Monday, June 27, 2011

Rafting the Colorado River in Grand Canyon Part 1.

For several years I have wanted to go on a power rafting trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. But until March the opportunity was not quite there. Lucy in her last several years physically was not able to go, and I did not want to go without someone along who I knew. I asked Jo if she would like to go and she replied “ARE YOU CRAZY!” In March friend Jerry Grout said that he was going and that there were more seats available in his trip. A few days later I decided to take the adventure, despite my 75 years. Jerry also recruited another friend of his, Mike Biccum.

The trip was from June 9 to 15 with Wilderness River Adventures. It worked out that Jo and the motor home could stay in Moline IL so she could extend her visits with her mother, brother and sisters, plus other relatives. Allegiant Airlines had fairly economical rates between Moline and Mesa, so that made it even more doable. I left Moline on June 7, slept at home that night, and drove the old Nissan convertible to Page June 8 for the first meeting of the group at the Lake Powell Marina. We began the trip at Lee’s Ferry on June 9.


Or chief boatman, Nate, giving us instructions on packing the two large waterproof bags provided to each of us similar to those behind him  . We also were given a similar smaller bag for clothes to use during the day and a 50 cal. ammo box for waterproof storage of other items, like cameras and sun blocker, we would need to access during the day.



Mike Biccum, Jerry Grout and I awaiting the bus at Lake Powell Marina to take us to Lees Ferry, several miles south of Page.

Map of our  route on tee shirt included in package

This is the back of the tee shirt given to each passenger. It shows our route from Lees Ferry at the upper right to the takeout point at Whitmore Wash, about 188 miles downriver.


At Lees Ferry, loading the rafts with our waterproof bags, with lifejackets in the foreground. We wore them, duly buckled, every moment we were on the rafts. There were 28 of us, 14 on each raft, with a boatman and “swamper” (assistant) also on each.



Wilderness River Adventures supplied all of the food, drinking water, and sodas. Passengers brought their own beer, wine and spirits and mixes. Here two cases are in being prepared to be loaded!



Me, on the first day .                         Approaching Navajo Bridge, where   California Condors hang out.                IMG_8195

Our two rafts tied up on a beach for the lunch stop.

Lunch stop

Typical lunch table. We made our sandwiches with cold cuts and the trimmings, with Pringles chips. Jerry  is at left, Mike in the foreground and Chelsea, the young lady who asked her father for this trip as her high school graduation present, in the background.

Rafting the Colorado River in Grand Canyon Part 2

Each night we stopped for the night at a large beach of Nate’s choice. Once the boats were tied up, most of the 28 of us formed a line to unload the large waterproof bags, the cots, and the bag chairs. Then everyone found their numbered large bags, grabbed a cot and found a place to set it up for the night. Since rain was not threatened, the tents on board the boats never were unloaded. I neglected to get any pictures of the unloading process. The next morning the process was reversed to load the boats for the day’s trip of 25 to 50 miles.



Each of us were  provided with a sleeping bag, sheet, and ground cloth to make up our sleeping arrangements. Mine is at the left, Jerry’s is next, and Mike’s is in the upper part of the picture. Others’ cots are scattered on various level spots. We soon adjusted to the lack of privacy.  We went to bed by 9 PM and were awakened every AM by the cry of  COFFEE at 5:30. I was surprised by how bright the sky was at night from moonlight.

Our bedroom in wash - 3rd night

Here is the bedroom of the three of us another night.

Living room/ dining room with kitchen in background

Chairs were set up in a circle for socializing and eating with plates balanced in our laps. The yellow object in the middle is the water cooler for filling our water bottles and cups. We were cautioned to drink extra water each day to avoid dehydration in the dry sunny  climate.IMG_8201

This is the kitchen area. The flames  are from charcoal lighter getting the charcoal going for the dutch ovens. Next to the right are two propane burners surrounded by a metal windbreak, with a pail being heated on one. Next to the right on the table is the large griddle,  propane tank and water containers. Behind Shawn, one of the swampers, is the food preparation and serving table. 

