Tag Archives: river rafting

Grand Canyon Raft Trip: An Adventure

I just got off a Grand Canyon Raft trip and it was an awesome experience. I’ve done the Canyon a number of times but haven’t been there for over 20 years.

Mouth of Havasu Creek
Mouth of Havasu Creek

My previous trips were much easier. I was a kayak instructor/guide holding intermediate kayakers’ hands as they made their way down the giant ditch. We had motor-rig support, so when there was a flat water section we simply latched onto the side of the motor-rig and blasted through to the next great rapid.

We’d get to camp late, often pulling in just when hors-d-oeuvres were being served. I didn’t have to deal with the camp scene: no setup, no cooking, no cleanup, no packing. I’d simply eat their food, sleep, and kayak. Easiest river trip ever! I had no idea how good I had it.

This trip, on the other hand, was a private raft trip. I couldn’t get the entire 16 days off, so my 2 sons and I hiked into Phantom ranch and joined the trip on it’s 8th day. The hike in on South Kaibab trail was arduous to say the least (especially with a messed up ankle) but the real work didn’t begin until I joined the trip.

Don’t get me wrong, saying it was work doesn’t mean it was negative. This is good work, much more rewarding than desk work. But the a Grand Canyon raft trip isn’t a walk in the park. My buddy said it best, “this isn’t a vacation, it’s an adventure.”

 

Our adventure was in late June into early July, right on the leading cusp of the monsoon season. It was 113 degrees in the canyon the day we hiked in…brutally hot.

The mornings start early. It’s light at 430 in the morning. there’s no sleeping in, once the sun’s up the temperature rises quickly. If you haven’t gotten breakfast done and things packed up before morning sun hits, you’re going to regret it. By  the way sleeping in 100 degree weather is hard. I used a bed sheet and even that was too much.

You’re on the water early, but  if you want to hike any side canyons you need the extra time. The side hikes are numerous and integral to the whole experience. But these hikes aren’t  what you’re used to; most are arduous, some downright dangerous. You’ll need lots of water, decent footwear and some climbing skills.

On the river you’re faced with huge waves and holes that can flip an 18 foot raft like a child playing with a boat in the bathtub. Every rapid requires constant vigilance. Letting your guard down even for an instant can result in carnage.

After the rapids you’re faced with long, sometimes miles long, stretches of flatwater. But the term flatwater is deceiving, because it’s not really flat. Every tailout portion is filled with swirling eddies and sideways currents that mess with rafts.

You think you’re done with the rapid until you’re suddenly thrust into an eddy spending every ounce of energy you have trying to bust through the eddy line to rejoin the downstream current.

The other rafts blast by knowing you’ll be struggling for the next 20 minutes but knowing you’re on your own. They’re only feet away but riding the main current, seemingly worlds apart. They’ve gotta keep going, there’s miles and miles before camp.

When you get to camp, depending on the time, you must get to work unloading, setting up the kitchen area and your individual site. Choose wisely, always remembering the weather can change in an instant. That cozy little spot you’ve chosen could turn into a swirling mass of dust if and when the wind kicks up with a passing micro-burst.

If you’re on the cook crew, you have little time to relax. Water needs to be pumped (if the water’s silty you’ll have to let it settle before pumping) the toilet needs to be set up; there’s always something that needs to be done. Of course it’s also 110 degrees out.

Once camp’s put up for the night it’s time to crash, but good luck sleeping, the temperature might dip down to 103…perfect. If sleep comes, you’ll wake in a pool of sweat, your body sticky and gritty from the inevitable, ever-present sand.

Sounds great doesn’t it!? It is, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Rafting the Grand Canyon is awesome, but know going in, it’s not a cakewalk.

Though it can be miserable at times, the sheer beauty, the amazing whitewater, the incredible side hikes, far outweigh the misery. The canyon is such a treasure, and rafting it is by far the best way to maximize the experience.

Boat Ramp Etiquette

Boat ramp etiquette seems like a no brainer issue, but every time I use one to put in my kayak or raft, i’m always confronted with someone not knowing the rules.

This can lead to frustration on everyone’s part. The people trying to efficiently put-in or take-out get pissed at having to wait longer than necessary and the offender is getting dirty looks and possibly yelled at because he/she doesn’t understand the rules.

You can’t really blame the offender too much, it’s not like there’s a book about boat ramp etiquette, but now there’s a blog post, so no excuses!

1. It’s really pretty simple, first come first serve. Meaning if my car’s in front of yours I get to access the ramp before you.

 

Now, sometimes if I’m unloading a 3 or 4 stack of rafts and the guy behind me just wants to throw his canoe in, i’ll let him slide in front, and I’ll even help him get his stuff done. But this is an exception. If I’m in front I have every right to go first.

Being cordial and considerate goes a long way to calming any upset boat ramp people. Everyone wants to get their stuff unloaded or loaded, so work together to make it happen.

If I see someone struggling alone to get their raft off the trailer, i’m not going to sit there and glare at them, i’m gonna get off my ass and help them. This makes it faster for everyone, including myself.

2. Get it done quick. Whether you’re putting in or taking out do it as quickly as possible. I see this not happening all the time. It’s the main issue that rubs people the wrong way. Just because it’s your turn doesn’t mean you can take all day to do it. Put the boat in, unload any gear quickly, put it to the side and pull your rig out of the way.

3. Don’t load your raft on the ramp. I see this one a lot too, pull your raft and gear to the side off the main ramp area and load it there. If you’re loading for a multi-day raft trip, hopefully your things were packed at home and all you have to do is put them in the raft tie them in and be off. Don’t load your whole trip on the boat ramp.

A spread out put-in!
A spread out put-in!

4. Don’t take up the whole ramp. Many boat ramps are wide enough to have 2 or 3 vehicles going at the same time. When you’re backing your trailer, get as far to the side as you can to give the next guy room to pull in beside you. Don’t back down the middle of the ramp unless you must.

This applies even if the ramp is empty. Many times I’ve pulled up ready to put-in and one guy is using the whole ramp because there wasn’t anyone there when they got there. Expect more people to show up and get out of the way!

5. Know your trailer backing limitations. This one drives me nuts. If you’re new at backing trailers, a busy boat ramp is not the place to learn. If you see a lot of people waiting to use it, either wait for it to get less busy, or ask someone to guide you or even take over for you.

Trailer backing is hard and takes a lot of practice. It’s nerve racking enough without a bunch of people glaring at you. Most accomplished trailer backers will jump at the chance to back your rig. It gets them to the water quicker and lets them be a hero… a win win.

Most people at boat ramps are there because they’ve spent the day on the water or are about to. Most aren’t too uptight, but if you disobey these unwritten boat ramp rules, you may raise some ire. Use your common sense and you’ll be fine.

If someone is uptight and having a bad day, let them go first just to get them out of the area. No one wants to ruin their day on the water with an incident at the boat ramp.

Oregon Whitewater River: Best for Kids

I live in Southern Oregon very near the famous Rogue River; it flows no more than ten minutes from my front doorstep. This may make me biased but The Rogue River is the best whitewater river in Oregon for a family river trip. 

raft on the rogue
Our 15 foot SOTAR

 The Rogue winds more than 130 miles before entering the Pacific Ocean in Gold Beach Oregon. The best section for a family whitewater river trip is the wild and scenic section of the Rogue River. In order to float this federally protected stretch you need to have a highly sought after river permit.  Continue reading Oregon Whitewater River: Best for Kids