We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“We did this a year ago and my son is still talking about it.”

Hualapai River Runners
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: One Day White Water Rafting Begin to explore the Grand Canyon walls over the white water rapids of the Colorado River. Hike up to Travertine Falls, a natural waterfall, with your experienced guide. Hear about the history and culture of the Hualapai people. Look for local wildlife while enjoying lunch along the banks of the river. Continue through the Grand Canyon on a smooth water ride viewing the towering canyon from a unique perspective. Complete your adventure with a helicopter flight up to the top of Grand Canyon West, home of the Skywalk. Rafts depart from Peach Springs, Arizona on Historic Route 66 from the Hualapai Lodge and ground transportation returns you to Peach Springs. All this in just one day! 2-Day Paddle Rafting The 2-Day Paddle Rafting Trip is a weekend only excursion that will ramp off at Diamond Creek RM 225 at 8: 00 a.m. Designated stops will be held at Travertine Falls, Separation, and camping at Spencer Canyon. This trip will include lunch, dinner, breakfast and assorted snacks for paddle rafters. Operational hours will begin at Sunrise to Sunset. Cost is $650 per person and must be 12+ years of age. No additional services included.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Activities for older children, Activities for young children
Reviewed 6 July 2010

Mission accomplished. My 15 year old son and I had a memorable trip that was full of adventure and an unbelievable once-in-a-lifetime experience.

First, my son and I drove from Las Vegas to Peach Springs. This does a lot to set expectations. As soon as you pass Hoover Dam, you realize that you really are in a rustic part of America. Please do not expect an all expenses paid resort and casino. If this helps you visualize this, there is no casino on this reservation and as near as I can tell, this trip is the main economic driver for the town.

We spent the night at the Hualapai Resort which is the equivalent of a Motel 6 with a diner. We arrived around 4PM, so we took a little tour of Peach Springs. There is a Cavern tour there and not much else. I brough a couple of cameras, so we spent the rest of day photographing Arizona.

At the resort, we had a couple of clean beds, a decent meal, and checked email from the two public computers in the lobby. I have a Blackberry, but the reception was 1 bar at the most. We woke up the next day ready for a lot of fun. I was surprised however to see two air-conditioned tour buses pull in from Las Vegas. I suspect that going from a tour bus to a yellow school bus would be somewhat of a letdown. However, if you spend the night beforehand, you will have few, if any, letdown issues that are expressed in some of these reviews. Frankly, the yellow school bus fits in with the overall ambiance of the reservation.

The trip itself had plenty of rapids and a remarkable period of dead silence. I was expecting white water all the way through. Not so. The calm part of the river really allowed time to see just how beautiful the canyon really is from the bottom looking up. If it weren't for the slow part, I'm sure we would have focused solely on hanging onto the raft.

You will be able to bring a few goods with you as long as they fit into a small container. I managed to get 2 Nikon cameras in the bag with long lenses. Yes, it was a risk, but I'm glad I did it. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone unless you are prepared to ruin a good camera. The way it saw it, I'd much rather have great pictures and have to get a new camera than the alternatives.

The helicopter ride was great. We landed right in front a gift shop on the canyon rim. So, after a 40 minute wait or so, our yellow school bus arrived to take us back to the resort. We were back at the resort around 7PM. Given the traffic around Hoover Dam, there is absolutely no way to get back to Las Vegas to catch a 9PM flight.

My son was exhausted which is normally hard to do.

The best way to think of this is that you are taking a trip to rural America. Although it's 2 hours away from Las Vegas, it's about 20 years behind the times. Enjoy it. With nothing else to do, my son and I had our best conversations ever.

6  Thank RustyNTexas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (222)
Traveller rating
Traveller type
Time of year
Language

189 - 193 of 222 reviews

Reviewed 13 May 2010

It’s disconcerting to sign a waiver that says, in effect, “We’re not responsible for your safety, even if we’re negligent” – doubly so when those you’re excusing from responsibility are about to deliver you into the wild nature of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, but such is the first real experience one has with the Hualapai River Runners (HRR) in Peach Springs Arizona, owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe in Northwest Arizona. So, it was with a little trepidation that we began our journey with HRR on 29 Apr 2010.

For those unfamiliar with the Hualapai River Runners, they offer the only 1-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, culminating in being airlifted 4000 feet out of the canyon via helicopter. You are encouraged to bring dry clothes so that after several hours of riding the rapids you can be more comfortable on the drive back to the starting point. Sounds like a fun day doesn’t it? Think again.

