Our group had landed a chief campsite simply throughout the Colorado River from Deer Creek Fall, and we weren’t about to let a little bit rain dampen our spirits. The rain continued as I unfold my tarp, assembled my cot and regarded skyward for aid. Whereas the solar was nonetheless buried in darkish clouds, a patch of blue rising on the western horizon gave me hope. Because the blue sky approached, I might see that the solar would quickly be launched and that we—and, extra importantly, the falling rain—could be bathed daylight. Rafting Grand Canyon gives a completely new perspective on this iconic nationwide park, and typically one thing magic occurs.

rafting Grand Canyon double rainbow photo

Double rainbow and Colorado River, Grand Canyon Nationwide Park.

Rain, daylight and a low solar angle are the components for a rainbow. Although I’d all the time dreamed of photographing a rainbow arcing above the Grand Canyon, I attempted to not get my hopes up. However when it turned obvious {that a} rainbow was just about inevitable, I suspended my campsite setup, grabbed my digital camera, and raced to the river like Paul Revere, crying, “A rainbow is coming! A rainbow is coming!” After all, with the rain nonetheless falling, my cries have been greeted with skepticism, however I insisted, and inside minutes we have been all marveling at a double rainbow spanning the Grand Canyon’s purple partitions. Thirty minutes later, when the rain lastly stopped and the rainbow light, our lead information informed us this was essentially the most vivid, longest-lasting rainbow he’d ever seen in his 20 years working right here.

There are numerous methods to expertise Grand Canyon, however to understand this pure marvel’s scale, energy and variety, nothing matches a visit rafting Grand Canyon on the Colorado River within the shadow of its towering partitions. “Placing in” at Lee’s Ferry, about 15 miles downriver from Web page, the Grand Canyon eases you into its majesty. Right here at first of Marble Canyon, the Grand Canyon’s solely vital north/south trending part, the partitions are measured in lots of of toes, not 1000’s, and the river’s tempo is a delicate float punctuated by rare riffles and minor rapids.

Colorado River reflection, Grand Canyon Nationwide Park.

In Marble Canyon, the Colorado River has solely simply begun the relentless carving that can ultimately attain 6,000 toes into the encircling plateaus downstream. As you drift alongside, you’ll discover the canyon partitions progressively rising to show new layers of lithified sediment, every layer representing thousands and thousands of years of Earth’s historical past. The 250-million-year-old Kaibab limestone that was only a few hundred toes above your head at the beginning of the journey now towers greater than a thousand toes. And, as you’ll quickly uncover, that’s just the start.

About 60 miles (because the raft floats) from Lee’s Ferry is the confluence of the Little Colorado River, the place your journey takes a metaphorical and literal flip. Simply downstream from the confluence, the Colorado River makes a 90-degree bend to circulation west, and the Grand Canyon’s as soon as narrowly spaced partitions open to disclose huge expanses of sky. Dwelling to a number of the darkest skies in North America, each sq. inch on the backside of the Grand Canyon is spectacular for viewing and photographing stars, however nowhere else within the canyon is a lot sky seen.

The river additionally picks up velocity after the Little Colorado. Not solely do the rapids develop in measurement and depth, but in addition they develop into extra frequent. And simply as abruptly because the canyon partitions opened, they slender, and you end up careening by the inside gorge, previous rocks which can be almost 2 billion years previous. On this part, beneath the panoramic vistas recognized to all Grand Canyon South and North Rim guests, you hardly get an opportunity to dry off from one speedy earlier than the subsequent looms.

Colorado River speedy, Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon Nationwide Park.

Persevering with west, the motion moderates barely—not in depth as a lot as in frequency—however the sights proceed to unfurl at a relentless tempo. By the point the river deposits you in Lake Mead, you’re a seasoned river veteran who has traversed a cross-section of Earth’s historical past relationship again over 2 billion years.

Balancing all this depth will likely be a number of the most serene moments you’ve ever skilled. For a lot of the canyon’s 277 miles, the white water is separated by lengthy stretches of glassy water. In these areas the place calm prevails, utter silence is interrupted solely by the sounds of wind, water and wildlife. At any level on the river, you may hear a hawk’s cry, spy a California condor perched atop an outcrop or witness a household of bighorn sheep scamper alongside the rocky ledges. At evening, for those who’re fortunate, you may spot the eyes of a ringtail cat glowing by the flames of your campfire.

Deer Creek Fall, Grand Canyon Nationwide Park.

One of many issues that struck me most on my first journey rafting Grand Canyon and that also awes me with every return is the character and persona of the options that comprise the canyon. Seen from the rim, the magnificent expanse of layered rock, accented by occasional glimpses of the distant Colorado River’s meandering thread, make for spectacular pictures. Up prime, the purple rock is king.

However from the underside of the canyon, it’s clear that the river is most positively in cost. You additionally see that the rock that seems so stable from a distance is riven with deep caves, slender slot canyons and spring-fed waterfalls. Garnishing all this element are hovering spires and big buttes, and ridges lower by hanging valleys that develop into raging cataracts throughout monsoon downpours.

Blue water, Little Colorado River, Grand Canyon Nationwide Park.

I believe the Grand Canyon function I used to be most unprepared for is the unattainable blue of the Little Colorado River and Havasu Creek in the course of the months earlier than the summer time monsoon muddies the water with sediment and particles. And talking of clear water, my favourite time for the journey is spring, when the temperature is heat however not too heat, and the Colorado River runs a deep, translucent inexperienced that’s a stark distinction to the opaque brown of the monsoon months.

However the Grand Canyon will not be all water and rock. An alert eye may spot the stays from an ill-conceived, aborted plan to dam the Colorado River. And a little bit close-up detective work contained in the canyon reveals historical animal and plant fossils, and far more current proof of Native American inhabitation, such because the granaries at Nankoweap.

Elves Chasm, Grand Canyon Nationwide Park.

One ultimate side of rafting Grand Canyon that shouldn’t be neglected is the group and closeness the expertise fosters amongst rafters. On every journey, lifelong friendships type between rafters (myself included) who have been full strangers after we pushed off at Lee’s Ferry. Nothing bonds individuals, associates and strangers alike, extra carefully than shared meals, tales and laughter, to not point out the frequent expertise of an ideal second in nature. The rainbow I began with occurred 4 years in the past, however that reminiscence, and the reminiscence of who I used to be with, will final a lifetime.

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