LGBTQ Colorado River Rafting Trip
Holiday River Expeditions is partnering with our friends a the The Venture Out Project, for our third years offering of a LGBTQ Colorado River Rafting Trip; this time through Cataract Canyon. The LGBTQ community has a long and often overlooked relationship with the natural world and we are hoping to help change that perception. These affinity trips are a chance to reclaim a long-standing and meaningful connection to these wild places while having a world-class adventure vacation.
Holiday River Expeditions has a long history of fostering an inclusive and restorative ethos on all of our river trips, and was a pioneer in starting women’s specific rafting trips in the mid 1980’s. Now with the leadership of Lauren Wood, Holiday’s 3rd generation co-owner, we have centered queer and non-binary leadership from the top down in Holiday’s management and guide culture. Our partners, The Venture Out Project was founded by and created for the LGBTQ community. They are committed to facilitating a variety of wilderness experiences that are for the queer and trans community, by the queer and trans community. With two years and multiple trips under our belt, The Venture out Project and Holiday are stoked to continue fine-tune creating this affinity group space on some of America’s most iconic rivers.
Legendary Cataract Canyon sits in the heart of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Our whitewater rafts offer dynamic and comfortable transportation to side canyon grotto’s, waterfalls and ancient Pueblo ruins that are otherwise inaccessible within the Park. On this backdoor expedition through Canyonlands we see the most vivid contrast between serene tranquility and all-out high adventure with world class whitewater.
To book this Affinity trip, follow this link to The Venture Out Projects booking site! Their trip registration opens on December 1st.
If you would like to get your name on a list to book this trip simply call us at 801-266-2087 and let us know ahead of the registration date.
Colorado River – Canyonlands National Park
Green River, Utah @ 7:00 pm (night before the trip)
- Incredible guides who prioritize your comfort and experience at every bend
- Oar power (never motorized) lets us truly go with the flow
- Calm stretches perfect for inflatable kayaks & stand-up paddle boards
- Great swimming opportunities; truly epic whitewater
- Find your authentic wild side within the safe canyons of Cataract
- Huge sandy beaches and red cliffs
Rates & Dates
To book this Affinity trip, follow this link to The Venture Out Projects booking site!
2023 Prices are subject to NPS approval
Cataract Canyon trips launch from the Potash boat ramp on the Colorado River just south of Moab, Utah. Float through 47 miles of unbelievable canyon scenery to the confluence with the Green River at the center of Canyonlands National Park. This is where the whitewater starts. After more than 30 exhilarating rapids, we’ll arrive at the northern tip of Lake Powell, and take out at or near Hite Marina.
The night before your trip:
Please meet at our Green River, Utah, warehouse for an 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time pre-trip meeting. You’ll meet your guides, receive your waterproof bags and instructions on how best to pack them, and have time to purchase last minute items from our store (look over our packing checklist for a list of such items). Please consider dropping off any personal beverages (specialty sodas, beer, wine, etc.) at this time so that we can pack them into our coolers.
We’ll meet you back at our Green River headquarters the next morning at the time determined during the pre-trip meeting. It’s a 90-minute ride to the put-in, east along the base of the Book Cliffs, then south toward Moab. Hop in an inflatable kayak or onto a stand-up paddle board (SUP) for some exercise, or settle in on a raft. We’ll lunch on a sandbar and maybe take a short afternoon hike to an exposed petrified wood boneyard. Look up high to wave to visitors at Dead Horse Point State Park.
Morning sun makes the walls glow like red gold. Listen for the descending song of the canyon wren, or paddle your SUP along the shore in search of otters and great blue herons. The Colorado meanders peacefully in this section. Swim alongside the rafts or lounge under an umbrella; the afternoon may provide the opportunity to hike to thousand-year-old rock structures built by the Fremont Culture. Learn to spot granaries (ancient food storage structures) on the cliff walls as we continue downstream.
Today we’ll reach the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers, believed by some cultures to be the center of the universe. Swim through the line where the two rivers meet and buckle up your personal flotation device! Rapids are just a few miles ahead. Just below the confluence, enjoy a view of the Doll House, a collection of freestanding, sandstone columns: one of the remotest regions of the Maze District of Canyonlands.
