Grand Canyon Ants – Learn How To Live With Them


Part II: Exist Harmoniously with Grand Canyon Ants

Grand Canyon Ants

Red Harvester Ants are prevalent at campsites and beaches.

Grand Canyon ants hustle and bustle as they salvage crumbs in the sand on the beaches in and around camp. The ants in the Grand Canyon are not Fire Ants, but rather a Red Harvester Ant. They are a little pesky but you can co-exist. First, learn to recognize nest locations and ways to avoid the ants to begin with! But if you get a sting it is good to know what to do. Here are a few tips to live harmoniously with Grand Canyon ants on your next trip with Arizona Raft Adventures.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

grand canyon ants

Sometimes finding a nest free zone is a challenge!

As always, be aware of your surroundings. Look for nests. Sit away from nests. Set your sleeping area up in a nest free zone. Nests are usually in the shape of a mound with a hole in the middle. You will also find a lot of pebbles on the mound. The ants bring pebbles up out of the soil as they build. In heavily used sandy camps, the nest may only be identified by a small hole(s) in the sand. Another sign that you are near a nest is that you see a lot of ant activity. They are very busy.

Avoid the Sting if Possible

Grand Canyon ants only sting when threatened. This means they will crawl on you and not sting unless they get pinched or squished. The most common site for a sting is on the foot. Ants get stuck under a sandal strap and it presses down on them causing them to sting. It is best to wear shoes and socks in camps where there are a lot of ants.  Also, carefully shake out all life jackets, clothes and shoes before putting them on or putting your gear away in your bags. If you discover an ant crawling on you or your stuff, gently flick or shake it off, do not swat it.

In addition, Grand Canyon ants are generally only active during daytime hours (diurnal creatures). Therefore, do not lay your sleeping bag out until you are ready to climb in it. This helps prevent stray ants from making a detour on their way home to their nest.

About the Sting and What To Do

bite swab

Bite swabs are located in the kitchen first aid kit if you need one quickly.

Stings happen on nearly every trip. Tell your river guides if you get stung. There are bite swabs in the kitchen first aid kit. Apply the bite swab immediately and you may be able to reduce some of the pain. Another potential pain reliever is cold water. Soak the sting area in the river or a bucket of river water. Your favorite pain reliever may also help. Benadryl is a recommendation from some previous patients if you find it difficult to sleep.

Some people have very strong reactions to the sting. This results in painful throbbing in the lymph area of the groin as the toxin travels through the lymphatic system, as well as local pain at the bite. The pain can last up to 24 hours.  This is not an allergic reaction, but a strong systemic reaction to the toxin. Allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, are extremely rare. However, if hives develop or any swelling of the airway, it could quickly become a serious emergency situation.

Learn More About the Red Harvester Ant

Some people may consider Grand Canyon ants a nuisance, but they are actually very phenomenal creatures! Did you know they are commonly called Fire Ants? In addition, there are really fascinating facts about their life cycle and their place in nature. Find out the difference between a Fire Ant and a Red Harvester Ant and other facts in Part I of a two series feature: The Red Harvester Ant.

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Delve Into the Life of the Red Harvester Ant


Part I: Grand Canyon Red Harvester Ant

Red Harvester Ant

Red Harvester Ants are very common in the Grand Canyon.

When you head out on a Grand Canyon raft adventure with Arizona Raft Adventures, you will meet the Red Harvester Ant within hours of your departure. The Red Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex Californicus, is one of the most numerous and common insects you spot at lunch stops, hikes and at camps along the river. They are very interesting creatures! Learn a few fascinating facts about the ant. Then, read up on how to co-exist harmoniously with red ants on your raft adventure.

Interesting facts about Harvester Ants

  • Fire Ants

    Fire Ants and Harvester Ants are commonly mistaken for each other.

    Guides and guests alike mistakenly call the Red Harvester Ant a Fire Ant, however, they are distinctly different species. The infamous Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta (also known at RIFA-red imported fire ant), is well-known to the public. The Fire Ant is an invasive creature accidentally introduced into the Southeastern USA. Because it has very few natural enemies, the spread has been rapid throughout the South causing many problems. It is aggressive in nature and inflicts painful blistering stings if protecting its nest. The Fire Ant contributes to the loss of billions of dollars a year in damages to agricultural crops and equipment, livestock, wildlife, public health and electrical equipment.

  • The Red Harvester Ant queen lives 20-30 years and stores sperm from her first mating in the spring of her first year. She uses the sperm to continually produce offspring for a lifetime.
  • Red Harvester Ants seal their nests up every night with pebbles to protect the nest from predators and the cold. The ants that do not make it home before the nest closes, or the ants with the assignment to seal the nest, have to stay outside all night. They die if it is too cold.
  • Fire Ants out compete and kill Harvester Ants. The Harvester Ant is the main diet of the Horned Lizard (or Horny toads). In areas where the invasion of non-native Fire Ants is evident, Harvester Ants and Horned Lizards are in serious decline because the Fire Ants out compete the Harvester Ants. In Grand Canyon, Horned Lizards are only found at Lees Ferry. However, the Desert Spiny Lizard which is found in the Grand Canyon, is also known to eat Harvester Ants.