On that day, the forecast was threatening, and we were told the chances that the helicopters would be grounded due to weather were 50/50. We were all aware that if the weather didn’t permit and the helicopters were unable to fly, then the backup plan was to continue further down river to an alternate pickup point.

The day was cool with periods of rain, and all of the 22 passengers weren’t exactly appropriately dressed. Okay, that’s not HRR’s fault – but we were all very happy and relieved to see sunny skies and helicopters flying when we reached the landing area. Unfortunately our relief was short lived and our problems were just beginning when we were told by the helicopter service that our flights had been canceled and we were expected to get back on the rafts and continue downstream to the alternate pickup point. We were given several speculative and contradictory stories as to why this was the case – but the fact was that no one could adequately explain why we weren’t being airlifted out even though the weather permitted it. At one point we were told that the bus driver had been already redirected to the alternate pickup and that it was impossible for them to get in touch with her. This turned out to be untrue, as the bus driver had a cell phone and was using it soon after we arrived at the alternate pickup. The boatmen did not engage in the process at all, simply waiting at the boats for the passengers to return, and HRR had no other representatives on site. We were all reluctant to return to the boats, but most of us eventually did so, enduring a long, cold, and eventually rainy ride to the alternate pickup location. Several people had changed into their dry clothes already and refused to get back on the rafts. After the rafts left, they were eventually airlifted out (we don’t know how they arranged that), and they were driven by “security” to an intercept point where they boarded the return bus with the rest of us.

Some of those that returned to the boats had tickets for the Grand Canyon West Skywalk, which was at the helicopter landing point. While we weren’t among them, we were told they would receive full refunds for that part of the event. What I’ve heard from those that bought tickets since is that their credit cards were charged anyway and they had to pursue refunds through their credit card company.

On our return to the starting point (registration desk) we attempted to file complaints. The office was closed and we were told to return at 7 AM the next day. When we did, the “refund manager” – later referred to by title as the “Operations Manager” (Earlene), was not available and we were told she wouldn’t be available until 9 AM. When we returned promptly at 9 AM we learned that she had come and gone, and wouldn’t be back until noon. Reluctantly, we left our paperwork requesting a partial refund with the representative, who promised to pass it on to the Operations Manager, who would call us on our cell. No call from HRR was ever received.

Apparently a couple of others in our group continually approached the desk that day and did manage to corner the Operations Manager at 7:30 AM. According to them she acknowledged that some reimbursement was appropriate, but needed to talk to others before saying how much. BTW, she was told both by her staff and those that did talk to her that others intended to meet her at 9:00 AM, so her leaving early appears to have been a desire to avoid meeting with us.

So here’s the bottom line for the experience:
- Hualapai River Runners DO NOT DELIVER what they promise
o They did not airlift our group out, despite the fact that weather permitted
- Hualapai River Runners are potentially UNSAFE
o I recommend anyone considering this request a copy of the waiver before making reservations or paying them anything. If after reading this report and that waiver, you’re still willing to go – make sure your will is current, and leave anyone you love behind.
o While the boatmen adequately piloted their crafts, ours had only been on the job for 2 months, had limited knowledge of the canyon, and I have no confidence that he could have dealt with any form of emergency.
o The boatmen have no means of communication outside of the canyon. If an accident or other emergency were to occur on the river, then don’t expect them to be able to seek help. (One passenger related to me that their boatman said they had consistently requested satellite phones or other means of communication, but were always denied.)
o If they don’t have confidence in their staff, why should you?
o Do not take children – or anyone unable to completely fend for themselves in a rough environment.
- Hualapai River Runners have NO CONCEPT OF CUSTOMER SERVICE
o HRR had no method for directly communicating what was happening or why with their customers. This was true not only at the primary pickup point, but in the registration office where their representative appeared to be as ignorant about the situation as we were, and offered no help or even compassion.
o After talking to HRR on her cell, the bus driver did not pass on any information regarding the situation.
o There were no accommodations for restrooms or changing at the alternate pickup
o The “Operations Manager” did not directly respond to our request for a partial refund, and clearly took steps to avoid us. A few days after returning we learned that they credited us $40 total (about 5% of what we paid for 2 tickets, and only 25% of what was designated as their “transportation costs”). I consider this insufficient, considering they saved two to three times that in what they would have paid the helicopter company.
o No “comment” forms were available at the registration desk. They “apologized” for this, but offered no alternative. Here’s my “comment” form.
o To be fair, the bus driver did offer to stop for coffee – but that location was an hour from the alternate site, and had no public restroom facilities (a few managed to impose on the proprietors for use of their private facilities).