Conditions permitting, ambitious hikers may start the day with a hike into the Doll House. Ascend steeply to the canyon rim in the Maze District to explore the red and white red rock formations and prehistoric artifacts. Below, the rapids of Cataract Canyon await. We’ll stop and scout a few of the big ones, giving plenty of time for the suspense to build. Hold on for the the Big Drops: Little Niagara and Satan’s Gut!
After a few last rapids, the water calms again, and the canyon walls rise, smooth and majestic. We’re now officially in Lake Powell, although depending on the reservoir level, it may still feel like a river for a long distance. When the reservoir is high, we’ll get an assist from our “Seldom Seen” motorboat. We’ll float under the Hite Narrows Bridge and pull over just beyond the mouth of the Dirty Devil River. A two-hour drive brings us back to Green River. Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Wilderness river trips are changeable by nature. Please understand that this is only a sample itinerary. You may have the opportunity to do all of the above activities, or you may have a variety of other memorable and exciting experiences. Holiday’s motto is “Go With the Flow”, and we encourage you to arrive with an open mind, a flexible attitude, and an appetite for adventure!
Cataract Canyon trips are true wilderness adventures, and itineraries vary widely depending on weather, the specific requests of this charter trip, campsite availability, and the need to be courteous to other groups on the river. This is a sample itinerary intended to provide one example of a five-day trip through Cataract.
In July and August, we lengthen our Cataract Canyon trips to six days to account for slower river flows. On this six-day Cataract Canyon trip, you can expect a similar itinerary to this one; however, with lower late-season river flows and an extra day to play, you may take some extra time in the upper canyon exploring archaeological sites or side canyons and reach the confluence sometime on the fourth day. You may dive into some whitewater rafting on day four but likely will spend that night nestled between mighty rapids in the heart of Cataract Canyon. Run the Big Drops on the fifth day and finish up on day six by exploring the upper reaches of Narrow Canyon on our way to the Hite boat-ramp and the “real” world.
Your Guide to Rafting the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River: 10 Tips for Your Trip
Rafting the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River is a bucket-list adventure for most outdoor and travel enthusiasts. Colorado paddlers must reach Diamond Creek in 16 days from Lees Ferry, and trying to figure out what to see and do in those 224 miles can be tough.
Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of your trip of a lifetime.
Drink four big bottles’ worth of water a day
The Grand Canyon rests in the heart of the Arizona desert, and the dryness sucks moisture from your body fast.
Drink twice as much as the generally recommended 64 ounces a day for a good desert minimum. During long paddling or hiking days, drink five or more 32-ounce bottles’ worth of water. Add a little salt with the water to help it “stick” to you.
Bring salve for hands, feet and elbows
Not to be confused with simple lotion, salve heals cracked skin and prevents blistering, which is almost guaranteed in the Grand Canyon if you don’t have salve on hand (no pun intended).
Take the first day slow
Two team members row into Horne Creek Rapid while rafting down the Grand Canyon. Photo: Courtesy of Kara Hudgens
The Grand Canyon’s climate is drier and hotter than most people will ever have experienced. Chances are, you’ll also have been running around nonstop the previous two days preparing for your trip’s river launch, which means you’re already starting with a low energy tank.
Take the first day or two easy, nurse any headaches and keep the fluids up to bounce back quickly.
Go with someone experienced and knowledgeable
Join a guided trip or go with people who have rafted the Grand Canyon a few times. These people know the best camps and the coolest hikes. They can explain the geology and talk about the anthropological history.
They also share the funniest stories of past mishaps and adventures.
Hike the Nankoweap, Matkatamiba Canyon and Deer Creek trails
Whole different perspective on the Colorado River once you hike up above it. Photo: Quinn Nietfeld/Unsplash
These are the premier hikes of the trip. Take pit stops to experience these and as many of the Canyon’s other trails as you can.
Try your hand at rowing
People just come alive when they help push the rafts down the Colorado. You develop a deep connection with the river itself and its history, as well as a sense of pride in contributing to the team.
Depending on you and your team’s comfort level, you may even row through a rapid or two.
Get iced lemonade and send a postcard at Phantom Ranch
Write a quick note to loved ones on postcards. A big stamp on the front labels them as “Mailed by Mule from the Bottom of the Grand Canyon,” which they’ll likely get a kick out of.
The cold, ice-filled lemonade is just glorious. You might also find other surprise pleasures of home at Phantom Ranch.
