Is Rafting the Grand Canyon Dangerous?

Going on a Grand Canyon trip soon? Are you a bit hesitant to go rafting at Grand Canyon in Arizona because you think it's unsafe? Well, whitewater rafting can be scary, especially if you haven't done it before. However, it is also a fun and exciting experience, most especially if you'll go rafting at Grand Canyon.

The beauty of the place will leave you in awe that you'll soon forget your worries about falling off the boat or drowning. However, try not to get too carried away by its charm that you'll forget about the safety precautions. So, here's what to expect on your upcoming Grand Canyon adventure.


Colorado River: Dangers in the Grand Canyon National Park

The tour to the Colorado River is not always 100% safe. Accidents can happen anytime, and if you are a reckless guest, there's a big chance that you'll get into one. To give you an idea, here are the possible dangers that can happen to you if you don't practice safety and listen to your guide.


The Colorado River is not your average waterway. Rafters are typically safe but since 1925, there have been several drowning deaths. Listening to your guides is typically the best way to remain safe. Wearing protective gear and life vests at all times will help save you from possible drowning. Safety boats and throw bags would also help.

You may be tempted to swim in the Colorado River but it is not always advisable and your safety should be your top priority.


Another possible cause of injuries or accidents is hypothermia. The water at the Colorado River can be extremely cold even on hot summer days. Although hypothermia rarely happens, some visitors who are not attentive and cautious can experience this.

The water from the Colorado River comes from Glen Canyon Dam and the bottom of Lake Powell. The temperature of the river at Lee's Ferry is around 42 degrees F. Long exposure to this water temperature can cause hypothermia.

Typically, this can happen when the body temperature is decreased to a level where the body can no longer keep it warm through shivering. When this happens the body can shut down. One way to deal with hypothermia is by warming up the body slowly. It can be done with the help of other people's body heat and by placing your hands on your underarm. Once you shiver again, it's a sign that your body is warming up and will soon be out of hypothermia.

River Trip Safety Tips

John Wesley Powell's epic journey down the Colorado River in 1869 was exhausting and miserable. Today it is considered awe-inspiring, exciting, and comfortable. The transition away from fear to that of diversion is mostly the result of tremendous advances in safety.

Since the late 1930s, safety had improved significantly. An adventurer who dared mighty Colorado had much more of a risk of dying than travellers experience today. Injury in the Canyon is less than 1/10 as frequent as those of football or basketball.

In the Grand Canyon, 60% of injuries happen onshore and 40% occur on the Grand Canyon River. Both locations present a unique set of potential hazards. Both need to be approached differently concerning prevention. “Off-river” accidents are those which occur in camp, while hiking, etc. “On-river,” accidents happen while on the water.

To prevent this from happening, safety precautions should always be observed and here are some tips on how you can survive the Grand Canyon National Park tour without injuries or accidents.

  • Always wear PFD or personal flotation device when rafting
  • Wear appropriate attire and protective gear
  • Hold your paddle properly
  • Stay on the boat at all times
  • Listen to your tour guides at all times, especially during the safety talk before your trip
  • Be sure to learn the proper swimming techniques in case your raft flips over or you get thrown off of the boat
  • Know the commands, especially high-side and bump
  • Don't panic. It won't help and will just exhaust all of your remaining energy

Safety Tips for Viewing Grand Canyon National Park

As mentioned earlier, accidents don't always happen on water or at the Colorado River. Sometimes it also happens on the ground. If you are not rafting, you're probably hiking or viewing the Grand Canyon from the rim. Here are some ways on how you can avoid potential accidents during the tour.

  • Follow and listen to your tour guide at all times. Only walk and stay on designated walkways and trails and don't get too near the edge of the rim.
  • Never climb on barriers in places where there are fences or railings
  • Always do a head count and keep an eye on small children
  • Never jump, run, and perform any stunts when you or your companions are close to the rim
  • Always watch where you are going, check for proper foot placement and trip hazards
  • Whether you are at the Sout or North Rim, it is important to know the altitude. Guests with health conditions or are coming from sea level should prepare and adapt to the elevation
  • Try to rest frequently and drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Check the weather forecast and don't forget to get indoors when there is lightning and thunder and when it starts to rain
  • Never feed the wildlife and stay at a safe distance from them

How to Plan a Grand Canyon Rafting Adventure

Planning a trip can be very hard, especially when there are a lot of options to choose from. Since it takes a long time to book a tour at Grand Canyon, it is best to plan it carefully. You can always check with the Grand Canyon National Park Service for any questions that you may have on your trip. Here are some of the things you can do to prepare you and your family for your rafting trips.

  • Search for a professional and trusted outfitter. There are about 15 outfitters to choose from and finding the right one will make your river trip more enjoyable and memorable.
  • Have your itinerary ready ahead of time. If you can't create one, you can always ask your chosen outfitter for help.
  • Ask the outfitter if they will provide everything for you, including sleeping bags where you can sleep at night and everything that you need to prepare for your river trip and hikes. Most of the time, food are included in the package.
  • Make sure you are and everyone on the river trip is physically healthy. There are a lot of hikes during the trip. You don't want to risk your health and life while rafting or hiking.
  • You can get help and answers from the National Park Service to make sure everything is all set during your trip.
  • Choose a raft or boat that is suitable for your itinerary.
  • Bring clothes and wear footwear that are appropriate for the trip.