While this organization may be able to pull off the average trip on the average day, my conclusion from this experience is that they aren’t up to dealing with any issues that might be encountered. My recommendation is that you do your thrill seeking elsewhere.

Several other passengers from that trip have reviewed and agreed with this review. HRR was provided an advance copy of this review and offered an opportunity to respond or rebut. Not surprisingly, I’ve not heard anything back from them.

23  Thank CEB_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 April 2010

Having recently taken this trip with my wife and two teenage sons (on 4/5/10) , I wanted to write a review focusing on how to "mentally prepare" yourself for this excursion as the other reviews already do a good job of outlining the spectacular "positives". From what I can tell, the "negative" reviews seem to most often be the result of not setting realistically expectations.

There is only one way to take a single-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, and this is it. The reason for this is because there is only one “drive-in” route to the river. This route, which happens to be on an Indian reservation, follows a pass through the canyon in one of the most remote areas of the country. And so the first expectation you should set is that there are no super-highways winding their way through the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. Yes, you will be bumped & jostled; and no, this is not an air conditioned touring coach; but my two teenage sons were able to read on the ride and I worked a Sudoku puzzle. In other words, the bus ride wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be given the reviews (although an early April trip made the weather much milder).

Another expectation to set is to remind yourself that this is not a Disneyworld ride. The Indian guides on this trip know that the river is dangerous, that any help is a long way away, and that their primary goal is to see you safely downriver. They are hired for their boating skills, not their ability to entertain. And if they are reading some of the comments on this board, who can blame them for being a little surly? They live in a very remote area (and so maybe don’t take for granted the luxuries so many of us have), put their life on the line every day to give someone an adventure, and are then criticized for not “paving paradise” or lacking the gift of gab. Remember, those humorous double-decker bus guides we all love so much don’t have to drive the bus, navigate rapids, or rely only on what they’ve brought to make repairs. And as for that 45 degree muddy water? You need to know going in that the river is controlled by dams and the water released into it comes from the deepest parts of the reservoirs. The water is always cold, no matter what time of the year you take the trip.

We drove into Peach Springs late in the evening and this is another area where it helps to set (or reset) your expectations. Having never been to the Arizona desert, it was actually surreal to me how remote the area is. The lodge is literally the only modern structure I noticed on the reservation, other than what looks like a brand new school that must have been abandoned soon after being built. This may be especially jarring if you are arriving from Las Vegas.

The rooms at the hotel were modern, the food adequate, and the service decent; but this is not a “resort”. And for those of you new to Arizona (which I was), unpaved roads are a way of life. In fact, nearly every road we passed on the way from Vegas to Kingman was unpaved and so this is not something unique to the reservation. What is unique is the pass through the canyon to the river. And while it would be nice to travel in air-conditioned coaches, I’m not sure this would be financially viable given the amount of maintenance necessary for vehicles traveling these roads.

Once on the river, you WILL get wet (drenched actually) by 45 degree water for a good part of the first hour or two. Prepare for it. And later, you will find yourself on a very calm ride through the canyon for another couple hours. You should also be prepared for that (layers that can be taken off and the expectation of at least two hours without any white water).

Conditions on the river are hard and mechanical failures are a very real possibility. Our boat, with the most experienced guide, carried an extra motor and at one point we thought we were going to have to use it when another boat hit sand and couldn’t get their engine restarted. Thankfully, our guide was able to get it restarted, but if he hadn’t, we would likely have been looking at a lengthy delay. But again, knowing it might happen will help you deal with it if it does. There just isn’t going to be any kind of maintenance crew standing by to deal with these kind of situations.

As we neared the end point, the weather turned and we thought we might not be able to helicopter out. In addition to the disappointment of not enjoying the ride (and views), it would also have added a couple more hours to our trip (and by this point you are likely to be tired and a bit cranky). But the alternative is to risk a fiery (albeit spectacular) helicopter crash, or to sit yourself back down and deal with the vagaries of mother nature. Trust me when I say that your guides don’t want to have to bring you the rest of the way down to Lake Mead anymore than you would want to. But it MIGHT happen.

This is truly a once in a lifetime experience for most people, including myself, and I would have put up with a lot more inconvenience to experience it. The trick is to set your expectations, prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and then sit back and enjoy this marvel of nature.

26  Thank Cinci_Travelers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 April 2010

My family and I scheduled and took the Hualapai River Runners White Water raft trip last week (3/30/2010). It was a fantastic day and well worth the price. The views of the Grand Canyon from the river are awesome. Les was our guide and he was fantastic. The trip starts at 8am from the Hualapai Lodge. You will be back at the lodge at 7pm that night. Tired but satisfied.

