conversation I never expected to have in my life let alone while in the Grand Canyon.
Scott had the best laugh and was a retired sheriff who was full of charismatic stories. He knew the area around the canyon better than anyone. He also knew all the stories of people gone missing around the region, etc. It was Scott who I always wanted to be with when we were going through the biggest rapids. He was like a little kid – so excited and full of laughter – even though he had conquered these rapids hundreds of times. I was in Scott’s raft while going through Crystal Rapids when we nearly flipped. There was a moment in time where it felt like everything stood still as we teetered on a large wave not sure if we were going to make it over or if it would flip us backwards and upside down. It was one of my most memorable moments of adrenaline-fueled rafting!
And then there was Mike, who I had my special ‘Vivaldi moment’ with. He has been guiding for 42 years. He has his own dory and he calls the canyon his ‘home’ – it’s his happy place. Financially he doesn’t have to do this – he’s retired, but he runs 4 trips a year because he loves it inside the walls. He knows every piece of the canyon in detail. It’s a commute he’s done for 42 years.
“My wife knew I had a mistress, she just didn’t know I’d be with her for 42 years,” Said Mike as we floated through the Granite Narrows.
Mike’s love for the canyon is so evident, and I loved riding with him in his raft hearing his stories. He was like the Cliff Claven of the canyon – he seemed to know every little intricate detail and minute fact. I mentioned that I liked the dragon flies flitting around us and he spent the next 10 minutes telling me every obscure thing about them. Did you know that dragon flies live the majority of their life in water, or that they fly backwards, or that they are fierce predators?
He talked about how his goal is to turn each of us guests into wards for the canyon’s protection. He certainly had me turned into a ward by the end of the trip.
Mike reminded me of another great adventurer I met in my travels – Rodney Russ and his deep love for Antarctica and the pledge we took when we crossed the Antarctic Circle.
COVID19 Safety in the Grand Canyon
OARS is a family-owned business who has been operating on the Grand Canyon for decades. Through the years they expanded into MANY other rivers and adventures. However, like all of my beloved adventure travel industry, the pandemic hit their business hard.
From the moment I put down my deposit with OARS, the COVID safety protocols were delivered to me and put in motion.
New Screening Measures
Five days before your trip, I was required to sign and complete OARS Health & Hygiene Pledge, stating that I was healthy and would abide by OARS protocols and participate in all screening measures. These screening measures include:
COVID-19 symptom questionnaire and temperature check prior to travel, at the pre-trip meeting, and daily for the duration of your trip to ensure there hasn’t been any changes in health among the group.
- Social distancing with anyone you didn’t travel to the trip with
- Wearing a mask at all times except for when you are on the raft. However, if you cannot social distance in raft with a party you didn’t travel with, then you should wear a mask.
- All guests must bring a minimum of two reusable/washable face coverings such as a bandana, cloth mask, or neck gaiter and be prepared to use a clean face covering each day.
- Each guest is expected to adhere to the handwashing protocol in camp. From my experience – it was one of the best hand washing protocols I’ve experienced. Washing station were placed very conveniently at every point of contact. You were even required to wash your hands before filling your water bottle or thermal coffee mug.
- OARS removed communal snacks and appetizers from their menus, and instead of buffet style serving and make-your-own-sandwich lunches, all meals are served by your guides. That’s right – they even put your mustard on your sandwich for you. Guests did not touch any food.
If interested, you can further watch the OARS video regarding their COVID protocols here.
However, the proof is in the pudding. Did I feel safe during my 11 days on this completely outdoor trip? Yes, I did. Our group was great at following all of the rules and the guides were a great example and keeper of the health of safety. The guides needed these trips to run safely just as much as we wanted them to run safely.
OARS Successful 2020 Season
OARS proved that it is possible to put in place great protocols to deal with COVID19 and still operate on 2020.
