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Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:58 pm
by DaveK
I’ve seen the Grand Canyon from the south and north rim. I now have seen the entire Grand Canyon at river level and it was one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on.

The trip was an 8 day adventure through the Grand Canyon, beginning at Lees Ferry, just below the Glen Canyon Dam (which creates lake Powell), and travels 280 miles, over nearly 200 rapids, to Lake Mead.

The trip was booked through The Grand Canyon Expeditions Company, out of Kanab Utah ( Our pilot, Bob Dye, had 35 years of experience and he knew every inch of the 280 miles we traveled. Running the river and the daily side trips gave us a view into the Canyon that no book or picture could ever hope to match. Bob’s knowledge of the river, it’s history, and its geology really made for a fantastic first class trip. We were also accompanied by a geologist who helped make sense of this incredible geological wonderland.

For a July trip, especially in a desert environment, we should have seen temps, every day, well above 100. When I booked the trip, I forgot that July was in the middle of the monsoon season and for the first few days, we were treated to afternoon thunder storms including one day with hail. The mornings during these days were very pleasant and sunny and the afternoons, after the rain, were just as pleasant. The storms blew through after a few days and the weather was just what you would expect in the desert in July - fabulous!

There was never a time when the urge to snap a picture wasn’t overwhelming. While the pictures that I took give a good view of the canyon, it must be actually seen to be fully appreciated. I ended up with just short of 8 gigs worth of pictures, but there were several others that had much more. In preparation for the trip, I brought what I thought was an ample supply of batteries for the camera. I failed to anticipate the amount of drain that continual on and off cycling and the use of the video function would have on the batteries. After three days of blowing through the “high-capacity” batteries, it was clear that I would run out before the trip was over. Fortunately, I had purchased a small (back-packable) solar panel, made by Goal Zero, and their rechargeable batteries. The entire package, including the batteries, is very small and very efficient. An hour charge during lunch and an hour or so charge at camp in the afternoon were all that I needed to keep the camera at peak power for the remainder of the trip.

In the canyon, there are almost no means to communicate with the outside world. It almost goes without saying that cell phones were useless, although I tried as we passed the south rim. I brought the FT60 and gave it a try nearly every night, but without any luck. Our guides brought a sat phone, but given the height of the narrow canyon walls, it was spotty, at best, sometimes requiring a wait of hours before a signal was available. I felt naked without an HF radio and for the next trip, I will be carrying a portable of some sort.

No trip report would be complete without a mention of food. Bob, and the crew, prepared 3 fabulous meals a day and I even picked up a few tips for my own long terms trips as I watched them work. Larry, this would have been a heaven on earth for you - it was an all you can eat affair! No one ever left hungry and the food was first class.

It’s impossible to pick the highlight of the trip, but I will mention just one - the Little Colorado. As one would expect, the Colorado is a bit muddy, owing to the massive amount of erosion taking place. As we entered the “official” Grand Canyon, the Little Colorado entered from the left. The contrast in color between the two rivers was stunning. The LC was a turquoise blue as a result of the calcium carbonate eroded from the limestone, and unlike the Colorado, it was relatively clear. The pictures below show the point where the two rivers meet and the fascinating contrast in color.

One side note for those who enjoy an evening adult beverage. Since carrying glass bottles was seriously discouraged, we went with box wines. If you chose this option, find a way to protect the box from water. By the time we realized that EVERYTHING on the boat gets wet, the box had been converted to an unrecognizable glob of pulp. Fear not however, not a drop of wine was lost.

One of the unexpected things that occurs on a trip of this length are the new friendships that develop with all of the other people on the boat as well as the crew. This, along with everything else, made for one of the very best trips ever!

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More to come

Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:04 pm
by salad_man
Those are just plain awesome Dave, what a trip!

Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Fri Jul 22, 2011 5:43 pm
You just took one my biggest bucket list adventures. Great pictures and great trip Dave!!!

Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 3:54 pm
by michael
Great photos! The junction of the two rivers must have been a rare thing to see.

I'll be watching the next reports to see how well the wine cellar held up to the rigors of the trip!


Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 10:32 am
by BorregoWrangler
Awesome trip, Dave! I'm sure the pictures don't do it justice. Looking forward to the rest of your report.

Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Sun Jul 24, 2011 4:13 pm
by cruiserlarry
Beautiful pics of what sounds like an amazing trip !!!

I'm extremely envious, and hope to do a similar excursion someday... :D

Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:50 am
by gon2srf
Stupendous Dave, I felt like I was there. Looking forward to pix of the grub and I'm sure some spectacular evening skies. 8-)

Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 12:46 pm
by FishPOET
WOW. Thanks for sharing.

Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:25 pm
by DaveK
Thanks everyone for the kind comments.

Michael: The report on the wine was favorable. It had been a very long time since I purchased a box wine and I had my reservations. The brands I brought were Franzia (a Cab) and something sold at BevMo under the name of Bota Box (a Zin), neither of which I had tried. All things considered, they were very good with the Zin being the best. I think that future trips will include, at least, some box wines.

Here are the last of the photos.

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For those who are familiar with the Parashant, you may remember Separation Canyon, so named after several members of John Wesley Powell's expedition departed (separated) from their trip , up this canyon and attempted to return home through what is now the Parashant. Unfortunately they never made it. The canyon terminates at the river and looking up, a small chunk of Kelley Point can be seen.
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This very small, portable solar panel was the perfect addition to a trip where a great deal of battery power was needed and where NO other recharging opportunities existed.
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Camp was always on the banks of the river, which was generally much cooler than being even 20 or more yards away.
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The first two shots are of salt which was exiting the canyon wall and forming columns. The formation was continually being built as evidenced by the drop asseen on the second photo. The last photo is a rock formation called "fluting", which is caused by the swirling water as it rushes over the canyon walls.

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Re: Running the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon

Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:40 am
WOW!!! Amazing!!!

The size of those rafts is most impressive. What kind of temps did you encounter?