When you are ready to plan a raft adventure down the Colorado River, familiarize yourself with the basics. Here are 6 especially relevant unique Grand Canyon raft adventure facts about the water level, water temperature, rapid ratings and the National Park Service. Know these SIX basic unique Grand Canyon facts. They will help shape your expectations as you plan a Grand Canyon raft expedition.
#1 The National Park Service.
The National Park Service regulates all rafting of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The commercial rafting season begins in April and runs through October. Therefore, these are the only months you can raft with a commercial outfitter like Arizona Raft Adventures. The Grand Canyon National Park Service maintains strict oversight of the approved outfitters, the allocation of “user days” between commercial and private boaters and even the rules and regulations on how trips are operated. There is a set of Commercial Operating Requirements (COR’s) to ensure impact to natural resources is minimal. Most noteworthy, the Grand Canyon must remain as protected as possible.
#2 Where the Water Originates
The water that flows down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon has previously been contained upstream behind the Glen Canyon Dam in Lake Powell. Therefore, the water level does not fluctuate like rivers downstream of seasonal snow melt or timed releases. Lake water is released through the Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydroelectric power. It does fluctuate a little as the Bureau of Reclamation adjusts the release of water to meet electricity demands during the summer. A lot of electricity is needed to power air conditioners in big cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas. Regardless of the ebb and flow caused by the Bureau of Reclamation, the water flowing through the unique Grand Canyon down the Colorado River remains runnable by rafting expeditions.
#3 The Water is Cold
The water flows through the dam from the bottom of Lake Powell. Which, in places, is hundreds of feet deep. Therefore, the river is always about 48-52 degrees year round. Brrrrrrr! It does warm up slightly as it travels downstream but only by a few degrees. Have you ever wondered how guides and guests survive the summer heat on a Grand Canyon raft adventure? A quick dunk in the river will cool you off quickly. Consequently, it can be more challenging to stay warm in the spring and fall. Choose to raft with an authorized National Park concessioner like Arizona Raft Adventures. You will receive a recommended packing list to guide you in the packing process.
#4 The Rapid Rating System
It is common knowledge that rivers and rapids are rated on a world wide class I – VI system. While this is true, not ALL rivers are rated on this universal scale. In fact, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is rated on a class 1-10 system. This is easily confused with the more commonly known I-VI scale. Hence, the confusion turns into concern when potential raft participants hear that there are several rapids rated 8-10. Never fear! The classifications roughly translate as follows:
|Class I||Rating 1-2|
|Class II||Rating 3-4|
|Class III||Rating 5-6|
|Class IV||Rating 7-8|
|Class IV+||Rating 9-10|
|Class V||None Currently Exist|
|Class VI||None Currently Exist|
There are no rapids rated V+ between Lee’s Ferry and Diamond Creek. The universal Class VI is considered unrunnable and is not recommended to river runners. While there might not be any “class V” rapids in the Grand Canyon, there are many awesome rapids! Here is a short clip from Hermit Rapid located at river mile 95. Hermit Rapid is rated 8-10. It is one of the biggest and most fun in the Canyon!
#5 Whitewater Versus Flat Water
If your only intention is to seek out a whitewater thrill, you may decide to choose a river elsewhere. The stretch of river between Lee’s Ferry and Diamond Creek is mostly flat water! There are roughly 160 rapids, but the rapids span over 225 river miles.The whitewater is fun, wavy and can really get your adrenaline pumping. The rest of the trip is meandering flat water. The calm water provides a perfect opportunity to take out your camera, relax and maybe even try your hands at the oars (if you are on a Classic Adventure). Although, if you travel with Arizona Raft Adventures, the guides fill the day with great interpretation, sightseeing and hiking opportunities. If you seek the full experience of hiking, camping, camaraderie and time on the river, a unique Grand Canyon Classic Adventure may be perfect for you.
#6 Grand Canyon Raft Day Trips
Finally, there are no one day options to raft in the Grand Canyon National Park. The Canyon is BIG and REMOTE which means there are very few places to get on or off a river trip. If you want to raft through the National Park, you should dedicate at least a week to the experience.
However, there are options for day trips on the Colorado River near the Grand Canyon National Park. Contact a travel agent for a one day raft trip.