7 reasons to explore Grand Canyon by raft

By Steven Law

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23 2013 2:50 p.m. MST

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and for good reason. Yearly, millions of people come from all over the world just to see it, and strangely, most of them pause on the South Rim long enough to take a few pictures before roaring off to their next destination. But that’s no way to see this great jewel. Not even close. The best way to see the Grand Canyon is by raft. Get down on the river and soak it in.

During your journey you’ll travel 188 miles, camping each night on a clean sandy beach. You’ll explore numerous side canyons. You’ll make new friends. You’ll see amazing sights. You’ll experience the adventure of a lifetime. And many years from now when you’re on your deathbed, your Grand Canyon river trip — it doesn’t matter what other amazing things you did in your life — will be one of the top five best weeks of your life.

Here, then, are seven reasons why you should take a raft trip through one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

1. Apollo’s Temple: Your river trip will actually begin in Marble Canyon. And this is fortunate, for when you find yourself waking up inside Marble Canyon, pause a minute and look around, for you have awakened inside a temple — a temple dedicated to the perfect presentation of light.

When you awake, the camp will still be in shadow but the rims of the thousand-foot cliff walls that surround you will just now be catching the morning’s first bands of light. The early morning light falls in the spectrum between yellow and red, passing slowly through orange.

What light makes it into the bottom of this deep and narrow canyon, to be reflected once again off the river, has been repeatedly reflected, refracted and diffused. Marble Canyon is an actino-lurgical lab; a temple really, where light comes to be melded, bent and gilded, made malleable and soft, and draped gently across Marble Canyon’s cliff walls like beloved pieces of art. Sip your cocoa and take it in.

2. Exploring the many side canyons: It’s amazing really, for the Grand Canyon is a singular paradise, yet inside it, you’ll find dozens more paradises. To be disappointingly honest, there are simply too many beautiful side sights to see during your trip, but your guide will give you a tour of the best of the best.

Perhaps you’ll swim in the healing waters of the Sipapu when you reach the Little Colorado River. Or the Caribbean blue waters of Havasu, every guide’s favorite stop! And then there’s the Patio at Deer Creek, the single-best napping spot in the Grand Canyon. Or you may hike to the Anasazi granaries at Nankoweap, from where you’ll behold the most beautiful view in the entire Grand Canyon.

3. One thousand Veronicas: The Grand Canyon is world famous for its whitewater. It’s a river runner’s Mecca. Rafters come from all over the world to be doused in its famous whitewater. During your week on the river, you’ll run more than 100 rapids. You’ll run your first one eight miles into the trip, and your last one, six days later, about two miles above your last camp.

The biggest whitewater of the trip will come on the fourth day (if you’re on an oar trip, it will be stretched out from day five through eight). The river guides call it Rapid Transit Day, or Gorge Day, because it’s here that you enter the upper Granite Gorge. You’ll conquer 14 of the canyon’s biggest rapids that day, and several more medium-sized ones.

Over and over again the gorge’s massive waves will fold your raft into a shape that looks like a fortune cookie. Hold on a little bit. And just wait until you get to Hermit Rapid. I would nominate Hermit for best rapid in the world. Hermit Rapid alone is worth the price of the trip.

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