Whitewater Rafting in Grand Canyon - History & Basic Tips

History of the Rafting in the Grand Canyon

Rafting in Grand Canyon

Archaeological evidence confirms that Native Americans have occupied the Grand Canyon for over 10,000 years. Throughout that time natives would traverse the Colorado River as needed in sturdy, hand-carved canoes, but whitewater rafting in the Grand Canyon as we know it today is a relatively new activity. The 16th century "Age of Discovery" produced a thirst for exploration and a hunger for gold. In 1540, Spanish soldiers became the first non-native people to explore the canyon.

These Spanish soldiers, led by Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, arrived in the canyon nearly 500 years ago, in 1540. Their mission was to discover the mythical and elusive Cibola, known to adventurers and conquistadors as the Seven Cities of Gold. They began their expedition at the South Rim, accompanied by Hopi Native American guides. Nothing in the explorers? experience could have prepared them for the sheer size and vastness of this beautiful painted landscape. The search lasted three years and, though the fabled village was never found, the expedition put the Grand Canyon on the map. Today, you can experience the Spanish solders' wonder and search for your own legendary Cibola on our lower canyon raft trip options.

The first mission to accurately and scientifically explore the Grand Canyon wasn't commenced for another 300 years after the Spanish explorers' foray. In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran, courageously voyaged down the Colorado's whitewater, through the Grand Canyon, with the intention of mapping it. Up until that point, the Canyon was peculiarly absent from any Western United States maps. Major Powell and his team whitewater rafted through the Grand Canyon, much as we do today. Finally in 1923, the US Geological Survey conducted the first instrument survey of the Grand Canyon section of the Colorado River.

By the mid-20th century, only about 100 people are documented to have navigated the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The second half of the 20th century brought dramatic changes to the Grand Canyon tourism. The sparse number of river rafters willing to circumnavigate the Colorado through the Grand Canyon went up dramatically when army-surplus inflatable rafts became available. Therefore, the Canyon became a hub for adventure tourism sports.

Today's familiar commercial river running was founded by the late and great Georgie White Clark. She used the army-surplus inflatable rafts and introduced many innovations and methods, such as tethering multiple rafts together to maintain stability through large rapids, that whitewater rafting tour guides still use to this day.

In 2001, the United States Board on Geographic Names renamed Mile 24 Rapid in her honor. Today, you can honor this amazing Grand Canyon whitewater rafting pioneer by rafting through her rapid on our Upper Grand Canyon Tour. Although much has changed since the days of the Spanish explorers and Major John Wesley Powell, life within the great painted cliffs of the imposing Grand Canyon remains much the same.

Experience Canyon history when you book a unique and exhilarating adventure with Advantage Grand Canyon.

The Raft And Other Equipment Used For Rafting

The first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions rafting or a raft is Huckleberry Finn, those wooden slabs or branches tied together with thick strings and a long piece of wood used as a paddle for maneuvering this very simple water craft. He wasn't asking, "What is rafting?", he just made a raft and went for it! Hey, you?re not wrong about that. That is the most traditional raft there is.

These days however, rafts looks like a rectangular boat and are inflatable. Most of these are made of thick and tough rubber so that it would not rupture easily. The number of oars attached to the raft depends on how big it is and how many people can fit in it. Today, people going on rafting trips should wear protective gear like life vests and even helmets.

Different Ways To Enjoy Rafting

Rafting can be done on a tranquil river, especially when you?re a beginner or if you have young kids in your group. But there is nothing more exhilarating than white water rafting. There are various grades of rapids or white water, rated by the IRF or International Rafting Federation. The easiest is Grade 1 while the most challenging and quite dangerous is Grade 6. According to the IRF, the possibility of injury and / or death is high with Grade 6.

Why You Should Give Rafting A Try Soon

Are you an adrenaline junkie? If the answer is yes, white water rafting should seriously be in your bucket list. But it would be better if you try the Grade 1 type of white water rivers first before moving on to the more daring ones. If you're not the super adventurous kind, nothing's wrong with practicing your paddling skills over a gentle water form. This is a totally relaxing encounter. Besides, you also get to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature while contemplating life or something deep and philosophical.

Now that you have had your course on Rafting 101, thanks to the information provided above, give it a try soon. You will see what we mean when we say that you have not had the time of your life if you haven't gone on this type of water excursion. And once you have done this, share what you have learned and experienced with the others who might ask you "What is rafting"?

Whitewater rafting is truly an exciting adventure that is often considered a once in a lifetime bucket list trip. In addition, it is an activity that anyone can join. This is mainly possible because commercial whitewater rafting trips are well organized and guided by experts with years of experience. If you have or are contemplating booking a whitewater rafting expedition for you and your family, here are some tips to keep your trip fun and more importantly, safe. Ready for some more tips on how to prepare for rafting?

Choose The Right Outfitter - Advantage Grand Canyon

All of the outfitters eligible to take passengers on Grand Canyon raft trips are authorized concessioners of Grand Canyon National Park. They must maintain excellent safety practices and records in order to continue in good standing and be granted permits for future raft trips. The main difference between them is the itineraries they are granted by the national park, more specifically their put in and take out points. All of them offer fantastic adventure, great food, experienced guides and guarantee an incredibly unique experience. Choose a trip that satisfies you and your family's needs, preferences and activity level. Full canyon motor raft trips (offered by the majority of the outfitters 12 of 16) are the most popular of all raft trips as one gets to see the full canyon in just 6-8 days.

Listen to your Guides and Wear Your Life Jacket

This is a must when going whitewater rafting. Proper use of your life jacket might mean the difference between life and death. Accidents in the water are rare on Grand Canyon raft trips, and much of this is because of the strict observance of this rule, excellent guidance and safety practices.

Choose the Right Outerwear

If you are going on a trip during the shoulder seasons, be prepared for more range in temperature primarily on the colder side at night when the sun tucks behind the canyon walls. Long underwear top and bottom is not only useful during this season but also recommended during the summer months as the weather can turn quickly without warning.

Regardless of the season or month, make sure you have enough sunscreen and wear something that dries quickly like polypro, dri-fit or polyester for its wicking properties while on raft however in order to stay cool use cotton as it has evaporative properties; dunk it in the river and put it on to stay cool.

Sunglasses with UV protection are also a must, in fact we recommend bringing a back up. By planning and packing well, you are setting yourself up for success. Please reference the detailed trip packets we will provide to you for your specific trip.

See our Rafting Gear page for shopping options directly on Amazon. Your guides are there to support and guide you on your whitewater rafting trip, so make sure you pay attention to their safety talks and actively take part in your role of making smart decisions keeping safety first!

Be a part of history and book the most popular raft trip today on our full canyon motor trip to experience the Grand Canyon much the same as Major Powell did when he mapped the Colorado River nearly 150 years ago.