As spectacular as the Grand Canyon is from the top, there’s nothing quite like the Grand Canyon from the river.
Millions of people visit the Grand Canyon each year, but almost all of them stay on the rim.
If securing permits and gear, meal planning, and that pesky “skill set” required to navigate a boat through the epic rapids of the Grand Canyon isn’t for you, commercial raft trips can provide a world-class experience. For those with the mettle, years of work planning a private trip and learning the skills can be worth the work.
But whether you hire a guide or go it alone, the adventure is worth it Here are 10 reasons why.
1. The Colorado River
Leave behind the 9-to-5 schedule and connect yourself to the rhythm of the river. The Colorado River is the lifeblood of the Southwest. Without it, there would be no Grand Canyon (or Las Vegas).
The river courses through the 277-mile canyon, and a full run of the Colorado through the Grand Canyon covers almost 300 miles from Lee’s Ferry to the South Cove Take-Out at Lake Mead. Rafters hit dozens of challenging rapids.
2. The Rapids
World-class rapids abound in the Grand Canyon. There are plenty of doozies for the adventurous to whet their whistle, such as Hermit, Horn Creek, Crystal, and the granddaddy of them all, Lava Falls. These famed rapids are a hell of a ride.
For example, running Lava Falls is a mix between riding a roller coaster and going a few rounds with Mike Tyson. This epic rapids will get your heart pumping, and you’ll probably take a few punches as the walls of water swallow your boat. Hoots and hollers abound. This spicy pepper will get jalapen-yo-bizness.
3. Side Hikes
There are so many hidden gems in the Grand Canyon. Everyday along the river provides ample opportunity to explore the side canyons. Many of these drainages contain hidden gems that would otherwise be nearly impossible to experience without accessing them via the Colorado.
While this could qualify under “side hikes,” this spot is so unique and beautiful, it gets its own category. Havasupai is one of the most spectacular places in the world. Blue-green waters flow from pool to pool, waterfalls are everywhere, and it all empties into the Colorado River. Boaters get a leisurely walk to experience its Eden-like qualities.
5. The Natural History And Geology
By putting in at Lee’s Ferry, you see the storybook of earth unveiled before your eyes. Passengers witness layer after geological layer, as each chapter in our Earth’s history reveals itself with each passing mile. Touch the bedrock of the earth, 1.7 billion-year-old Vishnu Schist. It’s the oldest exposed rock in the world. The Grand Canyon is a geologist’s playground.
6. The Human History
People called the Grand Canyon home for thousands of years. The evidence left behind is fascinating, from petroglyphs to granaries to ancient bridges. The hike to the Nankoweap granaries offers one of the best views in all of the Grand Canyon.
7. The Stargazing
There’s nothing quite like the night skies from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The bottom of the canyon is remote, with no light pollution and very dry air, it’s an ideal place to stare into the heavens above. Because you almost never need a tent here, you can sleep right under the stars.
8. The Wildlife
Where there is water in the desert, there is life. The Colorado River provides water for an abundance of wildlife. Boats regularly pass wildlife along the banks of the river.
9. The Guides
Those who work on the river and spend vast portions of their year in the canyon provide stories, entertainment, and insight into one of the world’s best jobs.
10. The Camaraderie
Start the trip alongside strangers. End the trip with new friends. Commercial trips are full of fun people to share the adventure with.