You get to... ride class 3/4 rapids, climb a short hill to see a hidden waterfall, lunch on the banks of the Colorado and enjoy the views of the Grand Canyon. Travel 45 miles down the Colorado river. Ride a helicopter to the top of the canyon.

You will be wet for most of the day so I recommend that you take the trip in the late spring, summer, or early fall. The staff is friendly and accomodating.

You should schedule Les as your guide if possible. He makes the trip that much more enjoyable.

3  Thank golfdud60
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 October 2009

I went with 2 friends on the raft trip down the Colorado River as a 50th birthday adventure. We drove from Las Vegas on Sunday 9/27, and stayed at the Hualapai Lodge (see separate review). At approximately 8AM on Monday 9/28, we boarded the school bus from Hell for the ride down to the river. In 2004 I came here with my wife for the experience of driving down from the rim to the canyon floor, which can only be done from Peach Springs. We took the same, unimproved dirt road in a 4 wheel drive vehicle at approximately an average speed of 20 mph. Our bus driver must have averaged more than 30 or 35 mph. There are no seat belts on the bus and on more than one occasion, passengers were airborne. We stopped halfway down to stretch our legs and take some pictures. The second half of the bus trip was slightly better, possibly because our driver slowed down.

Now for the good part. EVERYTHING ELSE!!!!(except for the return bus trip)

Before we boarded the bus, my friends and I were talking with a member of the Hualapai tribe who recommended we request either Cole or Dugan for our raft guide. We did, and were assigned to Cole's raft. We were issued life jackets, and waterproof ammo boxes to keep cameras, etc. dry.

There were 9 passengers plus the guide on our raft. 3 sat on either pontoon facing the center of the raft, and 3 more sat on a wooden board facing forward. We immediately got our feet (and everything else ;-) ) wet with a class 4 rapid. The water was freezing but it felt good as the temperature was in the 90's. As stated in previous reviews, all the rapids are in the first part of the trip. They included 2 class 7's which were a blast!
Our guide, Cole would occasionally slow the raft down and give us some information about the canyon. We were also offered snacks and drinks which were kept in a cooler.

We stopped for lunch at the end of the rapids portion of the trip. We were given a turkey sub with a packet of grapes and choice of chips and beverages. We also were allowed to swim here if desired. Cole said that the water was 49 degrees F, although I believe it was probably about 10 degrees warmer than that. Even so, I didn't swim long as the water was quite cold.

For the rest of the trip, we were able to just enjoy the beauty of the Grand Canyon without getting wet from any more rapids. We docked for our extraction by helicopter. My friends and I each tipped Cole $20. It was very clear that these guys work very hard and have a long day. After guests are dropped off, the rafts continue down river where they are deflated and put on trucks for a long drive back to Peach Springs to do it all over again the next day.

The helicopter ride (my first) was an added bonus, and quite an operation. I didn't get an accurate count, but I believe there were at least 5 helicopters ferrying people to and from the pad by the river to the airport at Grand Canyon West. Passengers got out to do calm water rafting, and we boarded to return to Peach Springs.

We had planned to do the Grand Canyon Skywalk the next day on our way back to Las Vegas. However, since we were here, and other people on the bus were going to do it, we saved ourselves the detour and did it then. It was quite breathtaking, and I only looked down through the glass bridge once. That was enough. It's somewhat disconcerting to look at your feet and see straight down some 4000 feet!!! We posed for a picture and headed back.

Now came the bus ride from Hell part 2. Same driver, new(er) bus. It was a much longer ride back to the Hualapai Lodge, since we had gone 40 miles on the river. There seemed to be fewer BIG bumps on this ride, and before long we were on a paved road. Woohoo! However, we didn't stay on that road long, and got on another bumpy dirt road. Again, it seemed better than the drive down to the river, but it was much longer, and everyone was a little beaten up from the adventure.

In conclusion, my friends and I absolutely LOVED the trip. Were it not for the bus rides, I think I would like to do it again with my wife. However, I wouldn't hesitate recommending the trip - it was well worth suffering the bumps on the bus for the thrill of the rapids and the beauty of the Grand Canyon.

6  Thank MLPdiverRI
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

Travellers who viewed Hualapai River Runners also viewed

Peach Springs, Hualapai Reservation
Peach Springs, Hualapai Reservation
 
Peach Springs, Hualapai Reservation
Peach Springs, Hualapai Reservation
 

Been to Hualapai River Runners? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing