Run Wild! Run Rivers! Rafting Blog

Third Annual CRATE Photo Contest

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Colorado River & Trail Expeditions will be hosting our 3rd annual photo contest in 2015.  Entrants will be able to upload as many as ten photos into the contest. Photos entered can be a maximum of 4 MB in size and must be taken from a Colorado River & Trail Expeditions rafting trip in 2015.  By submitting a photo or photos to the contest, entrant gives consent to Colorado River & Trail Expeditions to show and utilize entrant’s photos in any and all ways Colorado River & Trail Expeditions prefers.  This includes, but is not limited to, promotional materials, brochures, blogs, calendars, websites,  and videos.

Photo Copyright Adam I. Hiscock 2015

The contest will end on November 30, 2015, and winners will be determined by the number of votes their photos receive from the website.  For this reason, users should share their photos with friends, trip mates, and over social media outlets and encourage others to vote for for their photos.  Prizes will be awarded to the most popular photos (those receiving the most votes), and to the best overall entry as determined by a committee that includes a representative from the CRATE office staff, a professional photographer, and a professional graphic designer.

Photo Copyright Adam I. Hiscock 2015Prizes

Grand Prizes (2) A 7-Day Rafting Trip/Photography Workshop down the Green River through Desolation Canyon hosted by award-winning landscape photographer,  Tom Till, in May of 2016.  Both the top vote getter in the website based contest, and the photographer of the photo selected by the committee, will win a Grand Prize.

Additional Prizes (10) The Top 10 most popular photos entered in the website based contest will receive custom made books displaying our 25 favorite photos from the contest, with commentary and favorite river and canyon quotes chosen by CRATE staffers.



Photos Copyright 2015 Adam Isaac Photography

A Big Day Below Diamond Creek: A Guest’s Perspective

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It can be hard to know what exactly our clients are thinking when shenanigans occur on a river tip. Except, perhaps, in this case. Here is CRATE passenger Art Hoover’s colorful, ever-so-slightly embellished account of the events that took place below Diamond Creek during a 10,000 cfs flash flood on August 7. I would like to add that the rest of the CRATE crew – Alex, Taylor, Nick and Kaia – shined as integral, problem-solving parts of this story, and that Art’s fellow passengers made all the difference with their calm, trusting attitudes. Thanks to Art for his help, good humor and for writing this entertaining piece!

– Mikenna


The hearty crew. Grand Canyon 8/1 – 8/8

It was day seven and we were getting tired, dirty and feeling like the last 50 miles of our trip was going to be kind of boring. The rapids were pretty much done, the weather had been iffy (thunderstorms everyday) and then Captain M (Mikenna) said, “Hey, take a look at Diamond Creek! It’s flash flooding! I‘ve been doing this for 14 years and have never seen anything like that.”

It had been raining a little every day, but the amount of water coming down the creek was incredible! The water was yellowish-brown and fighting itself to make it down to the Colorado River. We could see debris coming down but it was hard to see everything through all of the water. We decided to push ahead, knowing that there was a huge amount of water being introduced into the river. What we didn’t realize was that the mud, trees, wood and everything else the floodwater could grab onto, had created a minefield in the river ahead of us. After rounding another corner, we realized instantly that the day just got exciting. As a passenger, I was fired up! This was something to make things interesting.

Captain M was realizing that this stretch of river just got potentially dangerous! We were pointing out large logs for her but there were too many of them not to hit. The propeller was instantly destroyed! Luckily we were able to limp the boat over to some rocks while the motor was jumping around due the highly damaged prop. We tied up to shore and cleared all the logs from under the boat and around the prop (at least 10-15 if them over 6’ long) and got the prop changed. Jack Sparrow, aka Captain M, realized the engine was overheating due to excessive debris stuck in its water inlet. We cleaned it out but the motor was cooked! Plan B: change the motor while in a field of rushing debris in the middle of a rapid. Perfect! The crew changed the engine while the boat was bobbing and weaving and we were back on track, like a Nascar pit crew.

We set off for about 100 feet and the new motor picked up debris in its water inlet and died too! We were a dead stick in the water as Captain M tried to clear the logs around the prop. She was on the back of the boat and jumped into the area where should would normally stand, (about a 3’ drop) at the exact moment our sister boat, still under power, bumped into us trying to keep us out of the rocks. Captain M fell and landed wrong, fracturing her ankle. Her eyes welled up instantly (she won’t admit to that) and she looked up at where we were going. The boat was headed strait for some large shallow rocks with no way of going around them! The boat groaned as it scraped over the rocks until it became fully stopped on two large boulders. (Quick recap: engine stalled, 37’ giant raft stuck in the middle of a rapid on rocks and Captains M’s ankle is fractured!)

You really don’t know what people are made of until you see how they handle situations. I would say this is a situation! We were all full of ideas, opinions and suggestions. Captain M said, “back off, give me 5 seconds!” She went right into damage assessment and put a plan together. (Pretty much a bad ass) She told everybody to get to the front of the raft and start to jump to try and jog the raft loose. Nothing. We were stuck! M let some air out of one of the side pontoons and re-fired the motor. We then started jumping in unison! (Side note – 10 strangers jumping on the front of the raft probably looked pretty funny!) The boat finally drug and scraped across the rocks inch by inch until we were free. That was close!

We were finally adrift down the Colorado, still surrounded by trees from the flood. I even saw a telephone pole! The river stunk. It smelled like mildewed wood and nasty mud. The amount of debris in the water made it almost impossible to pass without damaging another motor. Captain M finally decided to call it a day and get her ankle looked at. We made camp and got her ankle wrapped. Luckily, one of the swampers was a nurse and one of the passengers was a doctor, so she was in good hands.

