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Lots of GC Rafting Questions

Tiverton, Rhode...
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Lots of GC Rafting Questions

Hi all, I'm planning a rafting trip of the Grand Canyon for myself and a couple of friends who are all turning 50 next year. I have been through numerous websites and feel a little overwhelmed with choices and questions, so I hope you'll bear with me.

A little background: We're experienced flat water kayakers, with a little bit of white water experience. We're looking for a trip where we can do some of the work, rather than letting the guides or a motor do all the pulling. We don't have unlimited resources (who does) but we're not on a tiny budget/time table either.

1. Outfitters. There are lots of them. They seem pretty much the same. Is it a good idea to use a service like Advantage Grand Canyon?

2. Time of Year. Is there a time of year when the rapids are the biggest? When the weather is best? When there are smaller crowds? When prices are cheaper? What's better, May, July, or September?

I'm sure I'll have more questions later. Thanks in advance.

Eagle River, Alaska
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1. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

I am going in 69 days so will try to help with some of your questions.

As you already know there are 16 licenced outfitters offering rafting trips through the canyon. They are all good.

If you want to save yourself some time I suggest this website.

www.rivers-oceans.com

They are a no fee central reservation service with all the outfitters.

Tell them what you are looking for especially in regard to paddling yourselves. There are only a few outfitters who offer this option. It's called a "hybrid" trip. Some of these outfitters will also offer the option of "rubber duckies" as well.

I don't think there is any specific time of the year when the rapids are the biggest. The Glen Canyon dam controls all the flows - I think they will vary from 8000 cfs up to maybe 25,000 cfs. There are govt websites you can check to see the flows.

Time of year - I am going in late September. Weather will still be hot at the bottom of the canyon 95 to 100 and 60 - 70 at night. Hopefully most of the monsoons should be finished by then.

June, July and August will be hot hot hot and is the peak summer season, so more chance of school kids on your trip. (there are age limits for the non motor trips, I think it is 12 y.o.)

Smaller crowds will definitely be early and late season trips. Motor trips end on 15th September if that is of concern to you. When my trip launches, there will be 2 other commercial trips on the same day, and probably at least 1 or 2 private trips.

August trips will be in the monsoon season. It will be hot but there may be late afternoon thunderstorms that blow through the canyon. Can be spectacular waterfalls from the sides of the canyon walls, and the water will be red/brown color.

I went through all of the 16 websites before I found the trip I wanted. I am going with Grand Canyon Whitewater, but they don't offer the paddle trips. I am doing a 13 day oar trip.

I do suggest you ask Rivers & Oceans, they will be a great help to you and save you lots of time.

Whoever you choose, I am sure you will have a fantastic trip.

I can hardly wait for my trip in September.

Giddyup

Tiverton, Rhode...
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2. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

Thanks, Gilbert. That's great info, especially about the weather and the dam. I'm leaning toward a September trip, but we were concerned that the rapids might not be as big as the spring. Up in Maine and New Hampshire, the rivers are at their biggest in April and May and tend to die down as the summer dries up. It's good to know that the rapids stay fairly consistent because of the dam. I definitely don't want to go in the hot hot weather with a lot of kids.

Eagle River, Alaska
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3. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

I think September is a great time to go. It is still pretty hot, but not too hot. The water will be cold no matter what time you go (because it comes from the bottom of Lake Powell) about 45 to 50 degrees approx.

I have just finished reading a book called "The Emerald Mile". It was excellent. I would really recommend you reading this before you go.