Passengers doing dishwashing

This is the dish washing detail. Each passenger was asked to wash their own dishes, but usually volunteers did them more efficiently. Dishes were scraped into the rocket ammunition box at the right, then wiped with a dish mop in the first bucket containing cold water to remove residue, then washed in hot soapy water in the first bucket sitting on a burner, then rinsed in hot water in the next bucket, and finally dipped in a bucket with bleach water to sanitize the plates and table wear. The plates were put, wet, in the cloth bag behind the young man at the left. Table wear was returned, wet, to the containers.


Scenes like this appeared frequently as we went downriver at about 9 mph with the 40 hp motor running about 1/3 throttle. This amphitheater is formed by water erosion, and water accounts for the white and black staining of the rock. The green in the shadow is plants relying on the regular flow of water, perhaps trickles. I took lots of pictures of the rock formations at various places. After a few they all begin to look alike, so I will include only the best in the blogs.


Interesting change of shape of strata in layers of rock.

typical rapid

This view is typical of rapids – smooth water at the top followed by white water  downstream. This rapid probably was rated at a 5 or 6 out of 10.

IMG_8212Here is one of the boats as unloaded at night. A Honda generator is being used to power a blower to increase air pressure to 4 or 5 psi in one of the auxiliary pontoons.

Rafting the Colorado River in Grand Canyon Part 3


Our group took several hikes during our  6 days on the river. This one was up a slot canyon to a waterfall. That is me, Jerry and Mike standing at its base.

We had another up the Little Colorado River where we, wearing our life jackets, floated down rapids in the turquoise colored water.


Here I used my walking sticks to hike to the waterfalls in the background.


Jerry , Mike and I standing in the waterfall. I was not eager to stay in it! It was cool, but  not as cold as the water in the river. It comes out of Glen Canyon dam about 50 degrees and warms only gradually as it flows downstream.


Jerry relished the dip in the falls.


 IMG_8253So did othersIMG_8261

This was a particularly high falls, generating a lot of mist at the bottom.


This rainbow formed in the mist.




Many of our group climbed up to two features, one called the patio and the other, a higher  falls. This shot reminds me of the 49ers packing their ton of supplies up Chilkoot  Pass from Skagway to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. I did not make the climb.



Turquoise colored Havasu Creek flowing down the Havasupai Reservation to the Colorado River.


Most of our party waded Havasu Creek to walk up to higher similar pools.

Rafting the Colorado River in Grand Canyon Part 4


The last full day on the river was a long one – about 50 miles. To save time we made lunch sandwiches in the AM before leaving the spot we spent the night and then tied up in the shade in the early afternoon to eat our lunches on the rafts.



The inner gorge became deeper later in the trip.




Nate permitted a few on our boat to jump into the water and float down a mild rapid in their life jackets. Here the first is being recovered by the boat.


The black rock between the boatman (Nate) and the steering arm of the spare motor is lava which is found along several miles of the river. There is so much lava that I suppose that there were many vents in the area, erupting over many years.



More lava covering older rock.



On the last night on the river the crew removed, deflated and rolled up the pontoons so that, after dropping us at the helicopter pad for extraction the next AM, they could go 100 miles downstream to the boat take-out point at a higher speed than if the pontoons were left on the boats.



On the last night awards were made. The award was a couple of pulls on a tequila bottle. Here Jerry is receiving his award as the historian or the group for volunteering to get the names and e-mail addresses of everyone and sending them to all of the passengers.


I won the award for the best new beard of the group. I did not shave for the whole trip (and I still am sporting most of the whiskers).

Rafting the Colorado River in Grand Canyon Part 5


Nate presented each of us with a pin showing that because we had completed the trip we were designated Royal River Rats.


On the last morning all of us were giving a thumbs up for the trip.




About an hour downstream that morning we pulled up to a beach and carried our duffel up to a helicopter pad on the Havasupai Reservation. The park service would not allow choppers into the canyon to land on a pad under its jurisdiction.



The chopper is landing for one of its 6 trips to take us and our duffel out of the canyon to  the Bar 10 Ranch on the north rim.



This is from the chopper flying up a lava-encrusted canyon to reach  the ranch.IMG_8318

The wives of Jerry and Mike, with another lady, drove up to the Bar 10 in this Suzuki to greet the Royal River Rats and stay the night. The rest of us took a much-needed shower, had another sandwich for lunch,and were flown back to Page or Las Vegas in a 20 passenger turboprop plane.



Members of the group at Bar 10 waiting for air transportation. It sure was nice to get back to green grass, taller trees and clean clothes!