The biggest thing for the passengers out of this whole ordeal was that the drag bag with the beer was still intact!

– Art Hoover Jr., Grand Canyon Motor Trip, 8/1 – 8/8/15


A Big Day Below Diamond Creek

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Hello river enthusiasts! Here’s my account of navigating the river during our last Grand Canyon motor trip after some wild weather produced one of the largest flash floods I’ve ever witnessed. Upon later investigation, I learned this particular flood peaked at 10,000 cfs, which is nearly the volume of the river itself.  Enjoy! – Mikenna


We all know the smell of mud-leaden floodwater, and I caught the scent of it almost before I could see the flood rushing from the mouth of Diamond Creek on August 7. As our two-boat motor trip approached, deep red water piled into the cliffs as it made its final turn from the drainage, flowing over what used to be a parking lot and cascading into the river. It was big water no doubt, but after taking a few pictures, scanning the scene and considering our take-out schedule, we ran Diamond Creek Rapid upon waves of white foam and dropped into the narrows of the Lower Gorge.

Beyond Diamond Creek the river rose significantly we began to encounter more than just heavy water and white foam. Swirling in both the eddies and the current, nearly filling the constricted channel of the gorge, was a slick of sticks, logs and other flood debris churning with the swelling river. The smallest pieces rode a boat of foam and tangled branches that held together through the waves and swirls like a woven blanket. The larger pieces bobbed up and down, often being upended and sucked beneath the surface of the water, only to be released suddenly and forcefully downstream. The largest logs compared eagerly to our side-tubes, 22 feet end-to-end. We had caught up with, and were caught up in, the front of the flood and all it had carried with it.


In an attempt to avoid the worst of it we drove in the eddies, pulled our motors and reached down to clear biggest offenders from beneath the frames and near our propellers. Still, it became quickly apparent that the debris was besting our efforts. When the motors on both boats repeatedly failed to take in the chunky water, an essential function of cooling, we pulled over to let the log jam pass downstream. With the help and patience of our hearty passengers we worked on our motors. As we changed one out, tied to the rocky slope of some no-name eddy around mile 230, we gave a few half-hearted “woops” to an Outdoors Unlimited rowing trip as they floated by us out in the current. We received a couple nervous hoots back, but the mood was obviously one of concentration. I was jealous that they were at least moving downstream; this was a good, albeit nerve-wracking, time to be in a rowboat.

Even tied safely to shore, our boats were being bombarded as debris circulated in the eddy. After an hour, we fired up the motors and floated for a few minutes, letting the trapped logs that had completely filled the underside of the boats work free before we made another attempt downstream.


It wasn’t long before I found myself with another clogged motor intake. After attempting to clear it, I stood on top of my motor box, poised to jump back down into the cockpit and fire-up the engine again. I could see Alex in the other boat approaching, trying to bump my boat to safety, and in a moment of hurried scrambling, I slipped. Instead of landing square on my feet, I fell into the cockpit and onto my ankle, rolling over it and stretching it far outside of its normal range. I didn’t even have time to stand up before a swollen bulge the size of a lemon was inflating like a balloon from both sides of my joint.


I took one deep breath, trying to push thoughts of broken bones from my mind, before I realized my boat was still floating dangerously close to a small garden of rocks just off the shore. No time for injuries; I had to act. I gave two big pulls on the motor’s pull chord. No go. I tried once more before I was forced to lift the engine out of the water just as the boat began bounce off the rocks I feared we’d hit. I cringed, more for the boat than for myself, as the rig played Ping-Pong once or twice before coming to a stop. I crawled on all fours out of the motor well to assess exactly where the culprit rocks were hanging us up. I instructed this particularly upbeat and capable group of passengers to move to the front of the boat in an attempt to shift the weight off the rocks. I asked them to bounce up and down and when they did, the boat slid just two measly feet before becoming lodged again. But two feet were all I needed. The rig had shifted just enough to place the motor over deep-ish water amid the rocks. I dropped it in. In a second attempt, the passengers – who were more like crew at this point – all jumped in unison and I fired up the engine. I gave one big turn of the throttle and the boat moved with a groan and  a slide. I quickly yanked the motor out of the water again as we floated over the remainder of the rocks and back out into the current. Thank you river gods! We were floating.


After a few more sessions of freeing propellers and clearing motor intakes, we ran the rapids of the Lower Gorge without incident. The passengers on my boat, who were just as excited and optimistic as they’d been all trip and throughout the entire ordeal, acted as spotters, pointing out the biggest logs as we encountered them, yelling “Port!” and “Starboard!” We picked our way through the remaining whitewater amid the clunking sound of wood hitting the aluminum frame beneath the boat and the unavoidable crack of stick vs. propeller.

I have never been so happy to see the calm water and wider corridor of Lake Meade.

Defending the Grand Canyon

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Here is an excellent blog from our friends at the Grand Canyon Trust:

Wallace Stegner called national parks “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

For more than a century, protecting the Grand Canyon, in its entirety, has been an uphill battle. Responding to ongoing degradation by mining and commercial interests, President Theodore Roosevelt sought greater protection for our nation’s “greatest eroded canyon,” declaring that “the public interests would be promoted by reserving it…with such other land as is necessary for its proper protection.” Roosevelt’s 1908 proclamation of Grand Canyon National Monument was among the first of many responses to Grand Canyon’s never-ending threats.