Interesting Facts About the Sting

  • Interestingly, the Harvester Ant is believed to be the most poisonous insect in the world. Fortunately, it only injects a small amount of venom. So while a sting can be very painful and long lasting, they are rarely something to worry about.
  • Some venom from species of the Red Harvester Ant has been used for hallucinogenic and therapeutic purposes among some Native American tribes and in some areas of Latin America.
  • All the worker ants seen around camp are sisters and only females can sting. The stinger-less males have wings and their doom is to die in the spring soon after mating.

    Check out those mandibles!

  • Just 12 stings from a Harvester Ant can kill a 4.4 lb rat. While that’s a big rat, 350 stings could kill a 150 lb human.
  • The Harvester ant sting is a two part process. First, it bites with its mandible’s. Then it holds on tight and stings as many times as they can while attached. Consequently, removing the ant quickly is a must to reduce the amount of venom injected.

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“On the Brink of Shards”


Five Reasons to Read On the Brink of Shards

On the brink of shards

On the Brink of Shards, by Nancy Rivest Green, is a fictional story recommendation for Grand Canyon rafting enthusiasts. If you seek a unique and intriguing page-turner incorporating things you have come to learn and love about the Southwest and the Grand Canyon, this may be the book for you. In fact, order the book today and receive 20% off the regular retail price (sale through the end of January only). Here are five reasons why Grand Canyon raft adventure participants love On the Brink of Shards.

Reason # 1 – The Story is Geographically Intriguing

on the brink of shards

Map of Kaiya and Kayko’s journey at the Grand Canyon.

The two main characters, Kaiya and Drok, live separate stories for much of the book. Each takes a momentous journey across land familiar to readers who travel in Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon. However, Kaiya’s journey aligns more geographically with a Grand Canyon raft adventure. Her story begins at Walnut Canyon and her journey takes her through Wupatki, Betatakin, Hovenweep, Aztec, Chaco Canyon, Homolovi, and then back to her home at Walnut Canyon. But not for long, because she has to flee the Toltecs who chase her. Then she goes by herself through the Little Colorado River gorge to the Confluence of the mighty Colorado River, crosses the River by Unkar, climbs to the Walhalla Plateau on the North Rim, where in a final battle meets Drok. It is the North Rim where she also consequently meets the love of her life, Kayko.

Kaiya and Kayko have an idyllic time on the North Rim, but then Kaiya receives direction by her clan’s shaman that she must travel once again. She and her lover hike across the Canyon and then again cross the River. They roughly follow the Bright Angel Canyon drainage before they top out on the South Rim. They hike to Keyhole Sink where they set up their new residence. Sound familiar? It should! Kaiya’s journey includes real places inhabited by the Ancient Puebloan long ago. Therefore, you might visit one or more of these spots as part of the experience on a Grand Canyon raft adventure. The author provides a few maps to help get your bearings straight.

Reason # 2 – The Theme Reflects Today’s World

But only a small part of a big world, the majestic Grand Canyon always leaves an impression.

If you have been on a Grand Canyon raft trip with Arizona Raft Adventures then you know it is more than just good fun! River guides are not only leaders, they are teachers. They incorporate education into an adventure in a way which you don’t even realize you are learning. In fact, every trip blends a theme about protecting natural resources and restoring balance. This is exactly what takes place in On the Brink of Shards.

On the Brink of Shards integrates the very same issues humans deal with today with issues the characters face in the book. One major theme regards a society facing climate change, environmental degradation, overpopulation and depletion of natural resources.

In addition, the author also wants the reader to know that basically people have not changed through time. People still want basic survival needs met. They want safety, artistic freedoms and to be loved. Most noteworthy, the author wants the reader to acknowledge the diversity in the story. There are people with disabilities, gay people, kind people and bullies.

Reason # 3 – The Cast of Characters is Diverse

Arizona Raft Adventures gives a lot of thought to the diverse staff. Each crew is delicately staffed with an interesting cast of characters. This is what you find with the cast of On the Brink of Shards. Here is a summary of the characters you meet:

  • Kaiya – the “good” main character, an orphan of the clan training to be a healer
  • Drok – the “evil” main character, blood lusting, violent and power hungry
  • Moochkla – the wise and kindly shaman
  • Bertok – Kaiya’s uncle, an artist struggling with his sexual identity
  • Souva – Moochkla’s brother, who has spent his whole life enraged and cut off from his feelings
  • Jumac – the wise storyteller of the clan
  • Tal – a magical cougar
  • Pem – a Toltec with no tolerance for violence
  • Loka – an albino temple worker
  • Cumani – a misguided Toltec priest
  • Sess – a traveling Kokopelli
  • Obaho – a brain-injured sweet man of the clan
  • Kayko – Kaiya’s great love

Reason #4 – You Learn a Plethora of Vocabulary

Nancy Rivest Green incorporates words throughout the story that are historically accurate. Many of these words you also learn on a Grand Canyon raft adventure. These words also pop up in studies about the Ancient Puebloan of the Southwest and other Native American studies around the word. You will read words like cobblebar, scat, Chub, obsidian, pinyon nuts and kiva. Here are some additional favorites to add to your glossary:

Hisatsinom: A Hopi word meaning “people of long ago” used to describe the ancestral Puebloan people who inhabited the Four Corners region of the Colorado Plateau.

Pulque: Pulque is believed to be one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to North America drunk first by the Aztecs. It is made by fermenting the sap of the maguey plant. Colorado River enthusiasts know this more commonly as the Century plant or the agave which are prevalent all over the region. It is a milky, a little foamy and somewhat thick. The history of pulque intrigues any history buff.

