Rafting, Grand Canyon National Park
Crystal Rapids is one of the most fearsome on the river. There is a sizable creek - Crystal Creek - coming in from the north, bringing lots of boulders to build up the rapids out in the main river. This was during the two out of 14 days that rain fell. Much of the rain fell up higher above the North Rim, causing the Crystal Creek to run red with debris. You can see that the redness is lost quickly in the maelstrom of the main rapids. Crystal and Lava Falls are probably the two best know huge rapids in the Canyon, but you get to know many others just as big as you float through. We are at mile 98.
At the end of Deer Creek valley, the creek drops in glorious fashion to hasten its meeting with the Colorado. On a hot day of hiking, the pools at the base of the waterfall make for a grand swim. You are at mile 136 near the narrowest stretch of the Grand Canyon proper.
This is the last great rapid faced by boaters. Rapids are formed mostly where side canyons wash down huge boulders and debris across the main river's path, forming a dam, of sorts, for the water to roar over. If you see a side canyon coming while you are floating, best be assured that a rapid awaits. For some reason, the Grand Canyon has to be different and instead of grading rapids on the normal 1-5 scale (6 being unrunnable), the rapids here are graded on a 1-10 scale. Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, Horn Creek, Granite, Hermit, Crystal, Waltenberg, Duebendorff, and Upset are some of the biggest, though there are plenty of others that can overturn your craft , as well. Lava Falls and Crystal - maybe, Hance, as well, have a very special place among the riverfolk. You have reached mile 179.
These rapids are everchanging, big and downright nasty. Even with conditions much more controlled today by the presence of the Glen Canyon Dam, these are BIG waters. With a raft it is all about the initial commitment. What is your point of entry? How are you pointed? Where are your oars? What do you plan to do within the rapid? Will you try and turn the raft? Maybe going in backwards and letting the river swing you around? You have to figure it all out - or at least try and figure it out - before you enter the rapid. Once in, you're in and there is no time to think then. A mistake is nearly impossible to correct in these waters. The waters are cold and the swim can be long.
The North Canyon, found only 20 miles downstream from Lees' Ferry was one of the physically most striking places we visited, the walls of the canyon in the area of the upper pool look almost sculpted in places. This was one of those places where you wished you had just so much more time to spend there.
As we approach the confluence of the Little Colorado River you notice a change in the river color. You can see that the Little Colorado is a beautiful torquoise and it is also WARM, which is a pleasant change.
There are countless mineral "roses" imbedded in the walls of the canyon, they are caused by deposits of certain minerals and as the wall erodes they will become exposed and sometimes "blossom" as the outer layer wears away, revealing the interior.
The Little Colorado also has a great "water park slide" area, you can see me sliding down the river.
As we navigated the Nankoweap Rapid at mile 52 we could see on the cliffs to our right the ruins of one ancient village of the Anasazi people, the name Anasazi, given to these people by the Hopi actually means "strangers", the name for them in the Navajo language means "the Ancients", or the predecessors, actually a much better name.
We stopped just after the rapids and walked back to the trail leading up to the ruins, you can see us in the last picture hear heading up that path, but along the way we encountered some wonderful cactus plants, the prickley pear and barrel. These Barrel cactus at certain points along the river grow to several meters high.
In the third picture which was taken on the trial up, you can see the ruins to the right, these structures built into the sheer cliff wall were used to store grain.
The view down the river here would be prime real estate for putting up a hotel or something if this was not a National Park and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
In the first picture you can see the kids getting ready to "slide" in the river, the trick was to take off your lifejacket and put it on your legs and backwards. This provided some boyancy and also protected your butt as you went down over the rocks..
You can see the kids sliding in a group, this was the most popular way after several experiments.
The entire side of the riverbank was lined with these mineral deposits, some enough to create small pools like those found sometimes surrounding geysers.
The kids in our group (ages 10-17) really enjoyed this adventure, here you can see Natasha, Tal, Katerina, Kyle and Jacob showing off their muscle.
The color was out of this world, taken from those same minerals that were deposited along the banks.
The Unkar Rapids, located between mile 72-73 are rated as being 4-7, with a drop of 25 feet. Quite the difference between 4-7, but the differences are caused by the amount of water being released from the Glen Canyon Dam at any given time. The rapids are usually more treacherous as there is LESS water, this is usually becasue there are more boulders exposed as the water level drops. But then more water can cause a enough of a rise in water level to create new rapids that were dry land before....
You can see from the pictures that often we were entirely underwater or at least "underwave" as we roared through the rapids.
The entire lenght of the Grand Canyon is accessed time and again by side canyons, some with names, some not, as we rafted we could often see into these side canyons and often wondered what beauty they might hide. Our guides had been up some of them and the took us up others to see, but it would take years to explore all of them.
We also got to see some of the canyon bottom wildlife, like the BigHorn Sheep in the pictures, he just sort of stopped moving so we could take his picture.
At one point we did have a small problem with the motor in the raft, so our guides broke out the tools and repaired it. But not only do they have tools and knowledge to do repairs, they also have an extra motor for each raft, safety in backups.
Here at the Nankoweap Rapid it is a very long rapid, almost three quarters of a mile in length, but it is not a serious rapid, being graded at 3-4, but it does have a drop of 25 feet over that distance....
On the Colorado River you never go very far between rapids, at the most a mile or two and then a "small" one just to keep you wet.
And yes that is my finger on the upper right hand corner of the picture, it is not as simple as it sounds holding onto a bucking raft with one hand while trying to select, focus and shoot pictures as your are beeing thrown from side to side, and up and down and drenched with water at the same time....lets see YOU try it and then you can talk !!!
Yes, my birthday....we started off the celebration when Rick, brought out some beer and Andreas and Cris helped me drink it to celebrate. This was just the beginning though, only a few hours later, after dinner, our guides surprised us and made a sort of strawberry pie/custard concoction, we even had candles in it. It was too sweet, too messy but GREAT anyway, as you can see in the pictures, I was one happy camper. ^O^
The Desert View Watchtower was built in 1932 by Fred Harvey and served as an observation point for Grand Canyon visitors.
The Unkar Ruins are found at mile 72, just above Unkar rapids. There you will find little of structures, but you can see the remains of paths and there are scattered pottery shards all over a large area.
Nevill's Rapid at mile 75 is rated 4-7 and has a drop of 16 feet. You can see the cliffs beginning to close in and cause a funnel effect, "shooting" you through this spot at a higher speed as the water is compressed into a smaller area.
Here at the Hance Rapid, mile 76, less than a mile from Nevill's rapid, it is rated as a level 7-8 and you can see the "hole" or wave crest that we are headed for, right down the center. This rapid has a 30 foot drop and it seems as if it was all in ONE SPOT, we shot up over the crest of that wave and then fell down the opposite side.....