More than a half-century later, Congress enlarged Grand Canyon National Park to ban the construction of two dams in the canyon’s gorge. But like many previous actions, the enlargement fell short in protecting “the Grand Canyon in its entirety,” as stated in its legislative language.  The purpose of the 1975 Enlargement Act was to declare “that the entire Grand Canyon… including tributary side canyons and surrounding plateaus, is a natural feature of national and international significance.”

In a show of bipartisan support for their state’s defining landmark, Arizona Congressman Morris Udall joined Senator Barry Goldwater in passing that law for “the further protection and interpretation of the Grand Canyon in accordance with its true significance.” But industry’s big bucks, along with current partisan politics, have eroded this 40-year-old commitment to care for our national treasure.

A Covenant To Keep

Grand Canyon is under siege. As Kevin Fedarko, author of The Emerald Mile, concludes, “Preserving its wonders – and defending them – is a covenant we are called to keep.”  Today, uranium mining and deep wells to support commercial growth still threaten Grand Canyon’s precious seeps and springs. And, developers want to build a tramway to carry 10,000 tourists a day to the bottom of the canyon where the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers flow together.

The Little Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Imagine the Little Colorado with 10,000 tourists a day

At the same time, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar spearheaded a successful vote in the House that prohibits presidential designation of a new Grand Canyon national monument, intended to protect tributary side canyons and surrounding plateaus from the devastating effects of more uranium mining.

Congressional leaders, concerned about “intrusive government overreach,” are also attacking a policy that bans the sale of water in disposable plastic bottles in national parks. They say that it is robbing consumers of choice, could cost jobs, and might threaten visitors’ health and safety by causing them to drink more sugary soft drinks.  But in fact, the ban saves money for the parks by reducing their waste stream and associated cleanup costs. Visitors, too, benefit from being able to drink free tap water and buy refillable bottles from park concessions for as little as $2.50. As in Roosevelt’s era, private businesses continue cutting into “the public interests.”

The jury is out

Corporate intruders are still raiding our national treasures: the bottled water industry argues that banning disposable plastic bottles might harm public health and safety; the mining industry says that uranium mines pose no risk to visitors’ health and safety; and alchemist investors keep conspiring to spin our cherished places into private profits.

Partisan politics and profiteers are pecking away at long-standing commitments to protect our national parks. “If you care about places like the Grand Canyon,” Fedarko note,  “there’s something inherently wrong about that….Every 15 or 20 years, it seems, the canyon forces us to undergo a kind of national character exam. If we cannot muster the resources and the resolve to preserve this, perhaps our greatest natural treasure, what, if anything, are we willing to protect?”

Next year, our nation celebrates a century since citizens and Congress had the foresight to create the National Park Service. The jury is still out on whether or not today’s political leaders reflect “our best rather than our worst” national character.

Wallace Stegner also called the West our “native home of hope.” Once we realize that cooperation defines the West’s character, we have “a chance to create a society to match its scenery”—and the prescience to preserve Grand Canyon, in its entirety for future generations.


Waterfalls along the Colorado

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What is it that draws us to falling water? Is it the height of the cliff wall from which the water spills? The volume of water cascading down the rock? Or is it the way that we feel when standing at the bottom of a waterfall? Along the side canyons of Colorado River and throughout the desert landscape of the arid Colorado Plateau- seeps, springs and waterfalls seem like an anomaly. Where red rock radiates like a solar oven in the sun, the verdant micro-climate associated with waterfalls creates a welcoming contrast. Maidenhair fern, crimson monkeyflower and columbines abound. Frogs croak, birds chirp and the footprints of desert big horn sheep are found at favorite watering holes.


It is no surprise then, that the ancient civilizations that made these canyons home revere these places with reverence. These places are not just a pristine water source in the desert. Many tribes that call Grand Canyon home understand that their ancestors emerged from the previous world to this one from where the water surfaces. Ribbon Falls is very sacred to the Zuni, the Little Colorado River to the Hopi, Deer Creek Falls and Narrows to the Piute, and Havasu Creek to the Havasupai. While visiting these places the feeling that you are somewhere special is evident. Here are a few that we stop at along the river;


The falls at the end of Saddle Canyon.


Calcium carbonate-rich waters of the Little Colorado River where we swim.


Above Phantom Ranch and in the Inner Gorge is a short walk up Clear Creek Canyon to this unique waterfall.


Playing in Shinamu Falls.


The magic of Elves Chasm. Here the water spills through Travertine Limestone where maiden hair ferns find refuge in nooks and crannies.


Upper Stone Creek Falls is found in the end of a box canyon, 3.5 miles from the river, and past a series of waterfalls along the way.


Thunder River comes shooting out of the Muav Limestone and is seen while hiking the “Death March”, an 11 mile loop from Tapeats Creek and ending at Deer Creek.


Dutton Springs is one of the sources of Deer Creek, best seen from the “Throne Room” on the up and over hike.


Deer Creek Narrows and Falls is sacred to Piute Indians and river runners.


Whispering Springs trickles down to a pool 3.5 miles up Kanab Creek.


Matkatamiba Canyon, with a thin sluice of water carving through the Muav Limestone.


Havasu Creek and it’s blue water- rich with calcium carbonate like the Little Colorado- forms pools and falls through towering canyon walls.


At the lower end of Grand Canyon is where a short hike leads to Travertine Grotto.


In Cataract Canyon, within Canyonlands National Park is where Indian Creek Falls is found- when the snow melts from the Abajo Mountains- and after big rain storms.


