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Rafting the Colorado in Grand Canyon
Old 05-29-2016, 03:00 PM   #1
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Rafting the Colorado in Grand Canyon

Our son would like to plan a 7-day rafting trip thru the GC for summer 2017 for our family, 4 adults , 3 tweens. I'm feeling a bit unsure about signing on for this.

Has anyone one done this & would like to share your experiences?
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Old 05-29-2016, 03:31 PM   #2
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I have several friends and family who've done this.

There are a few commercial outfits that have commercial permits to run the river... then there is a lottery to get a permit for private parties. The lottery system has to be entered every year.... My dad had friends who applied every year - and he got to go on a few of the trips. 20 years of applying for permits... 3 permits issued.

I know my parents enjoyed it a lot... Beautiful scenery, comfy camping (since you're not hauling it on your back like in backpack trips). But you need lots of sunscreen and bug repellent.
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Old 05-29-2016, 04:20 PM   #3
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I've done it twice. I believe Hatch was the outfitter we used and left out of Lees Ferry. We were on the large "pontoon' type rafts which are powered by outboard motor, rather than an oar powered raft. The large type rafts are a ton of fun and you still get to experience the thrill of the rapids. There's room to move around and depending where you sit you can get as wet as you want or stay relatively dry. We "straddled" the pontoons for a fun ride. On the very large rapids we had to sit inside and hold on. There is time to hike up the side canyons and the food was great.

Both the tweens and the adults would love it. I can't comment on the trips where the paying customers participate in the rowing -- which I've done on much smaller rivers, but not the Colorado.
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Old 05-29-2016, 04:31 PM   #4
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LauAnn's description was exactly my experience. DW and I did this trip with Hatch in 2002 and we enjoyed it so much we went back and did it again in 2009. The second time we cajoled several friends into doing it with us.

Hatch is I think the oldest outfit doing this, and from what we saw of the others, definitely the best. We ate magnificently every day, and the only work we had to do was to pitch our tent each evening and take it down in the morning. They are really good at this.

When the trip ends (about a week), they take you out of the canyon in a helicopter, then fly you in a small plane back to the starting point where you left your car. First class all the way.

http://hatchriverexpeditions.com
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Old 05-29-2016, 05:08 PM   #5
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I just put this trip on my "Things to do in Retirement" list. When I see a great adventure, I jot it down.
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Old 05-29-2016, 05:33 PM   #6
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We've spent the last six years traveling year round and our rafting trip through the Grand Canyon still ranks as one of our best travel experiences ever.

It's a fairly physical excursion but one that is completely accessible to a wide range of people. I think our group ranged in age from maybe 11 to 65 or older.
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Old 05-29-2016, 05:51 PM   #7
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Yes, go for it. We did the motor raft trip two summers ago in July with Tour West and had a great time. We've done some family adventure trips in past but this experience was at the top. Age range of our group was 11-70, including a German and British families. Met the group on Sunday, helicoptered out on Saturday. My sons were 15 and 17.
Just understand it is a camping trip, but with great food, the crew did most of the work. We were just responsible for helping unload (and in morning, help load) the raft and our own cot and personal stuff. We never did set up tents, just under the stars, never even used a sleeping bag, just wrapped ourselves up in a sheet.
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Smile Colorado WW Trip
Old 05-29-2016, 06:47 PM   #8
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Smile Colorado WW Trip

Haven't done it recently, but went on a couple of trips in the 90s with an outfit called the Nantahala Outdoor Center (located in the mtns of NC.).

Trip included paddle rafters as well as kayakers. Also included gourmet food (as well as preparation each night. Can't speak for the rafters cause we were in kayaks and too busy surfing all the big waves, but it was one of the best trips of our life. If you can judge by smiles and laughter, I think the rafters had as much fun as we did!

All we had to do was show up the put-in (NOC provided all gear for rafters, but we kayakers had our own), play on the river all day for over a week while they took care of everything (even picked out the lines for the rafters (a guide in each boat)) and then drove us back to our vehicles at the end of the trip.

Like I said.....
Trip of a lifetime!
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Old 05-30-2016, 10:12 AM   #9
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I did this in the summer of 1973 with Grand Canyon Expeditions & it was one of the best experiences of my life. Even now, I think about floating down the river with the walls of the CG on either side - & checking the map so you knew when the rapids were coming - & how amazing it felt to be looking up at the night sky from the floor of the GC, with no sound but the river & no light but the stars. GCE was first class all the way & totally worth the cost; the guides were total pros, smart & engaging, & they did all the work, including setting up a comfortable camp, preparing great food & leading hikes & explorations along the way (for those who were interested). The two large motorized rafts on my trip had about 20 guests that included singles, families, young & old -- a very congenial group sharing a transformative experience. GC trips generally are gradually being curtailed, but GCE still runs these trips (sign up early -- they fill up fast). Your children will never forget it & neither will you.
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Old 05-30-2016, 02:02 PM   #10
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That trip is on our list. We have done two parts of the salmon (ID) and Cataract Canyon (Canyonlands of Utah ending in Lake Powell). Just a great experience with our kids.