Have a beer bag to drag in the river behind the raft
This is one of the simple pleasures of the trip. The water hovers around 42 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping water, beer and any other drinks nice and cold.
Sleep under the stars
Night hits Grapevine Camp at mile 82 while rafting down the Grand Canyon. Photo: Courtesy of Kara Hudgens
Gaze at the Milky Way’s white stripe and count how many shooting stars cut the night sky. Watch as the canyon rim’s black silhouette shapes with the rising desert moon.
The Grand Canyon’s nighttime show complements the hustle and bustle of its daytime scenery.
Leave no trace
Keep up with all your trash and stay on all the trails. The Grand Canyon is a delicate desert ecosystem that receives little rain to break down or wash away any transgressions you make against it.
Leaving as little impact as possible on the river and surrounding landscape preserves this treasure for others — including those loved ones you take down on your next visit — to enjoy. Please leave it better than you found it.
The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak
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Grand Canyon Rafting Trips 101: a Beginner’s Guide
You know you want to go rafting in the Grand Canyon.
The trip is often cited as America’s #1 adventure vacation.
Why? The Canyon is simply out of this world.
So to experience it slowly, from the bottom?
Whitewater rapids, hidden slot canyons, sandy beaches, great people, and tasty meals are just the beginning of the fun.
This video sums up the experience, check it out:
That’s why they call it the Trip of a Lifetime!
The first step in planning a river trip can be overwhelming.
You have to choose from over a dozen companies that do guided tours through the Canyon. Worse yet, each of these individual companies offers about a dozen of their own different choices of raft expeditions.
Going through all of their websites makes you want to pull your hair out!
Let’s start from the beginning, defining where all the Grand Canyon rafting trips begin and end.
Places to Begin and End Your Grand Canyon Rafting Trip
All the river trips don’t start and finish in the same places. There’s a number of variations, so I’m going to outline them for you here.
Sometimes I’ll call the location where you begin your trip the “put-in.” It’s the place where you first enter the Colorado River. The spot where you end is called the “take-out.”
One way that the Grand Canyon is measured is in “River Miles.” If the Colorado River was a paved road, its length through the Grand Canyon would be 277 miles.
Glen Canyon Dam – The Minus Level
The smooth-water day trips begin at Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona. In terms of river miles, the dam would be at mile-marker minus fifteen (-15). You’re driven through an access tunnel to reach the shore of the River at the bottom of the dam.
The day trip through Horseshoe Bend wraps up 15 miles downstream at Lee’s Ferry. If you want to steer clear of any “excitement,” this is a perfectly simple float with no white water rapids.
Lees Ferry – Ground Zero
Lees Ferry is considered to be the beginning of the Canyon. It’s at “Mile Zero.”
Most river trips start here. There’s a launch ramp, a campground, and little other development in the area.
The commercial tour companies drive you to Lees Ferry from someplace more civilized. Marble Canyon AZ and Page AZ are the closest “cities,” but there’s almost nothing but a lodge and a gas station in Marble Canyon.
Phantom Ranch – The Divide
From Lees Ferry it’s a journey of several days through the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch, at river mile 89. The section between Lees Ferry and Phantom Ranch is called the “Upper” Canyon.
The only way to get to Phantom Ranch is by mule, on foot, or on that boat you rode in on! There’s occasional helicopter traffic, but that’s only for official National Park Service use.
You’re now a vertical mile below the rim. Phantom Ranch is far from the outside world, but there’s some basic services here – like lemonade!
Most companies begin or end some of their raft tours at Phantom Ranch. The 10-mile Bright Angel Trail connects Phantom Ranch to the South Rim Village, where you can finally find some air-conditioning and pizza. If you choose this option, be prepared to hike a strenuous 10 miles up or down the trail. It’s no joke.
Some companies provide vehicle transportation to or from the South Rim. Others let you find your own travel connections. The Historic South Rim Village is the centrally developed area of Grand Canyon National Park.
Sometimes you’ll see references to Pipe Springs. This is the river access on the Bright Angel Trail. Pipe Springs is about 1.5 miles closer to the South Rim Village than Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Canyon. Generally companies will drop you off at Phantom Ranch, but pick you up for the “put-in” at Pipe Springs.
Trips that begin at Lee’s Ferry and end at Phantom Ranch are considered the top half or upper half of the Canyon.