Wikiup: A wikiup is a single room, dome-shaped dwelling structure. They were usually used more like a tent rather than a permanent structure. The wikiup was used by Native Americans and made by draping branches over each other. Then weaving or lying branches over the structure.

Atlatl: An ancient weapon used for hunting found used all over the world. The two piece weapon is best described as a spear thrower. It predates the bow and arrow!

Reason #5 – Supporting Northern Arizona Authors Helps Support and Protect the Grand Canyon

Nancy Rivest Green

Nancy is a long-time Northern AZ resident.

Northern Arizona authors are known to connect to the land they love. Support Northern Arizona authors, and you are inadvertently helping support the land you love too. Author Nancy Rivest Green, lives a life deeply intertwined with the Grand Canyon. However, there are many authors who maintain an abiding love for the Colorado Plateau landscape. For example, Wayne Ranney and Don Lago. Wayne is a geologist and author of Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, Theories and Mystery, and Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau. Don Lago, canyon historian, is the author of Grand Canyon Trivia and Grand Canyon: A History of a Natural Wonder and a National Park.

Bonus Reasons – It’s on sale!

Stalking the Wild Dragonfly

Nancy’s second novel was released in December of 2016.

If these five reasons don’t convince a Grand Canyon raft enthusiast to read On the Brink of Shards, then here is one more reason. Nancy worked for Arizona Raft Adventures for 17 seasons as an orientation hostess! She was a teacher at the South Rim village where her and her husband (a park ranger) lived and worked. Nancy has hiked and rafted countless hours in the Grand Canyon and around the region. Her experience, passion and dedication is real. For those who know Nancy, On the Brink of Shards is an extension of her imagination. The book is a great example of her literary expertise!

Pick up a copy of her book before or after your Grand Canyon raft adventure. Or order online anytime from AzRA’s Red River Sports retail store. Today through the end of January, order the book on SALE at 20% off the regular retail price from Red River Sports.

Nancy just published her second book called Stalking the Wild Dragonfly: Stories of Experiences in Nature, which is also included in the promotion.

“If we’re smart – we’ll use both science and history to help us restore balance without letting our civilizations descend into chaos.”  Nancy Rivest Green

Grand Canyon National Park Christmas


A National Park Christmas Vacation

national park christmas

The Grand Canyon under a blanket of snow is a fantastic sight to see!

Many travelers and explorers spend the Christmas holiday at a National Park. The Grand Canyon National Park is no exception. While the North Rim of the Park is closed for the winter season, the South Rim of the National Park is open 356 days a year. The South Rim park entrance is in Tusayan, AZ. The holidays offer a unique National Park Christmas experience to delight any guest! Here are some reasons why the winter break is a great time to visit and additional ideas of things to do on a National Park Christmas vacation at Grand Canyon.

Few Crowds

With over five million visitors a year, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is busy and crowded. The winter, in general, offers fewer crowds. In particular, the Christmas holiday is rather quiet. Travelers who fear the colder weather will stay away. And many folks simply stay home or visit family during the holidays instead of exploring.

Good Hotel Deals

Find winter hotel deals at the South Rim and Tusayan for up to 40% off during the holidays. The El Tovar is a popular lodge because of its unique location, historical significance and rooms with a view. In addition, the El Tovar restaurant, known for offering dishes featuring regional ingredients, is also open during the holidays and offers Christmas Day dining options (reservations recommended). There are other nice accommodations at the South Rim and you do not have to stay at the El Tovar to make meal reservations. 

Holiday Decorations and Festive Atmosphere

national park christmas

Festive decorations can be found all around Grand Canyon National Park.

The hotels and restaurants are festive during the holidays. Fires crackle in the lodge fireplaces and the hearths are trimmed with red bows. See streams of garland drape the lobbies, trees adorned with ornaments, strands of beautiful lights and maybe snow! 

The South Rim sits at about 6,800’ elevation, so it is not uncommon to have snow on the ground over the Grand Canyon National Park Christmas Holiday. Have you ever seen the Grand Canyon blanketed with a white veil of snow? It is breathtaking! In addition, the snow on the floor of the Ponderosa pine forest is a peaceful addition to the experience.

The Polar Express Train Ride

The Grand Canyon Railway runs back and forth between Williams, Arizona, and the South Rim train depot. During the holidays, take the Polar Express Train Ride. The Polar Express takes participants to the North Pole where Santa and his reindeer await your arrival! Be sure to make a reservation in advance as this experience books up – especially the closer it gets to Christmas. 

Hiking (Proceed With Caution)

Wildlife enjoys the snowy winter weather at the Grand Canyon!

Wildlife enjoys the snowy winter weather at the Grand Canyon!

If you are physically fit and an experienced hiker, then it might be possible to take advantage of hiking opportunities. It is important to keep in mind that the South Rim has an average elevation of about 6,800 feet (2,072 meters). In addition, it is winter, so consequently the weather can be rather extreme at times. Visitors may experience snow, icy roads, icy trails and maybe even road closures. Be very cautious of steep drop offs and slippery conditions. If you are at the Canyon during a snowstorm, the view is likely obstructed by clouds and snow. 