The reward for surviving heavy monsoon storms in July and August. To see rim falls like these are a rare and unique experience!

The awe one feels when witnessing a waterfall must be a universal feeling. People all over the world, from all generations go to these places for the experience. Beyond the beauty and the cooling mist that makes the hot summer months feel cool, it is the way that we feel in the presence of falls. Lately I have been trying to tap into what it is I feel while up close to falling water. In certain places and when I am alone I feel and hear a vibration that is unmistakable. I don’t know how to explain it, but feel like I am experiencing one of earth’s deep coursing rhythms that is unique but connected to the fundamental need for water, for survival.

When we take people to these places, even the most serious adults become children. We splash and play while societal concerns on how we must act as grown-ups is abandoned. In the Little Colorado River we swim through the riffles of a small rapid. I see trip after trip- the most conservative people- drop down their preconceptions of how they ought to act and tap into something they lost after childhood. These are life-changing events, and always a highlight of our river trips.

There are threats to this experience. The Tusayan development proposed by Italian developers on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon plans to build 2,100 housing units and develop 3 million square feet of commercial real estate. With no obvious water source, the plan would most likely draw from the underlying Redwall-Muav aquifer that is the source of water for many of the springs and waterfalls emerging from the South Rim. The development could affect the waters of the Little Colorado River, Elves Chasm, Matkatamiba Canyon and Havasu Creek. Click on the link above to learn about how you can get involved. Alicyn Gitlin from the Sierra Club goes on to say this about the threat to water in Grand Canyon;

“The National Park Service considers the mega-development a significant threat to Grand Canyon because it will require vast quantities of water and could lower the aquifer that feeds seeps, springs, and streams that support wildlife and recreation on the park’s South Rim. Groundwater pumping accompanying the development could also lower the aquifer that is the exclusive source of all water for Havasu Falls, the cultural foundation of the Havasupai tribe.

Models predict that pumping from the Redwall-Muav aquifer, which lies below Tusayan, will reduce the yield of, or dry up, South Rim seeps and springs. After wells were drilled in Tusayan and Valle in 1994, Cottonwood Creek turned from perennial to intermittent and Pumphouse Spring’s flow began declining. Base flow at Cottonwood Creek decreased 19% between 1995 and 2001; base flow at Indian Gardens decreased 25% between 1994 and 2001. These decreases began before the current drought cycle began but after wells were drilled. There has been “a declining trend in annual winter base flow since the late 1990s” for Havasu Creek below Havasu Spring.

The National Park Service estimates that water use in Tusayan could quadruple if the development is fully built out.

Northern Arizona is likely to reach an unsustainable demand for water before 2050.”

-Alicyn Gitlin, Sierra Club

This is a critical time to take part in the protection of Grand Canyon. For the experience of visitors, and for the possibility of this experience for those that will come next. For the fragile ecosystem of the Grand Canyon, and all the species of plants, animals and insects that depend on the water flowing. And for the Native American tribes- past, present and future- that consider this water sacred.

Recently, certain tribal members have explained to us details about their relationship with the canyon and the water that runs through it. They tell us that the veil between the past, present and future is very thin- and that the spirit of their ancestors is very much present today. So disturbances today affect the people of the past, the people here now and those that will come next. They ask us to visit these special places with reverence and respect. By doing this we are free to share our own experience with each other without disturbing the spirit of the Canyon.

Laughing, splashing, playing. Becoming a child, taking pictures or just cooling off from the harsh desert sun. We all seek the beauty of waterfalls for different reasons. It is time now to protect the experience by writing letters to the congressmen in Arizona, and by making comments when the public comment period opens up. These places are worth fighting for!

-Ben Reeder



Karma, Fate, and Rediscovery–Grand Canyon Style

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May 5, 2015

Alex, the hero of this story!

Alex, the hero of this story!!!

…Ahh Shinumo Creek. It was starting to get a little later in the day than most trips stay on the water, but I have always like to “stretch” the days and get as much in as possible on the trips I run, thus seeing and doing as much as possible. As Martha and Toner say you can “Sleep When You Are Dead.” This late afternoon stop at Shinumo Creek was more destiny than choice though. We had already had an exchange of guests at Phantom Ranch and ran the all the rapids from Zoroaster through Bass. I had thought I would camp somewhere amongst the 6 or 7 camps in the Bass area. Unfortunately there was a private trip at Emerald, Azra at Hotuata, a private trip at Ross Wheeler, a private trip at the Inscription, a private trip at the sandbar just above Bass, and of course a private trip laid over at Bass Camp. In addition up ahead were an Azra motor trip and 2 Canyoneers trips. I thought my odds of getting 110 mile camp were slim, but a few years earlier I had been hiking on the ridge above 110 and noticed a sandbar at 110.5 mile. This was my “Ace in the Hole” camp, something in the back of my mind that was as good or better than the host of small sandbars and rocky Garnet Camps from Walthenburg to Elves, and a place I had never seen anyone camped. We pulled our up-beat trip of 30 in to share the waterfall at Shinumo, knowing no trips would be coming behind us, and our fate had already been decided as far as where we would lay our heads down to rest when night fell.

We had a wonderful time at Shinumo Creek. The canyon was shaded, but the rocky debris fan from where our 37′ motorized rafts were parked to the mouth of the creek was still in the sunny glow of the beginning of sunset. Our guests who by now had become friends played in the cool water of Shinumo Creek, then returned to the warm rocks, laying on the red and orange rocks of the debris fan and on our grey and blue rafts. No one was “antsy” or in a “hurry” to leave, but you could tell a few of the group wondered where, or if we would be camping that night. We untied the rafts and headed around the bend through Shinumo Rapid and into view of the AZRA motorized raft and all the tents set up at 110 mile rapid. As we passed by the rafts my friend Wayne gave us a heartfelt wave.

