Grand Canyon Rafting - Colorado River

Lee's Ferry to Pearce's Ferry
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Length:  280 miles, shorter trips possible; 1 to 21+ days
Class: III-IV
Gradient: 7 ft/mile
Permits: Required, through a lottery (held in February for following year) or follow-up lottery.

Season: Year Round
Shuttle: 9 hours/ 330 miles
Recommended Flows: 5000 to 40,000+ cfs at Lee’s Ferry
Flow Information: 3 day forecast

Length:  280 miles, shorter trips possible; 6 to 21+ days

Class: III-IV
Gradient: 7 ft/mile
Season: Year Round
Recommended Flows:
5000 to 40,000 cfs at Lee’s Ferry
Shuttle: 9 hours/ 330 miles; much longer in the winter
Flow Information: 3 day forecast
Permits: Required, through a lottery (held in February for following year) or follow-up lottery.

Overview

While some argue the Middle Fork Salmon is the best multi-day river trip in the west, a Grand Canyon rafting or kayaking trip is the best multi-day river trip in the world. High volume whitewater rapids and a multi-week trip are the initial draws. The exquisite scenery and countless side hikes are the most memorable parts of the trip. A whitewater rafting or kayaking trip through Grand Canyon is a truly unique experience. The key is how to get on a trip. Many commercial companies are booked years in advance, and the weighted lottery system is not easy to win so plan ahead.

When to raft the Grand Canyon

One of the most common questions is when is the best time to raft the Colorado River. The obvious answer is whenever you can get on a trip. That being said, it is really about personal preference. The spring has wild flowers, milder temperatures and tends to be more windy particularly in May. While June and July are hot and dry until monsoon season start, meaning the Little Colorado is typically clear and a highlight for many.

Monsoon Season

Monsoon season of later July and August cools down temperatures some and can lead to amazing sights of hundreds of waterfalls of different colors cascading into the river and typically the highest water of the year. Unfortunately, this rules out certain hikes at times due to lightning and flash flood concerns. The fall is cooler, a little dryer and the days are shorter. As a result the dry hikes more fun. Winter can be cold with sections of the canyon where the sun never reaches the river, however there are less people on the water.

Trip Options

While spending two to three weeks on the river is one of the special aspects of this trip, there are options for one, two, three, and four day trips. If you are not sure what trip you want to do consider contacting a booking agent like Rivers and Oceans. They work with outfitters that offer all different types of trip so that they can make organizing a Grand Canyon rafting trip much easier.
 
To see the whole canyon but in less time, people will take a motorized trip. Others hike in and out of the canyon at Phantom Ranch to be able to do a week long trip. Flying in or out by helicopter at Whitmore Wash is also an option. For those flying in at Whitmore, it is possible to do a 3-day trip.
 

Taking Out

Finally there are the options of taking out at Diamond Creek which is quite expensive and can get washed out during rain storms or adding another 50+ miles with some fun rapids and serious flatwater rowing to Pearce Ferry. The Hualapai Tribe offers one-day trips from Diamond Creek downstream with a helicopter ride out of the canyon.
 

Resources

Outfitter Spotlight

Rivers & Oceans (928) 526-4575, Since 1987, We have worked with and booked trips for ALL the OUTFITTERS IN GRAND CANYON. We are your resource for Grand Canyon Rafting including 1-day and 2-day trips.

Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in at Lees Ferry

Put-in at the Lees Ferry. The right side of the beach is for private trips and the left side is for commercial trips. The rangers will show up to check your pfds and make sure you are bringing all the required equipment.

Mile 17.1: House Rock
This is the first big rapid with some big features on the left that cause boaters trouble. Scout on the left.
Grand Canyon Kayaking - Colorado River's House Rock
Scouting House Rock
Mile 20.7: Rapid Roaring 20’s
 A fun splashy series of rapids. Watch out for Georgie’s Rapid (mile 24) and Tiger Wash (mile 26.8).
 
Mile 33.3: Redwall Cavern
One of the iconic spots on the river. This huge shelter is worth a stop.
Colorado River Rafting and Kayaking in the Grand Cayon at Redwall Cavern
Redwall Cavern
 
Mile 61.5: Little Colorado River
Seeing the sparkling turquoise-blue water contrast with the red and tan walls of the canyon is a sight to see.
 
Mile 77.1: Hance Rapid
The first and one of the more challenging rapids of the Granite Gorge. It is commonly scouted on river right. However, there isn’t much time to relax. Downstream are a couple other big rapids, Sockdolager (mile 79.1) and Grapevine (mile 82.1).
Runnig Grand Canyon Whitewater - Hance Rapid
Hance Rapid
Mile 88.1: Phantom Ranch Boat Beach
After going under a foot bridge there is a large eddy and boat beach on the right. From here it is a 10 minute walk up Bright Angel Creek to Phantom Ranch. People hiking in and out of the canyon at Phantom Ranch typically leave from the Pipe Creek Beach (mile 89.5) saving 1.5 miles of hiking along the river.
 
Mile 90.8: Horn Creek Rapid
Horn is the start of the biggest series of rapids within the Granite Gorge. Scout on the right, pull in high to be sure you can get back out to the middle line. Next is Granite Falls (mile 93.9), scout on the left. Hermit (mile: 95.5) can also be scouted on the left. In July and August this rapid flips many rafts. If you can make it down upright or upside down it is an unforgettable ride.
 
Mile 98.2: Crystal Rapid
This is the most notorious rapid on the river. Flipping in the hole at Crystal can lead to an ugly swim through the boulder garden below. Scout on river right. This is the start of the Gems, a fun series of rapids including Tuna, Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Emerald, Ruby, and Serpentine.
Rafting Crystal Rapid on the Grand Canyon
Pulling Right at Crystal Rapid
Mile 131.1: Bedrock Rapid
This is a common scout on river right. Avoid going left of the rock island by pulling right. Just downstream is another tough rapid Deubendorff (mile 132.3) which is typically scouted on the left.
 
Mile 134.3: Tapeats Creek
The hike from here up to Thunder River is probably the best hike in the canyon. A fantastic kayaking side trip is running Tapeats Creek Gorge.
 
Mile 150.2: Upset Rapid
The last big rapid above Lava Falls. Scout on river right.
 
Mile 157.3: Havasu Creek
A classic side-hike with beautiful turquoise water and impressive travertine formations. The common destination used to be Beaver Falls. However, the Havasupai have done a much better job of marketing their canyon and Beaver Falls is a now a busy place. Plus there is typically a reservation ranger collecting fees of $50 per person.
Havasu Canyon - Grand Canyon Rafting and Kayaking
Havasu Canyon Beaver Falls
Mile 179.7: Lava Falls
Big fun! The most iconic rapid in the world. Scout on the right at lower water and on the left at higher water.
Grand Canyon River Rafting Lava Falls
Lava Falls - a little far right
Mile 187.4: Whitmore Heli-pad
Some commercial trips exchange people here.
 
Mile 225.9: Diamond Creek Take Out

A common take-out. Diamond Creek flashes yearly causing groups to have to go to the lake. This really means Pearce Ferry which is now above the lake. There are some fun challenging rapids downstream: 231 Mile Rapid, 232 Mile Rapid (worth scouting), and 234 Mile Rapid. Below Separation Canyon the river gets flat with minimal current – happy rowing! Outfitters typically have a jet boat meet trips at Separation Canyon for a fast, thrilling ride across the flatwater.

Mile 280.7: Pearce Ferry Take Out

Don’t miss the take-out. Just downstream is Pearce Rapid a nasty drop that was formed as the river cut down through the sediment of the reservoir creating a new channel.



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