But December temperatures range with an average daytime high of 43 degrees and low in the 20’s (6 degrees C to -7 degrees C). If the weather is 40 degrees and sunny, and if the trails are NOT covered in snow and ice, the winter is a great time to hike the Bright Angel Trail. Maybe even hike all the way to the bottom of the Canyon and experience much milder temperatures. However, be forewarned, as the weather changes quickly and you could find yourself hiking unprepared in dangerous conditions if a snowstorm approaches.  Please check the weather, prepare for all conditions and talk to a ranger before hiking in the Grand Canyon.

Lots Of Other Things To Do During Your Holiday Vacation

national park christmas

An ornament is a great gift or souvenir! Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park Lodges.

There is a plethora of book stores and gift shops for last minute shopping or to pick out a Grand Canyon National Park souvenir ornament! It’s also a great time to shop the clearance racks at the gift shops. You can often find end of the season retail deals

Also, the scenic and historic Hermit Road is open to private vehicles. This means you take your own vehicle to the scenic overlooks such as Hermit’s Rest and Pima Point. There you find some of the best views of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. If you look closely, you might even spot a raft trip. Commercial raft outfitters, like Arizona Raft Adventures, do not run expeditions during the winter months due to extreme weather conditions and the National Park regulations. However, you might see a privately operated raft trip still making the brave journey down the frigid Colorado River.

Here are a few additional ideas of things to do in the winter:

  • Attend free ranger programs
  • Watch the park orientation film at the Visitor’s Center
  • Take a mule trip into the Canyon
  • Walk the Trail of Time and visit the Yavapai Museum of Geology
  • Climb the Desert View Watchtower
  • Visit the Kolb Studio
  • Explore the Tusayan Ruin and Museum
  • Stop at a photo hot spot
  • Go to a show at the Grand Canyon Imax Theater in Tusayan

A Vacation In The Making

With all the amazing things still happening in the winter at the Grand Canyon, there are a few things that you cannot do during a winter vacation. The bicycle rental shop is closed for the season. The campground is also closed. Finally, there are no commercial whitewater or smoothwater raft trips available.

While the weather might not be 70 degrees and sunny, you can see there are many things that make this vacation idea a unique experience and there is plenty to keep you busy during a Grand Canyon National Park Christmas vacation. 

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An Arizona Raft Adventures Winter


Keeping Busy Year Round – An Arizona Raft Adventures Winter

Arizona Raft Adventures winter season

A Flagstaff snowstorm. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.

Grand Canyon raft adventures begin in April and run through October. Have you ever wondered what goes on in the winter season? An Arizona Raft Adventures winter season is surprisingly busy. The office and warehouse are stationed in Flagstaff, Arizona. The climate can  be snowy and cold.

It takes years of planning to produce a smooth operating Grand Canyon raft adventure. The office and warehouse staff are hustling and bustling to ensure that equipment, trip logistics, guide training and scheduling, and future guests are lined up and ready to go for the following season. River guides are often working their other job whether it be their primary career or their winter job. And adventurists are gathering gear and exercise training in preparation for their adventure.

In the Office

winter season

The reservations team exclaims, “Thank you for being our guest!”

From the end of October through March, the office team is hard at work. There is lots to do to finish up the season and to get ready for the next two seasons. They begin with combing through all of the paperwork from the guests that are attending a trip in the next season. Then, believe it or not, they take reservations for the following year. Yes, you heard correctly. It is often necessary to reserve two years in advance!

The Red River Sports retail staff take inventory, review products and purchase retail items for the next season. Most importantly, all of the team eagerly replies to countless emails and phone calls from customers, vendors, guides and other industry partners. In addition to attending to customers, the winter season is also the perfect time to offer training to the guides and prepare the schedule for the next season.

The Arizona Raft Adventures Winter Is Quieter

It is a little quieter in the office because the expeditions are not coming and going like during the regular season. Therefore, the Arizona Raft Adventures winter season is a perfect time for staff to take time off to spend with family or to take that extended vacation they dream of!

In fact, current Owner and General Manager of Arizona Raft Adventures, Alexandra Thevenin shares, “Years ago, when my father was the owner at AzRA, he set in place a mandatory office closure before Christmas and through the New Year. He felt it was important to give his year-round staff time off. He wanted to ensure everyone had a little downtime during the winter.”

She continues, “My husband Fred and I have carried on this AzRA tradition. Our year-round staff work very hard and we appreciate their dedication during the busy season. In fact, for the last several years, we’ve extended the closure to encompass about three weeks.” She mentions that it’s a little tricky for their customers. If customers try to contact the office by email or phone around Christmas there is not anyone available to reply or answer questions. However, she continues, “We hit the ground running after New Year’s Day. We answer all emails and return every phone message. Our customers are very understanding.”

In the Warehouse

winter season

Warehouse Manager, Jake Tiegs, varnishes oars in the winter.

The Arizona Raft Adventures winter season is also the perfect time for the warehouse staff to get to the “to do” list. Their to do list might look something like this:

  • Winterize equipment for storage 
  • Apply a fresh coat of paint to rafts
  • Repair damaged equipment such as camp stoves and tents
  • Service all outboard motors, vehicles and trailers
  • Re-order first aid supplies
  • Varnish oars
  • Take inventory of life jackets, dry bags, sleeping bags, kitchen supplies and ammo cans
  • Re-order supplies such as toilet paper and charcoal and
  • Clean everything

This is only a small sample of what goes on in the warehouse during an Arizona Raft Adventures winter season. The warehouse staff are dedicated to ensure all equipment is in working order and ready for the upcoming season.

