Raft Types: Motor & Non-Motor

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Motorized Grand Canyon Rafting Trips

Motorized rafting trips are available through 11 of the Grand Canyon’s 15 river outfitters. As one of the most popular options for rafting the Grand Canyon, there are more motor trip launches in the Colorado River than any other raft type combined, and for good reason.

Whether you're looking to explore the Upper Canyon, the Lower Canyon, or the full breadth of the Colorado River, taking a motorized rafting trip will save you both a considerable amount of time and a lot of physical exertion. Even though motorized rafts travel faster than oar-powered rafts, you'll still have plenty of time to check out the canyon's exhilarating rapids, sparkling side canyons, stunning cultural sites, and ancient geological structures. In fact, by taking a motorized trip, you'll save a lot of time spent traversing river miles, leaving you more time to explore, raft, and hike through the canyon's diverse set of attractions.

Although specific details will vary across outfitters, motorized launches typically include 2 rafts, with group sizes ranging from 22 to 28 passengers. In most cases, full canyon tours proceed down the Colorado River with the same group of raftmates for the entire trip. However, some full canyon trips will include a mid-trip pit-stop, departing with Upper Canyon passengers before joining up with Lower Canyon adventurers for the rest of the trip.

 
  • Most popular of all raft types, offered by 11 of 15 outfitters
  • Most comfortable seating positions of all raft types and great for guests who seek a sense of security with a larger raft type
  • Covers more distance per day compared to non-motor trips
  • Action-packed trips – will see more in a day and get from one attraction to another more frequently compared to non-motor
  • A popular choice for those looking to see more of the canyon while having ample time for off raft exploration
  • The largest percentage of people choose this raft type
  • A popular choice for any age especially children/teens who seek more activities. The minimum age is 8 years old.
  • Group sizes between 12-14 per raft, 2-raft maximum/trip
  • Rafts may vary slightly from sample image
 

Motorized Rafting Trips vs. Traditional Rafting Trips

The most important (and most obvious) difference between a motorized rafting trip and a conventional rafting trip is the style of the raft. The three most common raft types offered by Grand Canyon rafting outfitters are motorized rafts, paddle rafts, and oar-powered rafts.

 

 

Why a Motorized Raft?

A motorized raft is usually around 35 feet long, holding up to 14 passengers and 2 guides. As the name suggests, motorized rafts are powered by an ultra-quiet 4-stroke motor. The addition of low-emission motors allows motorized rafts to travel along the Colorado River at up to 8 miles per hour (mph).

There are many benefits to choosing a motorized raft for a Grand Canyon rafting expedition. Not only are motorized rafts quicker than traditional oar-powered rafts, but they're also more spacious and comfortable for multi-passenger trips. Motorized rafts offer secure seating and luggage areas, making them a great option for guests seeking the security of a larger raft type. When you're in calm water, you'll also be able to stand up and move around your motorized raft. Want to stay dry while traversing the canyon's raging rapids? Your best bet is to sit towards the back of the raft where you'll be shielded from the majority of the river's spray.

Motorized rafts are also a great option for families with children. In most cases, the minimum age requirement for motorized raft tours is 8 years old. However, before booking a motorized Grand Canyon trip, be sure to do your own research as minimum age requirements for motorized rafts may vary between outfitters.

Oar-Powered Raft

Oar-powered rafts are the second most popular raft option for Grand Canyon trips, with 12 out of 15 outfitters supporting oar-powered tours. Unlike paddle rafts, you will not be expected to steer or propel an oar-powered raft. Instead, you and your raft mates will remain seated while your river guide, stationed at the center of your 18-foot long raft, directs your craft with two large oars. Passengers may be permitted to take turns steering the raft through calmer areas of the Colorado River. Due to their smaller size, oar-powered rafts move approximately 4 mph slower than motorized rafts.

Paddle Raft

Traveling via paddle raft is one of the most physically demanding ways to traverse the Grand Canyon river. This is because a paddle raft's propulsion comes from you, your raft mates and your river guide. At the beginning of your paddle raft tour, you'll be given a small paddle and your raft guide will show you and your raft mates how to use it to steer, accelerate, and decelerate your raft.

A paddle raft is much smaller than a motorized or oar-powered raft, so expect to only share your journey with a group of 4-8 people. Popular amongst people with prior rafting experience, paddle rafts are ideal for adventurers looking for a more physically challenging and hands-on adventure.

As a slightly less popular trip option, not all outfitters offer paddle raft tours in the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, while tour availability will depend on seasonal constraints and route selection, 4 out of the national park's 15 outfitters still support paddle rafting trips.

Upper, Lower or Full Grand Canyon — What Are Your Options for a Motorized Raft Trip?