“With our last river trip of the 2020 season officially off of the water, all of us at OARS are breathing a collective sigh of relief. Thanks to our loyal guests who put their trust in us, a stellar team who was able to “go with the flow” and new protocols that worked—like a Health & Hygiene Pledge, pre-screening protocols, enhanced sanitation procedures, and measures to maintain as much physical distance as possible—we were able to “stay float” during the COVID pandemic.
We had some close encounters with the virus, but we’re proud of the fact that to the best of our knowledge out of 4,492 adventurous guests and more than 300 dedicated guides, drivers, and support staff who joined us for our abbreviated season this year, not a single person contracted COVID-19 on an OARS trip.”
The part that makes the Grand Canyon trip a bit more challenging is the evacuation process in a remote area. However, they had a plan for how they could isolate anyone with symptoms until they could be evacuated safely. You can read their detailed mitigation plan here.
Risks For the Solo Traveler
The rule around only travel in a raft with your family or group you came with is a bit challenging for a solo traveler like myself. OARS asked me ahead of time if I was willing to go in a raft with another couple. I could still be socially distanced while riding in the raft (one group in front and one in back), but the interaction was still inevitably increased.
For me, I decided the risk was minimal and agreed to that. The fact that all of the protocols and temperature checks were in place prior to arrival and daily, and that the entire trip was outdoors made me agree to the additional minimal risk. Then when I found out the couple I was paired with were both doctors, I honestly felt even better!
Obviously this comes down to an individual decision for the solo traveler based on your situation.
Gear to Bring for Rafting the Grand Canyon
This was one trip that actually took a fair bit of forethought and planning when it came to gear. Luckily, OARS provides a extremely thorough gear list as well as videos on how to pack. As you can imagine, with limited space on rafts, the packing protocols are pretty strict.
You can find their gear list here – Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek or Lake Mead Packing List. Here’s some additional things I would recommend.
You can rent a sleep kit (sleeping bag and really nice, thick sleeping pad) from OARS for $50. I did this and thought it was totally worth it to not have to lug that on a flight and then have it take up precious space on my hike down the Bright Angel Trail into the canyon.
Hand and Foot Cream
Bring really good hand and foot cream. They warn you how dry it is in the canyon, however I don’t think you can imagine it until you are there and it feels like someone is pointing a hot hair dryer at you for 8 hours a day. Look for creams that have labeling such as healing, therapeutic, salve, for rough cracked skin, etc. I can’t stress this enough – take really really good hand and foot cream. This is what I used:
Use true water sandals while you are on the raft. They dry quickly during lunch which is nice. Some people in our group brought water tennis shoes and didn’t have a 2nd pair of camp shoes which meant at night when it would get chilly – they still had wet heavy tennis shoes they had to wear. They said it was miserable. I brought a pair of Chacos for in the boat and around camp until it got cold, then I had a pair flip flops that I could wear with socks and were always dry and easy to slip on. I also of course brought proper hiking boots but those were kept in a separate bag in one of the gear boats and only used when we went on hikes.
Of course – bring a hat! I also suggest bringing Mineral sunscreen/facestick for your face. I normally use this for surfing because you spend so much time in the sun and water, but it’s perfect for a trip like this too.
Vegan and Reef Friendly (Octinoxate & Oxybenzone Free) Broad Spectrum Natural Sunscreen with UVA/UVB Protection | .45 oz
I took a pinless clothesline, but didn’t really use it. I normally dried stuff out on bushes and rocks and my tent.
I found that I normally wore these lightweight hiking shorts from Title Nine all the time. They are really light and dry so fast. I normally wore the shorts with with my tankini top in the raft and used a really lightweight pashmina to put over my shoulders if I thought I was getting too much sun. Plus the pockets had zippers for anything important.