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Old 05-30-2016, 03:32 PM   #11
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An alternative to the Grand Canyon is the Yampa River. I have done it twice (both private trips rather than an outfitter) The Yampa has been described as the GC on a smaller scale. It is the last undammed tributary of the Colorado River. It runs through Dinosaur Nat'l Monument (a separate side trip) great to see and take kids, etc, since you'll be in the area. Wonderful side canyon hikes, fewer people run this river, so more mellow, less busy than the GC. It's an absolute gem, and I believe, less expensive than the GC. Oars is reportedly a good outfitter. Here's a link: https://www.oars.com/adventures/yampa-river-rafting/
****A few additional comments-don't go in Summer-you will be too hot! April or May for the GC at the latest-you'll have wildflowers in April-always a plus! June for the Yampa is a good month, although it could be hot. The Yampa doesn't have the big water hydraulics that the main Colorado has, so not as scary-more of a scenic float with a couple of good rapids thrown in for fun. Have fun whatever you decide to do!
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Old 05-30-2016, 05:36 PM   #12
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Thanks so much for the responses...appreciate them.
I think my main concerns are
*mainly the heat & also sun during the day...I'm very fair, but of course use sun screen;
*maybe too much togetherness (7 days!)
*the physicality, dh & I are able bodied, but not fitness freaks, 70 yr olds

But then as I type that it doesn't seem so monumental. I'm on the verge of agreeing...
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Old 05-30-2016, 07:13 PM   #13
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Not as much of a worry as you might think.
On both our trips we had folks in their 70s (one celebrated his 76th birthday during the trip) and they loved it.

Togetherness is up to you. Plenty of opportunity to mingle with other folks (they encourage you to do that by switching to a different raft (trips are normally done in groups of two rafts) from time to time if you like. Also daily hikes or swim or fishing opportunities, so you can be as together or as alone as you like.

Everything is set up for your enjoyment. Some people never left the raft area, others went on every hike. Nearly all stops were set up so you could go on either a difficult (steep) hike or an easy one. Opportunities to just go swimming or splashing around were also available.

Definitely hot in the summer, so you're best with a trip in May. In that month the heat isn't nearly as bad. Look at the outfitter you're interested in and book one of their earliest trips. They fill up very fast, so the sooner the better.
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Old 05-30-2016, 08:41 PM   #14
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I did it with my then 16 year old son early 2000s. We opted for the the oar/paddle option, so it was 15 days on the river.

Been on many trips to national parks (about 40 now), but this was a highlight to say the least.

There was a couple in their early 80s. Wife went along but not too active. Husband wanted to do it all, and his main disappointment was that he couldn't pass the self rescue needed to do the kayaking. He was in better shape than about half of the other participants. To be fair, our tour leader said she'd had many older folks, and this guy was as active as she'd seen above 70.

Our tour guides accommodated everyone's varying levels of abilities and interests. They are tough jobs to get and those that don't take care of customers don't get the spots or last long.

I say go for it! To this day, I tell people about that and while there are some "you're crazy" comments, it's mostly envious responses.

One suggestion... go early in the summer if you can, monsoon season typically kicks in around mid July. If I were to do it again without school restriction I'd go even earlier to get the temps down.
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17 GC trips
Old 06-03-2016, 03:37 AM   #15
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17 GC trips

I've been down the river, through the Grand Canyon, seventeen times. Once as a passenger on a commercial trip in 1979, once in my kayak with commercial support, and fifteen times in my own raft on those private permit trips in the 1980s and 1990s.

All of the river guides are very good, but Arizona Raft Adventures (AZRA) based in Flagstaff Az often hired the best guides for their oar boats in the 1990s. Some were renowned cooks, some had geology degrees, etc. Last time I looked, they were also offering motor trips.

Go on the one week motor boat trip, but if it feels like it ended too soon, come back for a longer, oar powered trip. It is all good, on The River, in The Canyon.

For just a taste of it, you can take a commercial day trip on a motor raft from below the dam in Page AZ for a dozen miles on the river to Lee's Ferry. Also, the Hualapi tribe runs day trips on the Colorado River below Diamond Creek, probably originating in Peach Springs Az.
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Old 06-03-2016, 07:13 AM   #16
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DH and I went for a 7-day trip on a motorized raft through the canyon with AZRA in 1998. It was the best vacation we've ever had.

We went in the summer. We were cold when we were wet, and hot when we were dry. There were ~15- minute stretches in between when we felt comfortable. We slept on the ground, peed in the river, and bathed in the river. The river was so muddy that it looked like flowing chocolate pudding, so I never quite figured out if bathing was beneficial or not.

Despite the challenges in the previous paragraph, I recommend doing this trip at least once. The views are awe-inspiring. Our guides knew the geology and history of the canyon and had interesting stories.

Writing this makes me want to go back. I'll have to plant that seed in DH's head...
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Old 06-03-2016, 10:43 AM   #17
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trip of a lifetime - don't hesitate
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Old 06-03-2016, 03:54 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philliefan33 View Post
We slept on the ground, peed in the river, and bathed in the river.
And don't forget the unit!

Best you I ever had for the morning ritual, and the view changed daily!
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Old 06-03-2016, 04:10 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by oldphd View Post
And don't forget the unit!



Best you I ever had for the morning ritual, and the view changed daily!

Well, I wasn't going to mention this story, but since you brought it up...

We set up camp relatively early one afternoon, and I needed to use that unit. It was set up with a view of the river, but shielded from our campsite. As I was sitting and taking care of business, along come two rafts down the river. No chance of me going undetected-- everyone in the rafts was waving at me. Nothing to do but wave back 😬.

At least I got a good story out of the experience. And somewhere in the world are 30 people who can tell the story of how they happened upon the pooping lady in the Grand Canyon.
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Old 06-03-2016, 04:30 PM   #20
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We went on a dory trip with OARS in 2012. There were 4-5 boats, each with an experienced rower/guide and about four paying passengers per boat. We went from Lees Ferry to Phantom Ranch in 7 days and hiked out on Bright Angel Trail. We went at the end of August so it was September by the time we hiked out. It was gorgeous, a wonderful trip.

We went back last year and did a hiking only trip, staying at the Phantom Ranch cabins. Both trips offered excellent hikes. On the Phantom Ranch trip we would end each day sitting in the creek. Again we went in September so got a little reprieve from the oppressive summer heat down there.

There really is nothing else like it. I would go back in a heartbeat.
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