Grand Canyon Raft Types

Can't decide which rafting type to take? There are mainly two types of raft options that you can choose for your adventures at Grand Canyon, these are motorized and non-motorized rafts. The kind of raft that you'll choose can have an impact on your rafting adventure, as well as your safety throughout the trip.

Motorized Rafts

This type of raft is the most commonly used in Grand Canyon. It can seat at least 15 people including tour guides. Handholds are available for each passenger for them to hold on to when they experience whitewater rapids. A motor boat can travel at a speed of 8 miles/hr depending on your itinerary.

Non-Motorized Rafts

There are four types of non-motorized rafts you can choose from.

- Paddle Raft
This type of boat is perfect for friends or families who want to use handheld wooden paddles during their rafting trip. This is a great bonding experience, but be sure to listen closely to your guide's instructions, particularly when traversing whitewater rapids.

- Oar Raft
Compared to paddle rafts where guests are the ones who steer and propel the raft, with oar raft, it is the tour guide that steers at the back of the craft. This type can carry around 8 passengers with a speed of 4 miles/hr.

- Hybrid Raft
Don't be confused by its name. A hybrid raft is not a crossbreed of different kinds of raft but rather a tour group with a varied selection of oar rafts and paddle rafts.

- Dory Raft
Compared to other rafts mentioned above, a dory raft is made of fiberglass or hardwood and has a rigid design. This type of raft can hold 5 people including one tour guide.

Grand Canyon National Park Rafting Trips

With so many things to see and with all the 15 rafting outfitters operating at the Grand Canyon, it can be overwhelming to decide and plan. Some rafting trips float all 280 miles through the Grand Canyon from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead.

Others take on only the upper or lower canyon or float any number of miles from the canyon rim. The varying distances help accommodate a range of available dates for each of the rafting types, ranging from three to 18 days on the water.

In some cases, the rafting experience includes a hike from the canyon rim down to the water and a rafting trip mid-canyon. Depending on the itinerary you availed of, you can experience the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Full Grand Canyon Experience

If you want to explore the whole Grand Canyon, book a trip with Advantage Grand Canyon. Typically it will take you 12-18 days, so be prepared to take a few weeks off from your work. The full Grand Canyon National Park experience will start from Lee's Ferry and will bring you to Diamond Creek or to Pearce Ferry, Lake Mead. Whichever point you take you will come across some of the best rafting rapids.

More or less you will encounter at least 42 major rapid system that is rated 5+. During the trip, you'll witness amazing sites like Whitmore Wash, Pipe Creek, Phantom Ranch, Cataract Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend.

Every afternoon, you will be spending it on a camping site and your tour guide will prepare a sumptuous meal. In the morning, a hearty meal will also be served. You can either enjoy a rafting trip in the Cataract Canyon or relax while your raft floats in the Colorado River.

Along the trip, the tour guide will explain and discuss the manmade and natural wonders around Grand Canyon. Once the trip is over, you can exit on any of the three exit points, River Mile 188, River Mile 225 or River Mile 280.

Upper Grand Canyon Experience

Your journey will also begin at Lee's Ferry and will exit at Phantom Ranch. The way to Lee's Ferry to Phantom Ranch can only be accessed by rafting. You will be hiking at the Bright Angel Trail to reach the South Rim. Be prepared for the hike as it can be a rough one.

The Upper Canyon has 19 rapid system and you get to experience the exciting House of Rocks rapids and Zoroaster rapids. Other things you can expect with this tour are gigantic Redwall Cavern, captivating Toroweap and Kaibab rock formations and the clear waters of the Little Colorado River confluence.

Apart from the ancient geological inspections and wildlife sighting, guests will also get to hike at least 2 side canyons every day.

Lower Canyon Experience

The tour will start with a hike at Bright Angel Trail. This can be tough so be prepared to bring extra drinks and food with you. It is also recommended to wear proper footwear. Typically, you will see some of the amazing canyon scenery and some of the 39 rated whitewater rapids.

In the daytime, you have the chance to witness Elves Chasm, Deer Creek Falls, Granite Narrows, and Matkatamiba Canyon. Depending on your guide and itinerary, you can choose from several exits. You can even book a helicopter ride and enjoy the scenery from a bird's eye view from Whitmore Wash or take a ride on a jetboat from Separation Canyon.

Western Canyon Experience

This tour happens between Lake Mead and Whitmore Wash. It will begin with an exciting Helicopter ride to Whitmore Wash. Once you're comfortably seated in your raft, you'll float in the largest reservoir in the United States - Lake Mead.

After Lake Mead, you will ride a jetboat and bring you to a take-out point that is accessible by car. Depending on your budget and chosen activities, you can enjoy some horseback riding, ATV driving, volleyball, and skeet shooting.


Do you think you can follow all the safety tips and stay away from dangers on your upcoming Grand Canyon tour? You'll know that a place is that beautiful and exciting when you need to book at least a year before you get an available date. This is true with Grand Canyon, it would take about a year to avail their tours because it is always fully booked. However, the waiting will all be worth it. To make your vacation extremely memorable, best to stay out of danger and follow safety protocols. Don't be too afraid of the possible dangers that you'll face, as long as you are a good visitor and comply with the safety standards, the chance of getting into an accident is very slim.

Frequently Asked Questions