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Rafting the Colorado River

Posted by on June 13, 2011

Read the first post about our Grand Canyon adventure HERE.


I’m just going to have to be honest here and tell you that the vision conjured up by the title of this post – white water! dangerous rapids! I totally almost drowned when I was thrown from the raft! – should be tempered with the facts that:

1. The raft was, in reality, a pretty substantial item.

2. There were no actual what you would call white water rapids.

3. The river was smooth and quiet and placid.

But it was pretty amusing when I told my husband we were going to be rafting down the Colorado River and he turned to me with all seriousness and asked if it was really safe.

Um. Yeah.

Here’s the raft.

For non-white water rafting.

After being constantly amazed, astonished and every other descriptive word your mind can conjure up by the Grand Canyon, the amazement began all over again when we landed.

Coming in for a landing.

Landing in the canyon.

Because even though we thought we appreciated the magnificence and scope of the canyon, we didn’t really appreciate it until we saw it from the ground. Now, let me tell you that it is not easy to get to land a helicopter in the Grand Canyon. I was astonished to learn that the Hualapai Native Americans actually own this section of the Grand Canyon and they are not about to let a bunch of helicopters land in their canyon, all willy-nilly and sully the beauty, which some lousy tourists have a tendency to do. Not you, of course.

So, before we could even get approved for the trip, I had to sign all kinds of paperwork. First, a Permit for Photography/Filming and then a Site Visit Request Form. They are not messing around. Seriously, though, it was no effort at all. Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters sent me the paperwork and I signed it and sent it back. No problem.

After we alighted in the canyon, we clambered down a rocky bank to the river and, after the requisite pre-experience photo, climbed into the raft for our journey up the river.

Ready for rafting.

It was quiet and peaceful and very, very beautiful. And hot. I peeled off my sweater almost immediately but was glad I had it when we flew back up to the top of the canyon and the temperature plummeted. The sky was a beautiful shade of blue and the canyon walls surrounding us were amazing with their shapes and colors.

Heading upriver.

Incredible colors.

Jagged rocks.

We saw rock formations that resembled the castles we had seen in Europe.

Castle rock.

And rock walls formed by nature that resembled man-made rock walls we see all around our home in Lexington, Kentucky.

Rock wall.

Fields of cacti sprawled by the river’s edge and beautiful desert flowers bloomed in the desert heat.

Field of cacti.

Desert flower.

It’s hard to imagine the size and scope of the Grand Canyon until you are rafting along in the middle of it. Here’s some perspective for you – a helicopter coming in for a landing helps you see how huge the canyon really is.

How small we really are in comparison.

Now we had seen the Grand Canyon from two perspectives – from the air and from the ground. Both were fascinating and both provided a completely different view of this magnificent natural wonder. But we had one last perspective – from the top of the canyon. Time to strap back in the chopper and head to the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

And that is yet another post.

Full disclosure: Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters provided us with a hosted tour,  but as always, I will share my honest opinion about any travel experiences I have.


9 Responses to Rafting the Colorado River

  1. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    This sounds like a fun way to experience the canyon. We are visiting the Grand Canyon in September and since I have a bad knee I considered taking a helicopter instead of hiking the 10 miles to our campsite. Mainly because I really want to ride in a helicopter. :)
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..Nature Walk from Hell – Chitwan- Nepal

  2. robin

    Must have been a magnificent experience!
    robin recently posted..Tienda

  3. The Travel Chica

    I only saw the Grand Canyon for about 20 minutes before the sun went down, but I still remember how I felt staring at something so beautiful and so… well… grand. I definitely plan to return and hike it next time.
    The Travel Chica recently posted..Meeting Expats and Drinking Wine at 0800 Vino

  4. inka

    This is really one of the true wonders of nature which I will finally visit next year.
    inka recently posted..The human factor -an important part of travel

  5. jade

    This sounds incredible! I would love love love to do this sometime soon. We are heading to Colorado in a few weeks and might get in some water rafting. I just love exploring the great outdoors!
    jade recently posted..The Great Wild

  6. Mark Wiens

    I think the Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular places in the world. A couple years ago I did a few backpacking hikes through the canyon, that was truly inspiring!
    Mark Wiens recently posted..Photo Essay- Batad Rice Terraces in the Philippines

  7. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    What? No white water rapids? I’m sort of devastated, because I also had the impression that the Colorado River was more “raftable.” Boo. :)
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..We’re heading to London!

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