Aside from seasonal constraints, deciding on one motorized rafting route over another is usually determined by two key factors: your time availability and your sightseeing preferences. Grand Canyon outfitters currently offer motorized tours for the full Grand Canyon, the Upper Grand Canyon, and the Lower Grand Canyon.

The Full Grand Canyon

Want to cover as much of the Grand Canyon as possible? A full canyon motorized rafting trip is the most time-effective way to travel the length and breadth of the Grand Canyon. With 6-day, 7-day, or 8-day options, all full Grand Canyon trips begin at Lees Ferry (river mile 0) in Marble Canyon. From there, you'll hop into your motorized raft and begin making your way down the Colorado River. With 47 rapids in the Grand Canyon (rated 5 or above), you'll have no shortage of exhilarating white water experiences. When you're not crashing your way through white water, you'll have free time to look for canyon wildlife, check out ancient geological formations, and respectfully inspect Native American cultural sites.

At the end of each day, you'll have plenty of time to lazily set up camp alongside your raft mates. You can choose to camp in a tent, or, if you'd rather get in touch with nature, under the stars. While you're exploring side canyons or setting up camp, your river guides will take care of all the food preparation and cooking, ensuring that you have access to a delicious range of meals and snacks throughout your trip.

At the conclusion of a full canyon trip, there are three different exit points you can choose from. If you want to incorporate an exciting helicopter ride into your trip, you can choose to exit at Whitmore Wash (river mile 188) where you will be airlifted out of the canyon to Bar 10 Ranch. From there, a charter plane can return you to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Alternatively, you and your raft mates can exit at either Diamond Creek (river mile 225) or Lake Mead (river mile 280) — both of these options have vehicle accessible exits. Remember, no matter which exit point you choose, full Grand Canyon tours have no hike-out requirements. SEARCH FULL CANYON TRIPS

Upper Canyon

Known for harboring some of the Grand Canyon's most impressive geological sites, the Upper Canyon has plenty to offer to people looking for a short yet action-packed trip. After setting off from Lees Ferry, your motorized raft will launch into the water directly under the jaw-dropping Vermilion Cliffs. Compared to other sections of the Colorado River, the Upper Canyon features a higher number of scenic vantage points, meaning you'll have plenty of opportunities to snap picture-perfect photos.

Over the course of an Upper Canyon trip, you'll traverse a variety of thrilling rapids, including the Hance Rapids, the Grapevine Rapids, and the Soap Creek Rapids. After your final day of rafting, your motorized raft will pull in at the base of the Bright Angel Trail. Be sure to pack your hiking boots as you'll conquer a 9.5-mile ascent to the top of the South Rim. From here, you'll be transported to Las Vegas or back to your original starting location at Lees Ferry. SEARCH UPPER CANYON TRIPS

Lower Canyon

If you want to experience the Grand Canyon's fiercest river rapids, we highly recommend a motorized trip in the Lower Canyon. Depending on your selected put-in point, Lower Canyon trips begin with a 7.5-mile to 9.5-mile trek down the Bright Angel Trail. Once you reach the canyon floor, you'll embark on your river trip from one of three starting points: Pipe Creek Beach, Bright Angel Beach, or Boat Beach. After embarking at your designated put-in point, your river guides will acquaint you with your motorized raft and quickly get you on your way.

If you're looking for the Grand Canyon's most exciting rapids, most river guides will point you towards the Lower Canyon. Taking a Lower Canyon motorized raft trip will give you the opportunity to experience these thrilling rapids without having to divert your attention to paddling duties. Within the first few miles of your journey, you'll face both the Horn Creek Rapids and Hermit Rapids — an exciting preview of the 39 rapids to come!

Outfitters typically offer 4-7 day tours for the Lower Canyon. Like a full Grand Canyon tour, Lower Canyon expeditions can terminate at either Whitmore Wash, Diamond Creek or Lake Mead. If you're not a fan of hiking, you'll be happy to know that none of these take-out points require an exit hike. SEARCH LOWER CANYON TRIPS

 