August 2011 From Bruce’s Journal–

Day 8 – Finally talked James into moving to my boat, so that each boat would have two riders. I didn’t see the hole in Serpentine rapid, didn’t read the book that said “stay left” and went right into it. A second of thinking “oh!” and upside down. I felt bad for James, because he had flipped in Tony’s boat on Day 3. Travis did a great job getting on the raft, pulling James up and getting a spare oar out and getting the upside down raft into an eddy. It took me a couple days to get my confidence back after flipping.

May 5, 2015

We pulled our rafts into 110.5 mile camp and did a quick scout of the camp. Checking the usual things like if their was enough room for our group and wondering where we would set up the bathrooms. Cots have made camping much easier these days. Before cots gravelly camps were pretty much out of the question, but now gravelly camps are semi-acceptable. With the loss of sand every year due to the flow fluctuations of Glen Canyon Dam, as well as the removal of sand flowing through Grand Canyon caused by Glen Canyon Dam, the beaches are getting smaller every year. In addition to the problem finding suitable camps, this has also made the camps with sand very popular. Many are camped at nightly. With this over use I speculate the beaches are becoming dirtier on the microorganism level, even when everyone in the Grand Canyon does their best to keep the canyon pristine. This beach was totally pristine though, and adequately covered in clean Grand Canyon sand. We set up camp. On one end of the beach I found a food stash in a rice bag, full of salad dressing and canned foods. I have stumbled upon many beer stashes and a few firewood stashes, but only a couple of food stashes. The stash of food looked at least 5 years old. The rice bag was torn and the Annie’s salad dressing’s label looked really faded.

For cinco de Mayo we ate a large Mexican Fiesta Dinner. After dinner everyone was tired from our epic day, and went to bed early. The guides pushed the boats out before bed, anticipating the normal nightly drop in flow, from the Dam 128 miles upriver. The Dam releases the most water from 8 AM to 5 PM during the work week, and depending how far down river you are camped, the water drop or rise can cause you problems during the night. Where we were camped the water level drops during the night, then starts to come back up at around 11 AM.

The next morning after breakfast Alex brought down a partially rusted ammo can down to our Kitchen. He liked to explore our camps, and he had found this ammo can wedged into the rocks above the sandy part of our camp. Me and the other guides were immediately drawn to the new found treasure. What would it hold? I opened the can up and realized this was somebody’s personal ammo can…there was a Kindle on top, underneath was a toothbrush, swiss army knife, and wallet. We looked at the wallet and its contents. Inside the wallet were expired credit cards, some cash, and a Colorado Driver License. We speculated that the ammo can had been here quite a while because of how rusted it was and because everything inside was expired. I packed the can onto my boat and looked forward to the challenge of locating “Bruce.”

Bruce at Lee's Ferry.  The ammo can is the one with the white stripe on Bruce's right.

Bruce at Lee’s Ferry in August 2011 with the Ammo Can.

Bruce after the flip in August 2011.

Bruce after the flip in August 2011.

August 2011 From Bruce’s Journal–

Day 8 – I could see my ammo can of personal stuff was floating just out of reach, so I thought “swim for it”…But, then I saw the young men at the upside-down raft and decided I needed to swim to the raft. I tried to watch the ammo can from the raft, but it was hard to get it into the obvious eddy, so I couldn’t keep watching. Got the raft over and re-rigged, and headed to camp. I tried to look in every eddy and debris pile for days (apparently, as the ammo can only went 5 miles in nearly 4 years, I wasn’t looking in the right place). Some of the things in my personal can were sad to lose, but on the rest of trip the things I missed the most were my toothbrush and hairbrush.

The package we sent to Bruce.

The package we sent to Bruce.

The Ammo Can (May 2015) upon arriving to Bruce in Colorado.

The Ammo Can (May 2015) upon arriving to Bruce in Colorado.

The contents of the rediscovered ammo can almost 4 years later.

The contents of the rediscovered ammo can almost 4 years later.

May 11, 2015

After we cleaned up our trip we called our main office and Vicki was able to locate Bruce from his Driver’s License. We sent the Ammo Can back to Bruce and he was thrilled to have it returned as it had a lot of things that had value to him. It was fun to be part of a Grand Canyon story and get some good Karma from the river community. That is one of the great things about the Grand Canyon. In my experience I have almost always had good relationships with all of the people in the Grand Canyon whether they be fellow commercial boaters, private boaters, NPS staff, backpackers, or that random guy that doesn’t fit into any of these categories. The Grand Canyon brings out the best in people.

–Walker Mackay

Westwater Canyon: Whitewater Rafting Through the Wild West

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Few places match the rugged landscape of Westwater Canyon of the Colorado River. Combine the geologic record of exposed rock, the history of refuge for outlaws, the abundance of wildlife, the hidden gems of side-canyon exploration, Native American petroglyph panels, the wild rapids deep in the gorge, and its easy to see why National Geographic lists Westwater Canyon as one of the best river trips in the West. Whether you have one day or three, Westwater provides a wilderness experience just an hour and a half away from Moab, Utah.

Less than a mile below the ranger station, red walls of Entrada Sandstone capped with the Morrison Formation rise from the water and form a perch for Bald Eagles as we float by below. Within a few miles the canyon begins to narrow as sedimentary layers of rock rise up. Kayenta Formation on top of Wingate Sandstone on top of the Chinle Formation. Around the bend is where miners in the early 1900’s built a dugout cabin- roof still in tact. Littered around the entrance are remnants of their failed attempt to extract.