The Guides

AzRA Guide, Derik Spice, guides Grand Canyon river expeditions in the summer. In the winter, he is a teaching assistant at Northern Arizona University and works on Ski Patrol at Arizona Snowbowl.

AzRA Guide, Derik Spice (pictured on right), guides Grand Canyon river expeditions in the summer. In the winter, he is a Teaching Assistant at Northern Arizona University and works Ski Patrol at Arizona Snowbowl.

Grand Canyon river guides are multi-talented. In addition to their career as a Grand Canyon raft guide, their occupations vary. Guides are everything from professors, teachers, students, yoga and scuba instructors, and massage therapists. They are entrepreneurs, writers, carpenters, contractors and handymen. Some of the guides also continue to guide raft adventures. They might work a winter science trip for the Grand Canyon National Park or guide on another river that has a raft season during the Arizona winter like the Futaleufú in Chile.

The Guests

Bright Angel Trail photo from the GCNP Facebook Page.

Have you liked the Grand Canyon National Park Facebook page yet? They post a wealth of information and amazing photos like this intense picture of the Bright Angel Trail from the Rim.

The months in between rafting seasons are also a busy time for guests. A rafting adventure takes a certain level of physical fitness. This may require fitness training. Especially if they are on a partial canyon adventure that requires the Bright Angel Trail hike.  Guests also peruse their detailed information and packing list. It’s a great time to make any necessary purchases. Guests arrange transportation and lodging. Any existing questions are answered by the Arizona Raft Adventures winter staff.

The River Season Is Back Before You Know It!

While the trips only run April through October, it takes a year-round effort from all involved to pull off an amazing and successful Grand Canyon raft expedition. There is a lot to do to keep everyone busy during the Arizona Raft Adventures winter. As Mark Twain once said, “The secret to getting started is staying ahead.

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Best Adventure Gift – A Raft Trip


Give the Best Adventure Gift Ever!

gift of adventure

The best gift ever! Give your special someone the gift of adventure. Photo by Wes Timmerman.

Are you looking for a unique, meaningful and awesome gift idea this year? If yes, give your loved one the best adventure gift as well as an experience of a lifetime. The holidays are right around the corner so now is the perfect time to arrange the best adventure gift: a Grand Canyon Raft Expedition.

In fact, it is a great gift idea all year long! Consider an adventure gift for graduations, birthdays or even anniversaries. Not only is it fun and thoughtful, but here are the top reasons why the gift of adventure is possibly one of the best gift ideas ever.

Active and Physical

best adventure gift

Riding the waves in Grand Canyon. Photo by Ralph Hopkins.

A multi-day raft adventure with Arizona Raft Adventures is an active and participatory experience. It hardly fits the stereotype of a vacation. It is refreshing and energetic! You will hike, swim and raft each day. You will help set up and take down camp, walk on uneven surfaces and adapt to the ever-changing environmental elements. While this is a vacation (in theory), “roughin’ it” requires a lot of energy!

Awe-inspiring and Unique

Cactus in bloom by Ralph Hopkins

Beavertail Cactus in bloom. Photo by Ralph Hopkins

Every bend in the river and twist of a side canyon beholds breathtaking beauty. Each sunrise and sunset is inspiring. It is an immense privilege to be in the Grand Canyon. Experience the star-filled night sky, the feel of warm sand between your toes and the sound of roaring rapids. On top of all of the magnificent beauty, very few people in the world will ever spend a week or two at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Explore and Play

best adventure gift

Play and explore in one of the most amazing playgrounds in the world. Photo by Larry Linder.

It’s so much fun! Play in crisp waterfalls, hike to hidden archeological sites and raft some super fun and big rapids. Learn to row a raft or paddle alongside your team in the paddle boat. Go fishing or hunt for scorpions. Play a river game with your guides or grab a nature guide and see what you can discover around camp. There is so much to explore. There is a lot of fun to be had.

Disconnect and Reconnect

Have you ever gone a week without technology? There is no email, phone calls, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter. You might have a little withdrawal, but a day later you find yourself reconnecting with things that really matter. Have you ever heard of a digital detox? It’s a real thing! Read about why a Digital Detox is Essential Every Now and Then. Seriously, many guests report they are happier and more relaxed after the digital detox they got while on their Grand Canyon raft adventure.

Easy Logistics

You might have to arrange a flight or organize a drive to Flagstaff, but once you meet up with a professional outfitter like Arizona Raft Adventures, logistically the trip is a breeze. Arizona Raft Adventures provides camping gear, snacks, meals and expert guides to plan your daily experience. Think of it like an “all-inclusive” experience. Just bring your sense of adventure!

Final Reflection on the Best Adventure Gift

best adventure gift

Give your loved one a gift of a lifetime this year! Photo by Cara Shonsey.