When it came to keeping batteries charged for photography, I decided to forego that solar charging, and instead go for a really great external charger and good battery management protocol on my part. I bought a RavPower battery bank that could fully charge a phone up to 4 or 5 times. I also put my phone on airplane mode as soon as I started hiking down into the canyon. Quite frankly that makes a huge difference already in battery saving. I got in the habit of not looking at my pictures every time I took one and I still had charge left on the battery pack at the end of the trip! I also used it to charge GoPro batteries which run out quickly.
26800mAh Power Bank Battery Pack Tri-output External Battery Pack Cell Phone Charger Compatible with iPhone 12 & Samsung Galaxy S20 for 4 to 5 full charges.
How to Book a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip
Expect a waiting list. But if you get on it now, the sooner you’ll get on this epic journey!
Learn more here
Or call them directly at 800-346-6277 to speak with one of their knowledgeable adventure consultants. (Note – I had Joy and I loved her!)
OARS has a number of options regarding length of trip, and type of boat (Dory or Raft). I did the Phantom Ranch to Diamond Creek trip. This allowed me to do another bucket list item of mine – hike from the Grand Canyon rim to Phantom Ranch at the bottom!
A Dory is a wooden boat with a narrow, flat bottom, high bow, and flaring sides. I will admit that after I learned more about the Dories from our guides and read about them in the book The Emerald Mile – next time I would definitely take a Dory if I had a choice.
Grand Canyon Rafting Books
Even though I had signed up at the last minute, I still managed to read a few books before and after my trip about the Colorado river and the epic journeys through the Grand Canyon. Here’s ones I would recommend. Whether you go on a Grand Canyon Rafting trip or not, these are excellent books that enthralled me about the Western United States, exploration, water rights, and adventure.
Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River by David Owen
This is where my fascination with the Colorado River started. This book follows this powerful river from Rocky Mountain National Park, through the headwaters in Colorado and to it’s terminus. Every gallon that flows down it is owned or claimed by someone and you’ll learn the history of how it all came to be as well as the current water concerns that are actually in our news headlines today.
The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko
This was my favorite book I read all year. Any adventure junkie would love this book about the fastest trip through the Grand Canyon. The book was some of the best writing I had encountered. Kevin Fedarko’s ability to describe a split second in time with such details, accuracy, and words. Kevin slowed it down a rapid to miliseconds, and that is what good writing is about. I wouldn’t have appreciated this as much if I had read it before the trip. Having experienced the rapids and then reading about the little details made me appreciate the fast moments even more.
Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon
This book was written by our guide Cliff’s father – Michael Ghiglieri. This might seem like a bit of a morbid book, but I was totally enthralled by the stories. He writes about the ‘911 mentality’:
“Guests to the Grand Canyon often make the assumption that help will always be immediately forthcoming when they place themselves in harm’s way. Such visitors suffer from the misguided belief that a national park is a close cousin to an amusement park. The realities is that Walt Disney did not have a hand in constructing the Grand Canyon and the inherent risks associated with this park are unbelievably real.” – Ken Phillps Former Chief of Emergency Medical Services GCNP
We Swam the Grand Canyon: The True Story of a Cheap Vacation that Got a Little Out of Hand by Bill Beer
I didn’t actually read this book yet myself. However, our guide Cliff said it was his favorite book written about the Grand Canyon (even above the books his dad wrote!). He read excerpts to us at camp occasionally. It sounded crazy…and fascinating.
Belknap’s Waterproof Grand Canyon River Guide
This is the ultimate river guidebook. It takes you through ever rapid and bend in the river. Plus it provides a reference on wildlife and plants in the canyon. It’s a must to have with you. However, OARS sends every customer one, so if you signed up for a trip with OARS, you’ll have it in the mail shortly!
A Great Journey Ends, But it Stays With You Forever
I know that everyone wanted 2020 to speed up and be over with. But I just spent the last 10 days slowing down watching the world go by at 5mph. I didn’t want it to end.
See all of my photography from the Grand Canyon Trip
Feel free to ask me any questions you have in the comments below! I’m happy to answer from the perspective of a past rafter!