Across the river the first signs emerge of 1.7 billion year old proterozoic rocks made up of black metamorphic schist and gneiss. A similar sequence of rock found in the bottom of the Grand Canyon’s inner gorge, but in Westwater Canyon, the “Great Unconformity” or missing rock sequence is much older than the Grand Canyon. Here, 1.5 billion years of deposition has been eroded before the Chinle Formation was deposited 208 million years ago.


We begin our descent into the canyon where walls rise to 1,200 feet above. Small riffles form as the walls close in. At Little Hole Canyon on the right, a hike presents itself through a variety of Great Basin Desert flora and fauna. After a mile and a half and at the base of the Wingate cliff a petroglyph panel of big horn ship can be found, as if navigating their way up through a weakness in the canyon wall. The artists were Ancestral Puebloans who left this area roughly 700 years ago.


Another mile down the river and we get to my favorite camp, near the mouth of the Little Delores River. We are right above the back-to-back big rapids, and the sound of Little Delores Rapid can be heard. From here, it is possible to hike up the Little Delores River where a waterfall forms during spring run-off, or after a rainstorm. When it is dry, we hike up a steep trail to gain a view of the river below, and to see another panel of petroglyphs, these most likely from Ute Indians who came through much later than the Ancestral Puebloans.


After the rapid at Little Delores there is a small cave on the left, with black soot coating the roof. Inside, two crude beds sag on top of rough-cut timber, and artifacts lie scattered around the stone floor. Some people say this outlaw hideout was refuge for counterfeiting brothers escaping the authorities in Grand Junction. Others claim this cave to be where Butch Cassidy laid low for the law to lose their trail. One thing is for certain. When Bert Loper and Ellsworth Kolb became the first to navigate this section of river by canoe in 1916, very few non-Native Americans had ventured into this rugged corridor.

On to the splashy waves of Marble Canyon Rapid, and rolling haystacks of Staircase Rapid. Next is Big Hummer, where a mound of water builds over boulders below the surface, and exits into a series of fun waves. Then comes Funnel Falls. At lower water levels Funnel feels like a waterfall, chuting through rocks below the horizon. At higher water, the Five-0 wave forms a big standing wave that feels like a roller coaster.


Through Surprise Rapid and Son of Surprise Rapid- both always bigger than they appear from above- and we come to the most infamous rapid of the canyon, Skull Rapid. Here, there is a critical move to the left to make, as most of the water plows into the Rock of Shock and either goes downstream or into an eddy carved into the cliff wall called the Room of Doom. This is the crux of the canyon, a class IV rapid at higher water. Just a few rapids remain, but the ride will be wild.


Rowing through Bowling Alley Rapid we approach Sock-it-to-me Rapid, my favorite. A few years ago I took my grandmother down the river, in her early 80’s. As we entered the rapid we accelerated, then stalled as the big curling wave stood the boat straight up in the air. Grandma emerged soaking wet and giggling, with a big smile on her face. She told me she hadn’t had that much fun in years!

On to Last Chance Rapid, we avoid the big domer in the center, and the river becomes peaceful again. The landscape begins to open, and the cliff swallows return to dart across the surface of the water, hunting for food. Not far is where the one and two day trip ends.




On the three-day trip, we meander through ten miles of mild water and enter Post Card Alley. This is a great place to capture photographs in the early evening glow of the Fisher Towers in the Professor Valley. Onion Creek is the first choice for camp, with good hiking and great views in the fading light. We camp under big cottonwood trees and spend our evening on one of the biggest beaches of this stretch.



The trip finishes with small splashy waves and incredible views as we pass Castle Valley and drop back into another canyon corridor. We have traveled just over 50 miles of river in three days, told stories, camped on the beach, and ran some really exciting whitewater. For those who haven’t experienced the awesome adventure of Westwater Canyon, don’t let another river season float by.



Last Minute Trip to Grand Canyon

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April 15-17 Grand Canyon trip still available!!

In the ideal world everyone would have the time to participate in a Grand Canyon trip that covers every bend, rapid, and side canyon hike. Unfortunately this world is not ideal, and not everyone enjoys camping for 7,8, 13, or more days that is necessary to see the entire canyon. This is where the short trip often referred to as the “Grand Canyon Ranch and Raft” or “Grand Canyon Multi-Sport” comes in.

Easy Logistics?

Yes, all inclusive from Las Vegas.

Scenic Flight?

Yes, Las Vegas to the Bar 10 Ranch on the North Rim right over the lower portion of the Grand Canyon.

A day at a working ranch?

Yes, horseback riding, skeet shooting, and hiking are some of the activities available at the Bar 10 Ranch. The crew at the ranch puts on a great variety show for nightly entertainment, and accommodation options include a covered wagon.

Helicopter Ride?

Yes, right to the bottom of the Grand Canyon where our rafts will be patiently waiting.

What about the rafting?

Although it is true that the biggest rapids are upstream, this section still holds 6 or 7 formidable rapids, great views and some nice hiking opportunities. It is a really nice introduction to rafting the Grand Canyon. The one night camping is done on a sandbar along the Colorado River.

Anything Else?

After lunch the last day you will board a Jet Boat and speed off the upper sections of Lake Mead that have flooded the lower Grand Canyon. Motor Coach transportation is provided back to Las Vegas.

How Long is this trip?

