Seeing the Grand Canyon from any angle can be an enlightening experience. Many have gazed upon the canyon’s walls from above, looking down into this massive gash in our planet’s surface to find the canyon’s original architect, the mighty Colorado River. Fewer have seen the canyon from within, and even fewer have ridden a watercraft down the river itself. These experiences are widely thought to be incrementally awe-inspiring, but there’s an additional level of adventure for those with extreme skill, resourcefulness, and patience.
The most coveted path through the canyon is taken by private rafters, those who, without agency-provided guidance, use their own unique skills to navigate the canyon and battle the often vicious whitewater rapids of the Colorado River. This isn’t something you can simply sign up to experience. Not only is the adventure extremely dangerous, but simply obtaining a permit to legally man your own watercraft down the river is a lifelong pursuit. Many have been on the waiting list to adventure down the canyon for over 15 years, and even if a permit is obtained, the logistical nightmare that is assembling an able team and suitable resources and equipment can end a journey before it’s even begun.
The Grand Canyon National Park does give these permits to some, and once an eager rafter has their permit in-hand, many steps must be taken before their raft ever touches the cold, clear waters of the Colorado River. So, after all of these obstacles, you may be wondering: What exactly needs to be done after all the red tape has been cut?
Can’t get a permit? Here are some other great places to set to whitewater.
– The Green River, the Colorado’s primary tributary
– The Nenana River, located in Alaska
– The Salmon River in Northern California
– The Chattooga River, home to the film Deliverance
– The American River, hotspot of tubing and rafting
So you’ve gotten all of the paperwork assembled and you have your crack team of rafting experts assembled, all standing at the precipice of the river after an excited and fitful night’s rest. Do you have everything you need? Equipment that just be taken along includes much of what you might expect, including non-perishable foods, navigation equipment, first-aid kits, coolers, and maybe even a few spirited beverages to pass the time between stretches of river.
The river itself can be an unpredictable challenge, building in speed and intensity very quickly. While not the most technically challenging river in America, those trained on rougher waters may be surprised by the Colorado’s ability to surprise. Grand Canyon rafting, like all other forms of whitewater rafting, requires not only skill and stamina, but strategy and experience. Seasoned rafters follow an invisible path through the water, using clues like bubbles and waves to mentally map out the safest path.
When the waters calm and things slow down, rafters finally have the chance to gaze up at the titanic walls surrounding them. This is the main payoff of the journey, and by all accounts, it does not disappoint. If you think a night of stargazing makes you feel small, imagine gazing up at those stars from the bottom of one of the Earth’s deepest gashes.
Would you take this journey if you opportunity presented itself? What items would you pack to guarantee your own safety? Let us know in the comments section below!