Rafting the Canyon on the Colorado River

Continuing our week-long visit to Arizona. Read the last write-up here.

As reluctant as I was to leave the Grand Canyon after visiting it for only a couple hours, I had to look on the bright side. We had a lot in store in the morning — a half day of rafting the Colorado River through Glen Canyon, to be exact.

When researching “things to do” at the Grand Canyon, the idea of seeing it by water immediately jumped to the top of our to-do list. One of these days I would love to do a white-water rafting trip. But given that I’m probably your worst extreme sports candidate, we chose to experience a calmer canyon rafting tour. We ended up booking a half-day smooth water raft tour through a company called Colorado River Discovery. I found them on the Grand Canyon National Park Service website. From what I can tell, Colorado River Discovery is the only company that offers single day commercial tours at the Grand Canyon.

All Colorado River Discovery tours depart from Page, Arizona. So that’s where we drove that evening. It was a long, winding drive through extreme remote desert. Little to no gas stations in sight as we made our way north on Highway 89 and then east on the Navajo Trail through Tuba City. It took close to four hours to get to Page, due to a number of road detours. When I had mapped the route in our planning stages, it looked to be about a three hour drive max. Come to find out, a major landslide occurred and did serious damage to parts of Highway 89, which explains the constant rerouting our GPS had to do.

We eventually made it to the small town of Page, checked into our hotel room at the Courtyard Marriott, had dinner at the bar and hit the hay in preparation for the next day’s adventure.

The next morning, we checked in at Colorado River Discovery’s Welcome Center and boarded a bus to Lee’s Ferry, the site of the boat launch. From there, everything we saw was nothing short of magnificent.

Tour departure at Glen Canyon Dam

Tour departure at Glen Canyon Dam

All aboard the fleet of pontoon boats

All aboard the fleet of pontoon boats

Up close and personal with Glen Canyon walls. Notice the black coating on the rocks, which is known as desert varnish, a natural effect from the sun.

Up close and personal with Glen Canyon walls. Notice the black coating on the rocks, which is known as desert varnish, a natural effect from the sun.

A beautiful reflection of river on rock

A beautiful reflection of river on rock

Wide stretch of water gives you a "world is your oyster" sort of feeling.

Wide stretch of water gives you a “world is your oyster” sort of feeling.

A handful of boats dot the landscape. A fabulous way to spend a Friday afternoon.

A handful of boats dot the landscape. A fabulous way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Falling rock carved into an arch. The St. Louis version was even mentioned by our tour guide during his explanation.

Falling rock formed an arch. The St. Louis version was even mentioned by our tour guide during his explanation.

Our tour guides pulled the pontoon boats onto a beach and led us to these petroglyphs.

Our tour guides pulled the pontoon boats onto a beach and led us to these petroglyphs.

Left behind by Ancestral Puebloan peoples.

Left behind by Ancestral Puebloan peoples.

Deer, antelope, sheep?

Deer, antelope, sheep?

Crossed bull horns, perhaps?

Crossed bull horns, perhaps?

Amazing how precise and in tact these still are.

Amazing how precise and in tact these still are.

After photographing the petroglyphs, we made our way back to the beach to dig into our sack lunches.

After photographing the petroglyphs, we made our way back to the beach to dig into our sack lunches.

With satisfied appetites, we made our way downstream and rounded the infamous Horseshoe Bend.

With satisfied appetites, we made our way downstream and rounded the infamous Horseshoe Bend.

Then, our tour guide started up the engine and made our way upstream to get back to the Glen Canyon Dam.

Then, our tour guide started up the engine and made our way upstream to get back to the Glen Canyon Dam.

We got a few splashes of water at our feet during this portion of the tour. A chilly 47-degree water temperature was both refreshing and spine-tingling.

We got a few splashes of water at our feet during this portion of the tour. A chilly 47-degree water temperature was both refreshing and spine-tingling.

And from there, we bid goodbye to the blue-green waters of Glen Canyon and the Colorado River.

And from there, we bid goodbye to the blue-green waters of Glen Canyon and the Colorado River.

Gorgeous, yes. Jaw-dropping, of course. But there are a few lessons to be learned from this trip. If you’re considering a smooth water raft tour through Colorado River Discovery, there are a few things to keep in mind that I wasn’t made aware of during the time of booking.

  1. Cameras are allowed and highly encouraged. BUT, backpacks are not allowed. For photo enthusiasts who travel with more than just a point-and-shoot, bring shorts or pants with big pockets, so you can stuff your lenses in them. No one at Colorado River Discovery informed us of the no backpack rule — even at the time of check-in. It wasn’t until the last minute when we learned about this strict rule, and I had to make a hasty decision to leave my backpack and long lens in the trunk of our car. I was pissed to say the least.
  2. Now about lunch… I booked our tour online at raftthecanyon.com, but never did Colorado River Discovery prompt me to place an order for lunch. Apparently, if you don’t want to starve on this half-day rafting tour, you’re supposed to place an order for lunch through the River’s End Cafe. This cafe is located at the Colorado River Discovery Welcome Center. They prepare a sack lunch for you to take on the tour. This, of course, was news to me. I thought lunch was included with the price of the rafting tour. But no, it’s an additional cost. Again, would’ve been nice to know beforehand. We ended up having to place and pay for our order only minutes before boarding the bus.

Despite these little mishaps, it was an incredible day. We left with lots of great photos, more sunburn to add on top of our first layer of sunburn and — to put it in overly sappy, sentimental terms — a wealth of memories that will last a lifetime.

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2 Comments

Filed under Travel, Vacation

2 responses to “Rafting the Canyon on the Colorado River

  1. Pingback: Next Stop: Horseshoe Bend | Everything Glitters

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Moments of 2013 | Everything Glitters

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