A Grand Canyon raft adventure is a great trip option for many people ranging in age and abilities, but not always a good fit. It is important to give serious consideration to your recipient’s fitness level and possibly existing medical conditions. There are different adventure types varying in length from 6-16 days and different boat options such as a motor adventure, all-paddle adventure and a classic adventure. Please do your research and consult an experienced reservation specialist to discuss concerns. The office staff at Arizona Raft Adventures will take the time to help you decide if this is a good gift idea and to talk about any concerns you might have. They will help you pick out the best adventure gift. Give them a call today at 1-800-786-7238 or email

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Small Gifts and Stocking Stuffer Ideas


10 Great Small Gift Stocking Stuffer Ideas For the Holidays
(Or Any Day!)

For many Grand Canyon raft enthusiasts, it’s traditional to give small, inexpensive gifts and stocking stuffers to friends and loved ones during the holidays.  Are you stumped when it comes to stocking stuffer ideas? Well, look no further! Here are ten small gift and stocking stuffer ideas for an Arizona Raft Adventurer. The best news on top of this? Almost everything is on sale until November 30th, 2016! All orders must be placed by phone in order to receive sale prices. Please call the office at 800-786-7238. 

9) AzRA Sticker

Show your AzRA pride!

AzRA pride!

Proudly show off your adventurous side to your friends and family with the AzRA sticker. Adhere this water resistant sticker to your bumper, water bottle, or anything you’d like. Measures 6“ x 4“. Regular Price $2.00. On Sale 15% off.

8) AzRA Coozie With Carabiner

stocking stuffer ideas

Fun and practical!

What a novel concept. Again, perfect for your upcoming river adventure or as a souvenir. Coozies are often thought of to keep drinks cooler in the 100 degree heat. But they also come in handy April and October as insulation between your cold drink and your cold fingers. Clip it anywhere with the practical feature of an affixed “biner” clip. Regular Price $6. On Sale 15% off.

7) Bandana

Grand Canyon Flora & Fauna Map

Grand Canyon Park Map

Stocking stuffer ideas

Grand Canyon Topo Map

A bandana is a great item to pack on a Grand Canyon raft adventure. They are so universal! Dip it in the river and tie it around your neck to keep cool. Use it to shade the back of your neck on a hike. Keep it handy to use as a hanky or napkin. Use it around your nose and mouth to block blowing sand at camp or dust on the Bright Angel trail. With two designs to choose from, you are sure to satisfy your recipient with one of these two stocking stuffer ideas. Regular Price $7.50. On Sale 15% off.

  • The Grand Canyon National Park design highlights the entire length of Grand Canyon and lists many points of interest, flora, fauna and other general park facts.
  • The map design is a detailed topographical map of the eastern Grand Canyon and the Kaibab Plateau.

6) The Night Sky Star Guide

Star guide folds out!

The Night Sky Star Guide is easy to use and store!

starguideIdentify prominent constellations and stars visible with the naked eye with this 6 panel folding guide. The sky over the Grand Canyon is clear and dark making it a perfect location to view and learn about the night sky. Not to mention, the canyon walls your view. The star guide is lightweight, compact and designed to fit in a pocket or pack. Ideal for field use by novices and experts alike. Regular Price $6.95. On Sale 15% off.

5) Grand Canyon Playing Cards

Educational and unique.

Educational and unique.

Cool and educational! The deck features the iconic view looking downstream from Nankoweap granaries. In addition, each individual card has a photo and an interesting fact about the Grand Canyon. Learn about history, animals, plants and geology while you play your favorite card game. Designed by a Grand Canyon river guide. Regular Price $5.00. On Sale 15% off.

4) Wooden Map Magnet

What a nice idea!

What a nice idea!

This rustic wood magnet features a map of part of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Small but cute.  Measures approximately 3″ x 3″. Regular Price $4.75. On Sale 15% off.

3) Grand Canyon Calendar

stocking stuffer ideas

The 2017 Whale Foundation Calendar is available for purchase.

Although a little big for most stockings, the Whale Foundation Yearly Calendar is a special small gift idea. Roll it up to fit it in a stocking or just give it on the side. The calendar is full of gorgeous images of the Grand Canyon and each month has a little bling too! The avid smartphone users love the QR code included with each month that features an audio clip. The clips feature Grand Canyon tales told by river guides. Give a distinctive gift and support a fantastic non-profit organization at the same time. Each purchase supports the Whale Foundation. Regular Price $12.00. On Sale 15% off. 

2) Hoosie Lube Skin Salve 4 oz.

stocking stuffer ideas

The 4 oz. container of Hoosie Lube skin salve makes a great stocking stuffer!

This all-natural skin salve is great for soothing hard working hands and feet. If you hike, climb, ski, garden, bike, boat, or hunt, this is the salve for your skin. In fact, this salve is loved by many non-outdoorsy folks too because it is made with the natural and herbal ingredients of chaparral, lemongrass and tea tree. A little goes a long way and the 4 oz.  container should last you a while. Made with love by Grand Canyon river guide, Kristin “Hoosie” Huisinga! Regular Price $16.00. On Sale 15% off.

  • Chaparral has antioxidant abilities and slows the growth of bacteria and other microbes.
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) essential oil kills microbes & decreases pain & inflammation.
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is known to inhibit microbial growth & to stimulate the immune system.

1) Gift Card ($10 – $100)

Still at a lost for ideas? Maybe your loved one is hard to shop for? Well here is the solution for you. They can pick out their own gifts or gear with a gift certificate to AzRA’s very own raft adventure sports store: Red River Sports. Let them buy what they want or need for their  adventure. Sold in $10, $25, $50 and $100 increments. Purchase a gift certificate online.

