I started researching white water rafting trips in the Grand Canyon and three things immediately jumped out to me:
1. Rafting the Grand Canyon is not cheap
Depending on the duration, time of year, and type of trip, costs range from $2,200-$6,000 (generally includes food, transportation, drinks, and camping supplies). You can’t just go white water rafting in the Grand Canyon by yourself. You have to go through one of the dozen or so companies which control the number of trips and their price. I reached out to Crate Rafting Trips in 2018 just before they were releasing the dates/details on their 2020 trips. If I have almost 2 years to save up for something I’m fairly confident I can do it – especially when it’s something that books out years in advance – like paddle only trip over 11 days white water rafting in the Grand Canyon.
2. There are a lot of options
You can do 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, 10 days, 11 days, 14 days, or 17 days. You can do the upper canyon, lower canyon, or the whole canyon (paddle only). You can hike in, hike out, or not hike at all. You can do an oar-powered trip, motorized, or a hybrid. Picking a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon is about as easy as picking which Greek Islands to go to. Lucky for me, the company I decided to go with (Crate Rafting) has been beyond helpful and I know I made the right choice doing an 11 day paddle only trip, This trip allows me to see the whole Grand Canyon and also actually paddle the whole thing. It’s crazy to me that people want to go on a white water rafting trip but have either the guide do the work or for it to be motorized- to each their own I guess.
3. Supply is limited and demand is high
For any white water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon longer than a single day, you have to book at least a year in advance. Some companies only take certain trips, like the 11 day one I decided to do, only once or twice a year due to water levels, which means you generally have to get on a waitlist ahead of time or hope someone backs out. When I reached out to Crate Rafting they hadn’t posted their 2020 trips yet but were planning on it the following day.
Needless to say, I straight up lucked out. Had I waited a week to research the different trip types and companies I wouldn’t have been able to get a spot (or 4).
After finally wrapping my mind around the pricing and different options and limitations, I had to decide if this was really something I wanted to do. After all, as is the struggle with most travelers, each time I pick one adventure, I delay or completely remove the opportunity for another. But in the end, for me, white water rafting in the Grand Canyon is too great of a venture to have so close and not experience.
To the people who say it’s a lot of money to “go rafting”, I’d say you may be right, but I learned a long time ago that you can’t put a price on experiences. Things cost money. Why would a hard-to-come-by bucket list trip be any different? When you compare it to staying at a resort/hotel and paying for food/drinks each day for 11 days the price is actually a lot easier to accept.
Why make money if it’s not to spend it on things I find worthwhile?
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It took me a while (longer than I’d care to admit), but I was finally able to decipher exactly which rafting trip was perfect for me and my goals:
I wanted to see the whole canyon (which meant at least 10 days); I didn’t want a guide to do all the work; nor did I want a motorized raft to automatically propel me down the river with little to no effort on my part. I wanted to earn it. I wanted to feel in control and helpless at the same time. In the end, I knew a “paddle only” trip was the only option for me.
I really did time it perfect by pure accident. There is only one 11-day paddle only white water rafting trip in the Grand Canyon each year offered by Colorado River & Trail Expeditions (Crate) a week before they posted their 2020 rafting schedule and pricing. Without confirming interest with anyone I went put down the deposit for 6 spots on 1 of only 2 rafts (roughly half the spots).
I don’t believe in fate/destiny, but sometimes the universe does perfectly align.
A paddle-only trip is exactly what it sounds like- you and five other people paddle yourselves in a raft for 278 miles through the Grand Canyon. I’ll go into more detail about the itinerary specifics in another blog, but the general idea is that I’ll be spending those 11 days paddling in the morning, hiking in the afternoon, and sleeping by the river under the stars.
Coming soon: The 11-Day Itinerary for a White Water Rafting Trip, What to Pack for a White Water Rafting Trip, and, as always, more of my thoughts and ideas on travel and exploring the world, one trip at a time.