Frequently Asked Motorized Rafting Trip Questions

There are several factors to consider when calculating the cost of a motorized Grand Canyon river trip. Firstly, rafting outfitters increase their tour prices during the peak tourist summer season — in most cases, this season stretches from May to September. During this period, the weather in the canyon is warm and temperate, and the Colorado River's increased flow rate means high-volume rapids systems. If you want to experience the best the Grand Canyon has to offer, it might be worth paying a bit extra for raft trips during the peak period. Secondly, multi-day raft trips are (unsurprisingly) more expensive than 1/2 day or full-day tours. As a guideline, a full 7 day Grand Canyon motorized rafting expedition will typically set you back around $3,100. If you want to spend an extra day on the water, the cost may increase by approximately $300. Thirdly, the cost of your trip will also vary depending on your exit point and departure dates — for instance, if you choose to exit via helicopter at Whitmore Wash, you can expect to pay approximately $5,800. If you're looking for something more affordable, you can opt for a shorter trip in the Upper or Lower Canyon — even though you're only on the river for a short amount of time, you'll still get to experience both the relaxation of floating down the river and the thrill of white water rapids. In terms of pricing, a 4-day Upper Canyon motorized rafting expedition, starting in Lees Ferry and ending at Phantom Ranch, will set you back around $1,150. However, due to the difference in river miles, expect to pay slightly more for a 4-day Lower Canyon motorized rafting trip. For a personalized trip quote, get in touch with our friendly team at 888-244-2224 / 928-351-7711 or send us an email at info@advantagegrandcanyon.com.

Absolutely! As a passenger on a motorized raft, you won't personally be paddling through the Colorado River's mighty rapids, but that doesn't mean you won't still have an action-packed trip. You can choose to take front and center when it comes to traveling through the river's rapids — with steering taken care of by your river guide, all you have to do is hang on tight and enjoy the ride! Motorized rafting is ideal for individuals or families who may not be so keen on heading face-first into rapids while aboard a small paddle boat. Hiking the side canyons, exploring hidden waterfalls and caves, and discovering the Grand Canyon's endemic flora and fauna are just some of the many activities you can do during a motorized trip. Throughout your trip, if you have any questions about canyon wildlife or geology, please don't hesitate to ask your expert river guides.

No! That's the beauty of exploring the Grand Canyon in a motorized raft. Taking a motorized trip also makes the journey more achievable for groups that include children, older adventurers, or individuals with disabilities. What's more, your river guide will have complete control over the raft for the entirety of your trip. Instead of spending your journey trying to determine the correct paddling techniques, you'll be free to admire and experience the canyon's towering scenery and tumultuous white water rapids.

No, around 70 percent of our customers admit to having zero prior rafting experience before booking a rafting trip with one of our outfitters. All of these customers have completed their rafting tours with no issues or concerns. If you've never rafted before or if you don't want to paddle through rapids, a motorized rafting trip is an ideal solution. No experience is required for Grand Canyon motorized rafting trips; this is because your river guide is responsible for controlling and steering the craft, allowing you to sit back and fully enjoy the magnificent scenery.

Yes, modern motorized rafts can travel up to 8 mph, that's two times faster than the Colorado River's average current. As a result, opting for a motorized raft will be the quickest way to explore both the river and its accompanying canyon systems. If you're short on time and looking to experience as much of Grand Canyon National Park as possible, a motorized raft will allow you to travel the length of the Grand Canyon in 6-8 days, as opposed to 12-18 days in an oar, paddle, or dory raft. In addition to seeing more of the Grand Canyon, taking a motorized trip will also free up time for river rapids, side canyon hiking, reflective solitude, and relaxation with raft mates.

Non-Motor Rafting Adventure

Oar Raft Trip

  • Popular rafting type, offered by 12 of 15 outfitters
  • Smaller more agile raft type, allows passengers to ‘feel’ more of the rapids

Paddle Raft Trip

  • Limited rafting type option, offered by 4 of 15 outfitters
  • Slower paced more intimate experience during calm waters

Hybrid Raft Trip

  • Limited rafting type option, offered by 4 of 15 outfitters
  • Usually 4 oar rafts and 1 paddle raft to be used on rotation among passengers. One outfitter includes inflatable kayaks

Dory Raft Trip

  • Limited rafting type, offered by 5 of 15 outfitters
  • Smaller more agile raft type, allows passengers to ‘feel’ more of the rapids
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Oar raft trips are the second most popular of all raft types. Consisting of 5 passengers in total, these rafts are powered and navigated by your guide, however if you are interested in rowing in between rapids and at their discretion, you are welcome to grab the oars. A typical oar trip will consist of 5-6 rafts or floatilla. Oar trips travel at speed of the river 3-4 mph, more slowly and essentially doubling the trip duration when compared to a motorized trip. This slower pace offers a great opportunity for an intimate experience with the river while listening to your guide's extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon. There are upper, lower, western and full canyon trips offered on non-motor rafts. Some full canyon trips continue straight through with the same group of passengers, while others will make a pit-stop to let off upper canyon passengers, and allow for lower canyon trip passengers to join the group for the rest of the trip.