This Holiday Season

Give these small gifts and stocking stuffer ideas a try! Additionally, if you are looking for something a little bigger, peruse the Red River Sports online retail store for more gift ideas (please note: sale prices available through phone orders only). Red River Sports knows exactly what you need for your raft adventure down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Or, consider giving the most amazing gift of all? Here’s an idea….The Gift of Adventure.

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The Best Grand Canyon Calendar


Whale Foundation’s Grand Canyon Calendar Is Here!

grand canyon calendar

The 2017 Whale Foundation Calendar is now available for purchase.

Each November, the staff at Arizona Raft Adventures excitedly awaits the release of the annual Grand Canyon calendar published by the Whale Foundation. This gorgeous calendar adorns the walls at the AzRA headquarters. It proudly decorates the homes of river guides and support staff. In addition, the calendar is a favorite souvenir for past guests. It is also a great gift for someone preparing for their very first adventure. Most importantly, it is a way for all to connect with the River, the Grand Canyon and those who love the Canyon.

Because of this, Arizona Raft Adventures is proud to announce the Whale Foundation’s 2017 Grand Canyon Calendar. You may be curious… what is the Whale Foundation? What makes this non-profit so special to those floating in the eddy of the Grand Canyon river community?

The Whale Foundation in a Nutshell

Curtis Whale Hansen

“Whale.” Image courtesy of

The foundation was created in honor of Curtis Hansen, a beloved Grand Canyon river guide who started guiding in the late 60’s. Curtis Hansen became known as “Whale”. He was a legendary Grand Canyon river guide, but tragically took his own life in 1995. Read a short biography about “Whale” written by AzRA guide Brad Dimock. Brad writes about how Curtis became known as “Whale.” Also especially relevant, Earl Perry writes a great short article. It is titled There are a Million Whale Stories and Most of Them Are True.

The Whale Foundation’s purpose is to provide access to health care and a variety of support services designed to “restore, promote and celebrate the well-being of the Grand Canyon River Guiding Community.” The organization offers a confidential helpline, access to wellness programs, and opportunities such as scholarships and networking. Additionally, a guide can receive assistance with career and financial planning.  

You Can Help.  Buy A Calendar or Donate.

The calendar is full of scenic photos. Photo by Ralph Hopkins.

The calendar is full of beautiful Grand Canyon images. Photo by Ralph Hopkins.

The release of the Whale Foundation Calendar is one of the most beloved fundraisers in Northern Arizona.  The calendar is popular among river running communities around the nation. Also, a popular calendar for commercial raft guests – both new and old. Consequently, is a favorite calendar to all who love the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.  

This year’s Grand Canyon calendar is extra special. It displays beautiful Grand Canyon themed photographs and a little bling. Each month has a QR code to scan with your smart phone. The QR code takes you to a soundbite of a real Grand Canyon River Guide telling a real Grand Canyon rafting tale. Hence, the 2017 Whale Foundation Calendar will certainly spark a connection between you, a river guide and the River.

Most noteworthy, proceeds from the sale of each calendar go directly to the Grand Canyon Guiding Community. Proceeds support the many programs and services the foundation provides.


Email before November 30th, 2016 to place  order.

Furthermore, there are additional ways to support the Whale Foundation. Please visit  and make a financial contribution or offer support.

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Grand Canyon Camping Guide


Grand Canyon Camping Guide for Raft Enthusiasts

grand canyon camping guide

Raft trip camp along the Colorado River. Photo by Lou Child.

If you are a novice multi-day raft adventurer, use this Grand Canyon camping guide to learn common terms, definitions and slang used at camp. If you are an old pro when it comes to rafting and camping in the Grand Canyon, do you have anything to add? Regardless of whether you are a first-timer or a repeat participant, review this Grand Canyon camping guide before your next trip.

It is important to consider that individual guides and raft outfitters may have different variations. However, this Grand Canyon camping guide reviews basic terminology you may encounter on a multi-day raft adventure. Consequently, you might like to brush up on your whitewater river terms too.

Ammo Can

Ammo Can is a nickname for ammunition can, or ammunition box. They are usually used to store and carry ammunition. No ammunition is needed on a Grand Canyon river trip. However, the waterproof seal and the sturdiness of the container makes it a perfect vessel to carry supplies. In fact, the frames made to sit on top of the rafts are custom built to fit ammo cans. On a trip with Arizona Raft Adventures, you see ammo cans used to carry almost everything!

Bag Line, Bucket Brigade or Fire Line

A line of people create a bag line. Each participant stands in place in the line. Then an item, like a dry bag, is passed from one person to the next until it reaches the destination. A bag line is an efficient and organized way to move gear, dry bags and equipment between the boat and the shore. A bag line unloads a boat in five minutes compared to what takes one person twenty-five minutes. 

Camp Kitchen

grand canyon camping guide

The camp kitchen is the place to be! Photo by Matthew Dwyer.

The camp kitchen is the area at camp where you find the kitchen supplies, food,  first aid necessities, drinking water, the library, the can smasher, the D.O., the blaster and the dish wash station. Consequently, there are so many components in the camp kitchen that it get its own blog article. Stay tuned for a future post featuring the Grand Canyon Camp Kitchen.


Grand Canyon Camp Terms

The key, groover and pee bucket are all Grand Canyon camp terms to know. Photo by Katie McEnroe.

