After a busy river season starting in March with BLM work on the Owyhee River and then commercial Owyhee trips in April, several Jarbidge Bruneau trips in May, then trips on the Middle Fork Salmon and Main Salmon throughout June, July and August, and an August trip on the South Fork Flathead River in Montana. I was very fortunate to run so many different amazing rivers throughout the summer, a benefit of being part of a company like WRO. Now that our season is slowing down, it was time to finish off the 2016 river season with a 15-day trip down the Grand Canyon.
To offer a trip on the Grand Canyon, we partnered with Arizona Rafting Adventures. In partnering with a Grand Canyon company we are able to charter one of their September dates and offer this trip through WRO. WRO has been offering this sort of trip in Grand Canyon for over 25 years. The Grand Canyon is definitely one of the classic rafting trips of the World, and I always enjoy the chance to float this special river.
We pick September for our trip as it is a great time to be in Grand Canyon National Park. The daytime temps are normally in the 80s or 90s, but not the 100+ of the mid summer. The nights cool down to a comfortable sleeping temperature, but not cold. On this particular trip we did have a little cooler weather than normal on the upper half, but for most of the trip it was warm and sunny! It’s also nice to start trips after September 15th as that is the last day of motor season. Going out of motor season allows for a little less traffic and solitude in the canyon.
This trip was made up of a handful of regulars that have been joining our Grand trip for years and some first timers as well. A good majority of the group was from Montana and the main Montana connection, Emily and Chase had joined us on the Middle Fork Salmon trip a few years back. There were also some folks that had came along solo who had done other trips with us before. The combination made for a fantastic group!
We are able to help pick guides that we have worked with for years on the Grand Canyon to be a part of our trip. The trip leader for this expedition was Matt Herrman. Matt worked with Moki Mac for over 20 years, the company we partnered with before they were bought out by AzRA. We have had the pleasure of working with Matt for many years. He now has over 300 Grand Canyon trips! He knows we like to hike and explore the incredible side canyons on our trips, and helps make that happen. Steiner Bappu, also a long time Moki boatman made a celebrity appearance on our trip. Steiner now works full time at a solar company in Utah, but we were lucky to be able to have him as a guide on our trip and he has been on many of our previous trips. Clair Quist, Jay Healy, Owen Ludwig, and myself made up the rest of the boatmen on this trip.
Anyone who has looked into Grand Canyon rafting has probably heard of Lava Falls. It’s lore has filled river books of short stories and poetry, and will get any boatman’s heart pumping. It’s the biggest rapid on the trip and one thing that seems to separate Lava from the rest of the rapids is you can’t avoid a big ride as you can in many of the other rapids. The standard low water run is down the right side. On this run, you try to line up in the entrance to crash into the left side of the V-wave, which is like it sounds two large waves coming together to form a V and the left side is normally a little more forgiving. If you come out of the V wave straight, you are looking pretty good and want to keep it straight for the big waves at the bottom. If you come out of the V wave crooked, you don’t have a lot of time to recover for the lower waves. “Big Kahuna” is the nickname given to the large wave at the bottom. This feature is normally a large crashing wave. In scouting from shore, you can watch it build up then crash down again and again. If you catch it after it breaks, sometimes you can slide through with hardly a splash and other times if it breaking on you, you feel like you are getting crushed by a wall of water! On this day, I was running last of our line of six boats. As I approached the horizon line above Lava, I noticed a boat upside down in the tail waves of the rapid. My first thought was it must have been one of the private boats that ran in front of us, but as I looked closer I could tell it was one of our boats and it looked like it might be the first boat… In my mind, I thought, no way, Matt flipped? Sure enough, the huge waves that sometimes let you through or sometimes crush you had rolled Matt’s boat over with my uncle Skipper, Susan, and Joan as passengers. It was Susan’s 60th birthday that day, and she got a birthday surprise! We all grouped up below the rapid the helped flip the boat back over and with a little re-arranging we were back on our way. Matt’s cowboy hat and a sandal were all that was lost, and his hat was recovered floating downstream. With over 300 Grand trips and just three flips, all in Lava, it was joked about he is still under 1% flip rate in that rapid which is pretty good in Lava! Just goes to show you it can happen to anyone.
All and all we had a fantastic 15-day adventure in Grand Canyon, with spectacular hiking and scenery, exciting big water boating and great camaraderie among a fantastic group of people! In finishing a trip like this it is often talked about as “a trip of a lifetime” and leaves a lasting impression on all involved. I am definitely lucky to get to spend so much time on rivers in these special places like Grand Canyon National Park and other wild places. We will be offering a trip September 20th – October 4th 2018 with AzRA, please let us know if you would like to be placed on the “interested list” for that trip or would like us to send you more information. Either shoot us a quick note with contact us form or leave a comment below.