Our rowing/paddle trips are 4 days long. The Motorized option can be completed in 3-days. For pricing and dates please visit

Walk Through Time, in Blacktail Canyon

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I was in Blacktail Canyon, 120 miles below Lee’s Ferry in Grand Canyon when I first heard the “Walk Through Time”. I was on a river trip with legendary senior guide Matt Herman, as he put things into perspective for our guests. Blacktail Canyon is an extraordinary place to witness the depth of geologic time, along with the processes that create these most impressive canyons. Matt started at a big rock in the channel, not too far from the mouth, and started pacing out each step of Earth’s development from the beginning to now. The most impressing thing was walking through the rock layers of the Grand and ending with human existence as just a infinitesimal part of Earth’s journey. I told Walker Mackay about the “Walk Through Time”, and it reminded him of a book he read by William H. Calvin called “The River That Flows Uphill”. There, I found what sounded similar to what Matt had presented to us that day. Here is a summery;

Very few places exposed on Earth’s crust reveal the depth of the geologic record revealed in Grand Canyon. If you were to pace out Earth’s existence in its entirety (with each step representing 100 million years) it would take you 46 steps to bring us to today. It would take 6 steps to represent the time it took for the atmosphere to accumulate and 3 more steps for the surface to cool enough for the oldest rocks to form from the original crust. At 11 steps from our starting point, the very first cells develop. Over the next 5 steps, stromatolites emerge, and the foundation of the continents formed through lava flows. Now at 16 steps, the crust is able to support deposition of sedimentary and igneous flows and land mass grows while mountain building begins. Bacteria evolves to photosynthesize at 21 steps, and 3 steps later the Earth enters the first ice age. Two steps further the ice age ends and fungi shows up, and 2 steps again represents the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere and we reach an important place on our timeline.

Two thirds of the way into our journey and the schist which is seen in the walls of the Grand Canyon first forms. (This is the black rock at the bottom of Blacktail Canyon, and which through, at river level, we ran the Inner Gorge). In 5 more steps the supercell evolves and sedimentary layers of rock get bucked up to form the Appalachian Mountains. Boom! 36 steps in and our world gets rocked upside down. Sex is discovered and cells are able to replicate. Colonies of cells explode and life takes off. 3 steps to jellyfish. 1 more for the Cambrian Explosion. In a single step, vertebrates. (And this is where the Tapeats Sea bordered this area, and deposited the sands of this stone now above us, also called Tapeats.) Another step, land plants and spiders. Half a step for reptiles and a hiccup for the Permian Extinction. Then birds emerge and dinosaurs rule. At 45 steps in (while the leg is swinging into the final step), dinosaurs go extinct, mammals take over, apes evolve and ice ages oscillate. When that foot plants and comes to a stop, human existence would be represented by the portion of the toe nail you could clip off. Ancient civilizations. John Wesley Powell. The Bureau of Reclamation. Edward Abbey. Hayuke..


Matt’s presentation was on point, and people were impressed. By this time on our trip, we had gone nearly half-way through the canyon. We had watched as the walls rose up, layer after layer and oscillated up and down as the river cut through. Seeing the rock go from several hundred million years old and jumping to almost 2 billion years old as it does in Blacktail makes it hard to put into perspective how this relates to our personal sense of time. The first few day of a river trip seem to go in slow motion. Then, something strange happens. The days just fly by and what happened yesterday seems to blend into what happened the day before. To fully grasp what one is feeling and experiencing on a river trip is really difficult to explain in words. To understand how our lives compare to the deep geological time represented here is nearly as difficult as understanding our place in the cosmos. Very few places but the Colorado River can provide this perspective. Beyond the rapids, the waterfalls and beaches, sometimes it is the intangible discoveries that make a river trip a life-changing event.


Ten Tips to Pack Like a Pro for Your Next Desert River Expedition

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Choosing what to bring on a commercial river trip can be a daunting task. With all the variables to consider – weather, hiking, camp routine, hygiene, photography – it’s easy for your dry bag to become a back-breaking, black hole of, as Edward Abbey put it, “all that bloody gear!” If you’re planning a river trip in the desert this summer, here are ten tips to help simplify your stuff, streamline your dry bag and leave you with exactly what you’ll need.

 #1 Leave Half at Home

Keep in mind that you may have to schlep all your gear up a sandy dune or across a beach. You are going to have to dig through it to find what you need (which is inevitably at the bottom) and pack it all up everyday. Having less in the first place simplifies your routine and allows you more freedom to leisurely sip your morning coffee, quietly listen to the sound of a rapid or chat around the campfire at night.

Before ever leaving your house, lay out all you think you’ll need and cull it by half. This principal applies especially to clothing, but is useful for electronics, books, magazines and anything else you can live without while in the canyons. Fabrics that are lightweight, versatile and dry quickly should make the cut, providing you with a clean outfit every other day or so. Transfer toiletries into smaller bottles, pick just one book or make photocopies of articles you’d like to read.

And don’t worry; everyone else is going to be dirty, sweaty and smiling in their twice-worn t-shirts too!

#2 Know When to Splurge

It can be tough to decide what to buy new and what to make do with when packing for the wilderness. Outdoor gear is expensive and its hard to know what you will end up using the most once you’re on the trip. If you’re going to splurge on one new piece of gear for a desert river trip, think about investing in high quality, durable, comfortable water shoes or sandals. You will be wearing them all day everyday. If your footwear is good and comfortable, you won’t think twice about jumping on and off the boat and taking a short water hike. If they’re uncomfortable or low quality, your shoes might last a day or two before we inevitably have to dig out the duct tape and super glue to limp them through the rest of the trip. Nothing is more annoying than staggering along a trail with the partially-attached sole of your shoe flopping against the ground with each step, threatening to blow out all together at any second.