  • Popular rafting type, offered by 12 of 15 outfitters
  • Smaller more agile raft type, allows passengers to ‘feel’ more of the rapids
  • Rowed by guide, however at times passengers may row between rapids, during calmer waters
  • Rowing is not guaranteed, and at the discretion of the guide or trip leader.
  • In addition to oar raft, some trips include a dory boat to be used on rotation
  • Slower paced, more relaxed experience while on the raft in calmer waters
  • Great opportunity to listen to your guide’s extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon while on raft
  • Minimum 10-12 years old – most outfitters
  • Group size between 18-24 dependent on what time of year
  • Rafts may vary slightly from sample image

Paddle raft trips are high in demand and low in supply as only 4 of 15 outfitters offer them. Your guide sits at the back and commands the team of 6-8 paddlers, who are digging into the water full time. These trips are recommended for those with multi-day paddle experience under their belt as many days in succession can become tiresome. A typical paddle trip will consist of 5-6 rafts or floatilla. Paddle trips travel at speed of the river 3-4 mph, more slowly and essentially doubling the trip duration when compared to a motorized trip. This slower pace offers a great opportunity for an intimate experience with the river while listening to your guide's extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon. There are upper, lower, western and full canyon trips offered on non-motor rafts. Some full canyon trips continue straight through with the same group of passengers, while others will make a pit-stop to let off upper canyon passengers, and allow for lower canyon trip passengers to join the group for the rest of the trip.

  • Limited rafting type option, offered by 4 of 15 outfitters
  • Slower paced more intimate experience during calm waters
  • Great for those looking for a more physically demanding adventure while on raft
  • Great opportunity to listen to your guide’s extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon while on raft
  • Smallest raft type, very agile and allows passengers to ‘feel’ more of the rapids
  • Passengers paddle full time for days in succession and can cause muscle fatigue.
  • Recommended for those with previous multi-day paddle experience.
  • Minimum 12-16 years old - most outfitters
  • Group size between 18-24 dependent on what time of year
  • Rafts may vary slightly from sample image

Hybrid raft trips are high in demand and low in supply as only 4 of 15 outfitters offer them. A typical hybrid trip will consist of 5-6 Oar raft and 1 Paddle raft to be used on rotation among the passengers. This trip makes for a great balance between relaxing in an Oar raft and digging into the water while in the Paddle raft. Hybrid trips travel at speed of the river 3-4 mph, more slowly and essentially doubling the trip duration when compared to a motorized trip. This slower pace offers a great opportunity for an intimate experience with the river while listening to your guide's extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon. There are upper, lower, western and full canyon trips offered on non-motor rafts. Some full canyon trips continue straight through with the same group of passengers, while others will make a pit-stop to let off upper canyon passengers, and allow for lower canyon trip passengers to join the group for the rest of the trip.

  • Limited rafting type option, offered by 4 of 15 outfitters
  • Usually 4 oar rafts and 1 paddle raft to be used on rotation among passengers. One outfitter includes inflatable kayaks
  • No motor rafts are part of the flotilla on a hybrid raft trip
  • Slower paced more intimate experience while on the raft in calmer waters
  • Popular choice for adventurous individuals and families alike
  • Popular option for those wanting a more physical experience while on raft
  • Great opportunity to listen to your guide’s extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon while on raft
  • Minimum 12 years old - most outfitters
  • Group size between 18-24 dependent on what time of year
  • Rafts may vary slightly from sample image

Dory boat trips are offered by 5 of 15 outfitters. Consisting of 5 passengers in total, these rafts are powered and navigated by your guide. Often times Dory boats will be added to Oar trips making for a great opportunity to experience both vessels on the same trip. Dory trips travel at speed of the river 3-4 mph, more slowly and essentially doubling the trip duration when compared to a motorized trip. This slower pace offers a great opportunity for an intimate experience with the river while listening to your guide's extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon. There are upper, lower, western and full canyon trips offered on non-motor rafts. Some full canyon trips continue straight through with the same group of passengers, while others will make a pit-stop to let off upper canyon passengers, and allow for lower canyon trip passengers to join the group for the rest of the trip.

  • Limited rafting type, offered by 5 of 15 outfitters
  • Smaller more agile raft type, allows passengers to ‘feel’ more of the rapids
  • Rowed by guide, however at times passengers may row between rapids, during calmer waters - Rowing is not guaranteed, and at the discretion of the guide or trip leader.
  • Rigid boats made of hard wood
  • Travels slightly faster when compared to oar rafts
  • Faster response in rapids when compared to inflated rafts
  • Slower paced, more intimate experience while on Dory
  • Great opportunity to listen to your guide’s extensive knowledge of the Grand Canyon while on the river
  • Minimum 10-12 years old – most outfitters
  • Group size between 18-24 dependent on what time of year
  • Rafts may vary slightly from sample image