Trips that begin at Phantom Ranch (Pipe Springs) are considered the lower half or bottom half of the Canyon.
Whitmore Wash – The Beginning of the End
From Phantom Ranch it’s a dramatic ride through the biggest, baddest rapids to the next portal – the Whitmore Wash Helipad, at river mile 187. By now you’ve been through the best of the Grand Canyon.
There’s no road to the Colorado River at Whitmore. It’s a helicopter pad where you’ll be whisked away to the Bar X (10) Ranch on a remote part of the North Rim. You’ll then be flown again to another airport, usually in Las Vegas NV or Page AZ. So if your trip involves Whitmore, you can expect an included helicopter ride and charter flight!
Some trips begin at Whitmore or farther downstream at Diamond Creek. These tours exist for those that only have a short window of time. They’re still awesome experiences, but they miss the best that the Canyon has to offer.
As opposed to the upper trips and lower trips, I refer to trips that start at Whitmore or Diamond as the bottom. The section is more commonly referred to as Diamond Down.
Diamond Creek – Maybe The End
Diamond Creek is the next access point at River Mile 226. This is a popular place to finish your rafting trip and exit the Canyon, particularly for non-motorized trips. Your outfitter will drive you to civilization, likely in Peach Springs AZ, Flagstaff AZ, or Las Vegas. There’s nothing here at Diamond but a ramp and a parking area.
You’re not missing much by ending a trip at Diamond Creek. Farther at Separation Canyon (Mile 240), commercial trips often pick you up in a jet boat for the rest of the way to Lake Mead at speeds up to 35mph anyway.
The whitewater day trips begin here at Diamond Creek.
Interesting fact: Diamond Creek Road is the first place that you can drive to the bottom of the Grand Canyon after Lee’s Ferry. That’s 225 river miles without any access to roads!
This is a 26-mile dirt road completely on Hualapai Tribal Lands, requiring a high-clearance vehicle. The Hualapai charge a toll of at least $65. In most cases you shouldn’t have to worry about these fees when an outfitter is handling your transportation.
To “drive to the bottom of the Grand Canyon” here is definitely not a worthy vacation activity. It’s a lot more trouble than it’s worth, and the Canyon isn’t quite as Grand down here.
Pearce Ferry – The End
Pearce Ferry (Mile 281) is the main take-out at Lake Mead. There aren’t any views of the broader lake from here.
When they say your trip ends at Lake Mead, that most often means Pearce Ferry. There’s nothing more than a ramp and a rough parking area here, though the impressive “Pearce Ferry Rapid” is located about one mile downstream.
Companies will drive you from here primarily to Flagstaff AZ or Las Vegas.
Driving distances from Pearce Ferry:
- Flagstaff – 210 miles
- Lees Ferry – 330 miles
- Las Vegas 110 miles
Looking a bit further, South Cove (Mile 297) is an historic take-out point for the Grand Canyon at Lake Mead. Fluctuating water levels of the lake create a level of unpredictability beyond Pearce Ferry – namely the problematic Pearce Ferry Rapid.
So now you have a better understanding of where to access the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. You’re more prepared to check out all the Grand Canyon Rafting Companies, but first…
Motors, Oars, Paddles, Hybrids, Dories, and Duckies!
There’s a choice to be made among a variety of different boats.
Motorized Rafting Trips
Motor trips involve large pontoon rafts, sometimes affectionately called “bologna boats.” These can hold a lot of passengers – 10 or more.
There’s usually a couple of crew members on board, in addition to the pilot. The pilot sits in the rear and steers with an outboard motor.
These large rafts offer the highest sense of safety. They’re so sturdy that the pilots deliberately may steer into rough water for a more exciting ride. Motor trips are the fastest option if you want to see as much of the Grand Canyon as you can in a limited time. These trips entail the least number of days, and are therefore less expensive, too.
The motorized rides are big business for the raft companies. It’s more of a roller coaster ride than a rafting experience, watching the Canyon pass you by at a higher rate of speed.
Or to put it another way, motor trips are like driving a car down a scenic road.
Non-motorized oar trips are more like riding a bicycle down that road.
Non-Motorized Rafting Trips (Oar Trips)
Oar trips use smaller rafts, usually 14-18 feet long. They’re piloted by a single “boatman” that simply rows down the River with two long oars.