Check with your local outdoor store, read reviews and contact our office for recommendations about quality footwear.

#3 Plan for the Sun


You will likely be in the sun from the time it rises until the time it sets each day. We recommend covering up us as much as possible in addition to wearing high SPF sunscreen. Even if you love the sun, never wear a hat or don’t own a pair of sunglasses in your regular life, bring the tools you’ll need to escape the sun on your river trip. We suspect there will be a time when you’ll use them. You will see your guides wearing long-sleeve shirts, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, ample sunblock and using pants or a piece of fabric to cover their legs and feet. We even have a guide who wears socks on especially sunny days!

The desert sun is wonderfully warm and life giving at the same time it is unrelenting and intense. As much as you can, be prepared.

#4 Consider Items that Have Multiple Uses

Can your fleece jacket be used as a pillow? Can your towel double a sun protection? Can you share a piece of gear with your spouse? As mentioned earlier, you are going to be happier with less, so how about pants that zip into shorts, skirts that double as a dress, and, never to be underestimated, a light top-sheet/sarong/ piece of fabric that can be used for just about anything.

I’ve seen sarongs worn as clothing, used as a towel, sunshade, wind block, dressing room, picnic blanket, nap station, head cover, backpack and lightweight bedding on a hot desert night filled with stars.

#5 Remember Lotions and Potions

I can’t tell you how many people underestimate how dry the desert Southwest is. It is really dry! And you will be too. During the day, employ the benefits of a high SPF sunscreen as mentioned above. River guides don’t splurge on much but we get the good stuff when it comes to sunscreen. Anything less than SPF 30 is not going be much help to you. In addition, bring a small container of thick moisturizing cream or lotion for the inevitable drying out of lips, heels, chin – yes chin! – backs of hands and other exposed places. You’ll certainly notice the desert’s toll after a long day on the river and you’ll wish for some relief.

Sunscreen and plenty of water are your best friends to combat dryness during the day. Reparative cream and more water are your arsenal at camp.

#6 Be Prepared for Wet Weather


There’s no need to bring your ski coat, but when culling your gear make sure a rain jacket and one warm layer make the final cut. Packing for the weather depends a lot on when you’ll be river tripping, but it’s always a good idea to have basic protection with you. After all, we are heading into wild country here! I have seen snow in Desolation Canyon in June, worn my raincoat against blowing sand in the Grand Canyon in July and been caught in many-a-drenching monsoon. The good news is that most of this crazy weather does not last long, but it does come up, so please bring the gear needed to combat it.

Even in July, a raincoat can be a much-appreciated splashguard for running early-morning rapids.

#7 Nothing Sacred

It is a good idea to leave your brand new smart phone – the one that holds all of your business contacts and photos of your children, that you’ve really been meaning to back up for months but haven’t quite gotten around to – at home or safely locked up at your hotel. We can tell you from experience that a lot can possibly happen to your expensive electronics and irreplaceables on a river tip: like sand, just to mention just one nuisance. Try not to wear your grandmother’s antique diamond stud earrings. It is a real downer to find one missing after a blissful afternoon of play in the Little Colorado River.

It happens, and it’s sad when it does.

#8 How Long is your Battery Life?

Almost universally we hear our guests lament the life of their camera batteries, saying they don’t last nearly as long as they’d expected, likely because they didn’t anticipate taking SO MANY photographs. This might be one area of packing where overestimation is slightly, and only slightly, encouraged. How much storage space do you have for photos? How many fresh batteries are you planning to bring?

There is no recharging once we’re off and floating, so make sure you plan accordingly. Batteries and memory cards are small and pack easily into the bottom of your dry bag. If you are a passionate shutterbug and would be devastated not to capture the canyons through your lens each day, bring ample power and storage to do so.

At the same time, don’t forget how relaxing it can be to put your camera down and solidify the memories of your trip the old fashioned way.

#9 Treat Yourself

Bring one set of clothing to keep clean-ish. Maybe you put your special clean shirt on at camp at night or just before you’re headed back to civilization at the end of the trip? If you’ve packed sparingly, a clean set of clothing feels like a real luxury. I wear my sweaty clothes all day and change into something cool and clean just before dinner each night. Some guides I know clean up just before they hop into their sleeping bag. Many of our guests reserve one t-shirt for the shuttle ride back to Las Vegas or Moab. It feels, good – really good – and is a simple treat you’ll want to give yourself at some point during your trip.

#10 Don’t Forget the Flare!


River runners, guides and guests alike, are a jovial bunch. We’re not sure if it is our nature or a mild form of heatstroke, but we like to dress up and goof around. And, as always, all are welcome to join us. If that sounds like something you might be interested in, stash something small that denotes celebration or makes you feel good – a piece of flare – in your dry bag. When you waltz into the chair circle wearing a tuxedo t-shirt or a feather boa, the echoing sound of camp-wide applause will make you glad you did.

CRATE passengers receive an itemized packing list specific to their trip, with details about exactly what they’ll need to bring. Use our list, call our office and keep these ten tips in mind while gathering your gear, and you’re sure to get the most out of your desert river expedition!

We want to hear from you! In the comments below, tell us what gear you wish you’d had on your river trip? What didn’t you need? What tips do you have for those taking a trip in the future?


Reservations: 800-253-7328 or 801-261-1789