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Rafting The Colorado River – Glen Canyon to Lee’s Ferry

I believe I’m going to struggle with words on this one. I most assuredly will have to reference a thesaurus so as to not bore you with the repeated use of the words” awesome, incredible, ethereal, amazing).

The drive to Page, AZ from Flagstaff, AZ. is a great one! You pass through the Navajo Indian Reservation and Monument Valley. Words fail to describe this area….lonesome, hard, beautiful, unique, unforgiving, awe filled…all of these words apply here. The Navajo live different lives by appearances.  I’m choosing to not detail what I experienced here as I have not the required information to make informed commentary.

Once you arrive at The Colorado River Discovery Center, you check in with the friendly folks, pay for your trip and then wait for the bus. Yup, you start, simply enough, by getting on a charter type bus. The bus leaves and takes you through town towards the Glen Canyon dam. Once there, you pass thought a Homeland Security check point and proceed into a tunnel carved out of the Navajo sandstone. This tunnel was built before they started building the dam to get machinery and men down to the bottom of the canyon.  The bus fits in the tunnel, barely. Then you proceed about 2 miles thru the tunnel at a slight downward angle of maybe 2% grade or so. As you drive down, you see holes in the wall that is facing the canyon – these are called “adits” and they serve to let light in. While the damn was being built, one of these adit was given a viewing platform so that President Dwight D. Eisenhower could stand on it and have a full commanding view of the damn being built.

Once the bus came to a stop at the bottom of the tunnel, we were requested to disembark the bus and were given a hard hat to wear as we walked down the ramps to the waiting boats. The hard hats were in case something were thrown of or blown off the Navajo Bridge, that crosses the canyon directly above us and just in front of the dam. This bridge also had to be built before construction of the damn itself could begin.

Once on the rafts, a general safety meeting was held (the real kind) and we were on our way. Looking back at the dam and bridge as we headed down the river was the first amazing scene on this incredible journey of amazing scenes.

The first thing you may notice is that your sense of scale just goes out the window. You have no point of reference, so the 700-1000′ high walls of the canyon aren’t all that impressive, then you happen to notice a person standing on the beach as you go by, now your brain has a point of reference and the scale just smacks you, hard. Daunting, intimidating, amazing.

This is a “smooth water” raft trip, so its pretty much like a lazy river ride at your local water park. You are riding on a pontoon boat, that is moved around by a 150 Evinrude. It is quite big, stable and feels very trustworthy. Seating is like a boat, there are benches that have boat type cushions in the center area of the raft. You are also free to straddle the outer pontoon and dangle one leg above the water. This was our choice and we were glad to have made it.

We proceeded down the river, our Guide, Josh, reveling us with tales of history and place names. His knowledge of the canyon area was impressive and his banter was entertaining. He was confidently laid back and easy to chat with. Another group had a small boy with them, about 9 or so I’d guess, he was not really thrilled to be getting on the raft. Josh helped him relax and by the end of the trip, I’d bet that child may grow up to become a raft Captain 🙂 Josh you are awesome! I hope that next summer works as you wish it to!

Josh pointed out various points of interest along the route, “Little Niagara”, “Hislops Cave” and others – all while proving the history of these places and how they got their names. I found much of this fascinating!

We took lunch at a beach on the inside of a bend in the river. vault toilets were available there as well. We took a short walk down a path and there, at the base of the canyon wall were petroglyphs from those that had lived/visited the canyon in the distant past. The markings told of hunts, water sources and routes in and out of the canyon. All very useful stuff for those that need to know it! This historic graffiti  was up to 1000 years old.

Loaded back up on the raft, we headed down towards “The Big Bend”. This is a place where the river does a 180 degree turn and it is truly ethereal to experience. Grass lined sand banks edge the bend, offering a place to stop and enjoy the view as well as habitat for some of the many lizard species that can be found in the canyon. Looking up, we could see barely see the folks braving the edge, looking down on us from the “Big Bend Overlook” above. We visited that after our trip as well. Our guide had us shout up a loud “Hello” that echoed with awesome effect through the canyon!

Not long after the Big Bend, the Vermillion Cliffs signaled our arrival at Lee’s Ferry and the end of our trip. The Vermillion Cliffs are a few thousand feet tall – making the canyon walls of Glen Canyon seem small – they are one of the most amazing sights I’ve seen to date. Lees Ferry is where the Glen Canyon ends and the Grand Canyon begins. You must have a Federal permit to enter the Grand Canyon from here. Apparently, from Lees Ferry to the first place you can get out of the Grand Canyon is a 3 day trip by raft.

We thoroughly enjoyed this trip and would recommend ! Here is the Facebook for Colorado River Discovery Center

Here are some images we took on the way there and on the trip……

 

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