In June 2011, after a patient 17 year wait on the National Park Service’s permit “waiting list,” I was awarded a permit to lead my own Grand Canyon rafting trip. I kayaked the run in 1993 but was injured halfway. I dislocated my shoulder at Mile 104, Ruby Rapid, and finished the trip on a friend’s raft. In 1994 I submitted my initial permit application to the National Park Service.
I’ve shared photos and stories from my 2011 trip in various articles which appeared in newspapers and in American Whitewater Magazine. Check out the link below to a 13 minute video which was produced by one of my fellow boatmen, JoHn R. Gibson, a skilled rafter and talented videographer. JoHn mounted two Go Pro cameras on the bow and stern of his raft. The video gives you a feel for the size and action of the rapids, river flow velocity, camp life, scenery, and hikes. JoHn spent several hundred hours editing video. Some other trip trivia:
• # of days in Canyon – 17 days (1 rigging day plus 16 days rafting)
• # of miles – 225 miles (Lees Ferry, AZ to Grand Canyon National Park Service boundary at Diamond Creek, AZ)
• # of people – 16 people (2 from Alaska, 2 from Oregon, 1 from Colorado, 11 from California)
• Age of group – ranged from 12 to 69 (I took my mom on this trip…one of her bucket list trips)
• Outfitter – Professional River Outfitters, Flagstaff, AZ
• Boats – I rented five 18 foot Sotar Elite rafts. We also brought 2 inflatable kayaks and a one hard-shell kayak (a safety boater)
• Value of Raft rigs – about $12,000 per boat for the raft, frames, oars, coolers and dry boxes. Each raft weighed about 2,000 lbs when fully loaded. I was financially on the hook for all gear.
• Total Cost of trip – about $18,000 (shared by 16 people. Our food budget food was about $5,000. Permit and tribal fee costs at the Diamond Creek take-out were about $2600.)
• Menu – I recruited omnivores. We feasted on: steak, chicken, Thai, Mexican, Italian, salmon, pasta dishes, freshly caught rainbow trout. Prepared cakes with Dutch Oven. We ate WELL.
• Time spent planning the trip – just over 1 year, ranging from 5 to 10 hours per week
• Water flow/release from Lake Powell – consistent at about 25,000 cubic feet per second. Waves in the largest rapids stood over 20 feet tall.
• River (current) velocity – maximum of nearly 25 miles per hour measured at Lava Falls, our largest rapid
• Water temperature – about 45 degrees F, which warmed to about 50 degrees F at the Diamond Creek take-out
• Air temperature- mostly in the 90’s F, low 100’s F by Day 13
• Weather – dry (no rain throughout the trip) and windy during afternoons
• Sunrise – usually about 5 AM. Coffee was usually brewing by 5:30.
• Sunset – usually by 8:30 PM. Then by 9 out came the stars.
• Camp set up/break down – usually took 4+hours per day
• Human waste – all packed out (using the “groover,” watch the video)
• Water filtration – we used a battery powered UV unit that combined with a filter
• Wildlife, etc., – Bighorn sheep, deer, bats, reptiles (snakes, lizards) and a HUGE scorpion
We had a spectacular and safe trip: no flipped rafts, no major injuries, but the trip was physically demanding. Lots of gear to rig/de-rig and load/unload on a daily basis plus scouting and running the rapids. The first week was tough physically and mentally but my group did great. We were a team. By Day 7 I felt confident oaring my raft. My feet took a beating (chapped, cracked, swollen) and I needed about a month for other bumps, bruises and scrapes to heal.
Experience our nation’s wilderness areas if you can. The United States is blessed with abundant natural beauty: mountains, rivers, deserts, forests–get out there. We have a wonderful world. Plus, the friends you take, or make, will remain life-long comrades. I’ll never forget this trip and am grateful my mom joined me. Hope you enjoy the video…. If you have questions send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get right back to you. S/ Eric Miller aka Etc. Guy