The groover is a general term describing the bathroom area.  Each trip takes several metal containers with watertight lids to haul out solid human waste. The containers are set up each evening at camp with a toilet seat. In the earlier days of river running, the seat was more primitive leaving a “groove” on one’s hind end at the end of a trip to the toilet. Thereby acquiring the name “groover”.



The key is a small container that holds a roll of toilet paper. If the key is by the bathroom’s hand wash station, this signals that the lieu is available. If it is gone, then you can presume the facilities are in use. Try to remember to return the key after you have finished your business!


You can find your "Trip Library" near the kitchen.

Each trip packs a small ammo can packed with books serving as a communal library. The collection of books are available for all guests to peruse, borrow, reference or read throughout the duration of the trip. The library consists of Grand Canyon themed books that range in topics like nature, geology, human history and short stories.

Paco Pad

Paco pads serve two purposes. First, they pad the boats during the day. Then they come off the boats at camp so that guests have a comfortable pad to use as bedding. The pad is made of a high density foam with a waterproof industrial strength PVC cover. They are a notorious on river trips because they are durable and waterproof.    

Pee Bucket

Every evening, the bathroom area is adorned with a pee bucket next to the groover. The pee bucket is a yellow bucket with a toilet seat, therefore more convenient for women to pee comfortably after dark.  

Stick Snake / Punji Sticks

A Grand Canyon camping guide should also contain a few dangers. These two camp dangers are great reasons to wear shoes at all times — even on a beautiful sandy beach. A stick snake is a stick hiding just below the surface of sand, covered ever so slightly. As you shuffle through the sand in your bare feet you can jam your toe into these hidden sticks. A punji stick is a sharp stick or thorn standing upright, maybe hidden in the sand waiting to plunge into the bottom of your bare foot. Help prevent injuries from stick snakes and punji sticks. Wear shoes at all times!

Tent Bag

The tent bag is a large waterproof bag where you store all of the tents during the day. The tent bag, or bags, come off the boat in the evening, thereby making the tents available to those who wish to set one up at camp.

Tidal Zone

grand canyon camp guide

Look for the waterline before pitching your tent. Photo by Lou Child.

The tidal zone is the area of camp where the river water rises over the night hours. If you set your sleeping bag or tent in a tidal zone, you may wake up in the middle of the night with your feet in the river. Sleep above the tidal zone. Look for the water line or ask a guide for advice.

Still More To Learn

While this is is by no means a complete glossary of everything you need to know, it  certainly provides a base of common terms used in and around the camp area on a Grand Canyon raft adventure. Do you know what an eddy is? Or how about a tongue? Brush up on your river terms too! Stay tuned for additional dictionaries.

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Grand Canyon River Stories


Grand Canyon River Stories

Grand Canyon River Stories

Guide Clare Magneson shares one of her favorite river stories. Photo By Cara Shonsey.

There are hundreds of Grand Canyon river stories. Therefore, along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, there is a story to tell nearly every mile. These stories tell of moments in history, intense emotion, extreme danger and river life.

The ultimate experience is to hear a story told in the moment by a river guide. The tales are great because the guides infuse their own passion into everything they say and do. They love the Canyon, the river and everything that embraces their Grand Canyon world. It shows in the stories they tell.

Listen to a Grand Canyon Guide’s Story

Grand Canyon River Stories

Harlan Taney tells a story about ancient people who once lived in the Canyon. Photo by Rob Elliott.

It is not always about the story, but the way the guide tells the story. They find the perfect moment of silence, insert a pause for anticipation and add their own emotional angle.  Fronteras Desk, a southwestern public radio station collaboration, captures some of these moments in an audio series titled Arizona River Stories. Senior Field Correspondent Laurel Morales interviews five river guides. As a result, she released five audio clips. Each clip captures a compelling short story told by the guide that personally resonates with them. Hence, the stories radiate passion, emotion, experience and personality.

The Stories Told by River Guides

Listen to the stories first hand as if you are right next to them on the raft or at camp. Also, this unique audio series features staff from Arizona Raft Adventures.

Grand Canyon Boatman

Dave Edwards, Colorado River. Photo by Ralph Hopkins.

Brad Dimock: Listen to Brad tell the tale of Glen and Bessie Hyde and their honeymoon trip down the Colorado River.

Laura Fallon: Laura shares a story about one of her most favorite passengers of all time.

Betsy Harter tells a dangerous story about a close call she had on a raft adventure in Costa Rica.   

Dave Edwards reveals a chilling experience about saving the life of a guest after a flash flood overtook their group in Havasu Creek.

Christa Sadler explains what it was like to be on the river during 9/11.

Grand Canyon River Stories Never End

You can go on ten trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon you will continue to be mesmerized by different stories told by different guides. And with every trip, a new story unfolds.

As a result, guests often write on their post-trip survey just how much the guides positively impacted their experience. It is not uncommon for guests to comment about the guide’s amazing ability to help them connect to the experience. Consequently, it is often the guest whom is actually impacting the guide’s life. Listen to the audio clips and you will hear for yourself just how true this is.

grand canyon river stories

Boatman Stories, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Photo by Ralph Hopkins.

In conclusion, if it is not realistic for you to experience Grand Canyon river stories first hand in the Canyon. Here are two good reads that feature collections of Grand Canyon river stories:  There’s This River…Grand Canyon Boatman Stories by Christa Sadler and Travelers’ Tales Grand Canyon; True Stories of Life Below the Rim edited by Sean O’Reilly, James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger. 

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