Giddyup

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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4. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

The Emerald Mile. is indeed a great read ... You will find therein ... The amount of outflow from Glen Canyon Dam depends on how much needs be released to maintain the dams food control or power supply functions ... During the Summer boating season such "releases"often depend on how many air conditioners are in use in the power "grid" ... Water temps., are consistent year 'round ... I'll suggest joining a oar only trip in the fall ... carracar,(former boatman)

Sedona, AZ
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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5. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

http://rivers-oceans.com

This is the comprehensive website. They list all of the options and fully differentiate as to the types of trips. Gilbert's advice is excellent. The bottom line is that you shouldn't worry about the name of the trip provider. That will become evident when you focus on the type of watercraft, available dates, and number of days you have you have available to travel. Once you determine those things there will be one or two logical choices. Other factors that will affect your travel and budget include rendezvous start points and returns at the end of the trip. These can vary by hundreds of miles and typically include Las Vegas, Flagstaff and Page AZ or even Marble Canyon. Flying in and out of Phoenix or Las Vegas are the normal preferences, depending on the full trip itinerary. It can make a huge difference in lead time, car rentals and time for transport before and after the raft trip, as to how many days you'll need around flight times.

The rapids in the GC have their own rating system. You won't know if they're bigger or smaller, and it won't matter one bit. The water is always cold. 42-44 degrees is normal.

Virginia Beach...
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6. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

Just returned from a five day lower canyon trip with Canyoneers....fantastic experience! Great rafting company-experienced guides, top notch company. We had to take a motorized trip due to our daughter's age. I am glad we did. We were able to go further in less time plus we kept moving when there were no rapids...could not escape the heat and sun but I also am glad I was not working to move. We chose lower canyon due to larger rapids and more side hikes with waterfalls. Trip started with hike into canyon on Bright Angel Trail...highly recommend...exhausting but epic! Hope some tidbit here helps you.

Atascadero...
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for Lake Powell
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7. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

Gilbert gives great advice, and very thorough too. I was just on a 6-day oar-powered trip from Les Ferry to Phantom Ranch with OARS--outstanding all around. If you're interested in my (lengthy) trip report, here's the link:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28924-i139-k23224…

My trip report starts at post 194 and goes through 201. Photos in there too.

Gilbert is right about the dam: flows are regulated, and a minimum of 5,000 cfs, with a normal max of about 32,000 cfs. Right now it's about 10,000 cfs, and I'd expect that number to drop a bit as the summer goes on. On my trip, the flow was a shade under 10,000, and the rapids were pretty big at times, though manageable. The water ran clear--my trip was the first week of June--no storms in sight. River water temperature was about 48 at the beginning, and about 51 at Phantom Ranch. I think the typical range (year-round) is 45-50 (according to our guides), not 42-44, as RR reported.

I think September would be an outstanding time to go. Conditions will be similar to what I had in early June, only the days will be somewhat shorter, so the nights will get slightly cooler. Fantastic trip. Have a great time!!

Tiverton, Rhode...
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8. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

Thanks, everyone. I think we've decided on a hybrid trip of the upper canyon in April or May. I was outvoted on September. Is there enough time on the final day of the trip to hike out of the canyon, or does that require another overnight stay? Is that final night usually included in the trip, or do we need to make accommodations (like at Phantom Ranch) on our own? How do most people spend the final night before the hike out of the canyon?

Atascadero...
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for Lake Powell
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9. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

On my recent trip through OARS, the last night was spent camping on the river, about two miles before Phantom Ranch. Some trips actually have you stay at Phantom Ranch as part of the itinerary. We woke up before dawn on the last morning of the trip, they transported us to Pipe Creek (where the Bright Angel Trail first meets the river), and we hiked out from there. We were on the trail by 7 AM, and I was back up at the South Rim before noon.

Seattle
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for Grand Canyon National Park
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10. Re: Lots of GC Rafting Questions

The vast majority of Upper canyon rafters hike out the last day---as explained above they drop you off at Pipe creek beach in the morning so you have plenty of time to hike up the Bright Angel trail.

If you would like to overnight at Phantom instead of hiking out that day, book with one of the outfitters that offers that option. You cannot count on getting reservations on your own--- they are extraordinarily difficult to obtain. Hikers who are able to secure a Phantom reservation feel like they have one the lottery.