These rafts typically hold about four passengers, in addition to the boatman.
Paddle trips are where you actually get to paddle down the river with your own muscle and sweat.
The typical arrangement is that six “passengers” use individual paddles, instructed and assisted by a guide that gives direction from the back (and paddles too).
Hybrid trips involve a combination of oar boats and paddle boats. You’re given a choice each day between active involvement on the paddle boat or just relaxing on an oar raft, piloted by one of the guides.
Most paddle trips are set up as hybrid trips.
Some outfitters offer trips on a dory. Resembling a large canoe, dories are typically 17 feet long and constructed of wood and fiberglass. Readers of the best book about rafting the Grand Canyon, The Emerald Mile, are no strangers to the craft.
Dories traditionally offer a more rigid and elegant ride, and more comfort too. There’s the ability to lounge back through the slow stretches, and the ability access your gear more easily. They have a reputation for offering the ultimate Grand Canyon rafting experience.
Oar Trips vs Motor Trips
No matter which oar trip you choose, you’ll have a more intimate experience than the motor trips. You’ll be up close and personal with the River, and maybe even swimming in it!
The simple rhythm of the oars splashing the water’s surface is something you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, these tours are much more expensive than the motorized trips.
If you’re a crazy thrill seeker that enjoys getting pummeled by the big whitewater, some companies offer kayak support. Sometimes they have inflatable kayaks (Often called a ducky) available too.
Finally, there’s all kinds of specialized trips available. Some have a strong focus on hiking. Others specialize on a subject like geology or yoga. One company even offers a string quartet that serenades you through dinner!
Grand Canyon Rafting Safety and Deaths
You don’t have to know how to swim. Stringent rules require you to wear an approved life-jacket at all times on the water (Often called a personal flotation device, or PFD).
All of the commercial outfitters are known to have excellent safety records. It’s simply in their best interest for your trip to be injury-free.
The National Park Service doesn’t publicly release its safety statistics, but Tom Myers (Co-author of Death in the Grand Canyon) reports that Grand Canyon rafting injuries “occur at a rate similar to golf and bowling.”
As with any thrilling outdoor activity, accidents and even deaths sometimes do occur. The only comprehensive record of deaths is found in the book listed above.
So regarding those stinky guides and their high prices and their speedboats and string ensembles… maybe you just don’t want ‘em!
This National Park belongs to you, a citizen! Maybe you want to just blow up an inner tube, pack a few sandwiches, and go!
Well hold on there, Alexander Supertramp. Putting together your own rafting trip through the Grand Canyon is a huge undertaking… an expedition. All sorts of things can go wrong.
The good news is that the legendary 20-year waiting list for Grand Canyon rafting permits is ancient history. Read more about how much easier it is to win river permits these days, and what comes next if you actually get one.
When is the Best Time to Go?
The best time to go is when you can!
The first thing to know regarding timing is that multi-day commercial tours are only available from April 1 until the end of October.
Motor trips only run from April 1 until September 15.
The majority of people book their commercial trips for the common vacation months of June, July, and August.
I think the best time to go on a motor trip is late May. The river should be quieter than the summer months, and the beaches will show less impact after the quiet winter.
Additionally, the summer months are HOT at the bottom of the Canyon. Like 110-degrees-HOT. May should be slightly cooler (Like only 100 degrees vs 110).
Monsoon thunderstorms roll through the Canyon in July and August. In addition to the obvious precipitation, this means flash floods, so your guides are less likely to show you some of the slot canyons.
Whenever it rains, the river is likely to be thick and brown with sediment, like the picture of the kayaks above. This is okay when you get used to it, but obviously less picturesque.
It’s impossible to predict when the water will be blue-green, but the chances of clear water are better in late May, June, and in late September.
The best time to go on a NON-motorized commercial trip is probably late September into October. This is for one simple reason – there won’t be any motor trips out there! The Inner Canyon also has some of the best weather of the year at that time, too.
Private trips are available year-round. September, October, and March into April are the most desirable times to score a trip. These months have the best combination of pleasant weather and fewer people on the river.
The remaining summer months are okay, but crowded with motor boats. You also have more competition for permits throughout these traditional times for summer vacation.
Winter is okay too, so long as you don’t mind the cold… and the short daylight hours. The Canyon is exquisitely quiet in winter.