Colorado River Rafting in Canyonlands National Park

Ancient Rock art in Canyonlands National park

Rock Art in Canyonlands National Park seen on a Cataract Canyon Rafting Trip

Before the Colorado River enters Lake Powell and above the Grand Canyon is Cataract Canyon.  Cataract Canyon is located in southeastern Utah and is a part of Canyonlands National Park.  This section of Colorado River rafting is famous for its incredible rapids and stunning scenery.  The area is a landscape full of sandstone canyons, grabens, buttes, and mesas.  Cataract Canyon starts at the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, with the rivers dividing Canyonlands National Park into three distinct and unique sections.  Between the two rivers is the Island in the Sky District, here one can find incredible views, arches, and slickrock.  On the west side of the Green River is the Maze district.  This area is full of winding canyons and ancient rock art.  On the East side of the Colorado River is the Needles District full of spires, grabens, and even more ancient rock art.  One could spend a lifetime in Canyonlands and just scratch the surface of the place.

Rafting Cataract Canyon is a great way to explore Canyonlands National Park.  Most trips start on the Colorado River south of Moab at the Potash Boat Ramp and are 3-5 days in length.   After hearing a safety talk and being fitted with life jackets rafters board the rafts and head down river.  After a short ride on the rafts boaters enter Canyonlands National Park.  After lunch the first day there is a great spot to explore a petrified forest.  There are numerous huge trees that have been preserved by being knocked over and covered by mud before oxygen could decompose them.  The next popular stop is Lathrop Canyon.  This is a great spot to see some Native American pictographs that were painted on the sandstone hundreds of years ago.  Most trips camp in this area the first night.

The second day of the trip rafters will get the opportunity to see multiple Native American Granaries which were built to store food in.  The next hike ones comes to on the river is Indian Creek, which in the spring offers a great opportunity to hike to a beautiful waterfall in a narrow canyon.   After a few more miles on the river there is an opportunity to hike over the Loop.  The Loop is a place where the river has made a sharp turn and almost come completely back upon itself.  This allows those who feel like hiking to hike over a saddle of sandstone and meet the boats on the other side.  After a hike over the Loop it is time to relax and enjoy the scenery.  Next the Green River joins the Colorado River and Cataract Canyon officially starts.  Trips usually camp just below the first rapid in Cataract Canyon which is called Brown Betty.   Here there is one of the most beautiful sand beaches on the entire Colorado River system.  This marks the turning point of the calm water to raging whitewater of Cataract Canyon.  This section of rapids during flows above 50,000 cfs has rapids that make the famous rapids of the Grand Canyon seem small.

The next morning offers a great opportunity to hike into the “Doll’s House” of Canyonlands National Park.  This is a very strenuous hike, but if one has the time and the weather is not too hot it is a great place to see.  The best way to describe it would be a palace made of  red stone with secret passages and rooms.  It would be something Martian royalty might have.  Besides the “Doll’s House,” the scenery is amazing and one can get a view of the skyline in all directions and see all the great geology of the area caused by salt, wind, water, and long periods of time.

After returning from the Doll’s House it is time for Colorado River rafting through Cataract Canyon.  The rapids start small, but grow quickly, and before you know it you are in Mile Long, Ben Hurt, The Big Drops, and Waterhole.  At low water these rapids require great skill to maneuver through the huge sandstone boulders, at high water the waves routinely reach 10-15 feet high trough to crest.  After Waterhole Rapid the effects of Lake Powell start to rear their head.  The rapids below this point are covered in silt.  Huge sand banks full of dead trees on each side of the river block ones view of the sandstone.  This is another place where geology is happening.  This time rapidly.  Lake Powell has only been around for about 50 years.  In this short amount of time, sand has been deposited as the current slowed, and the river entered the lake.  Currently the lake is less than 50% capacity and the outlook for filling the lake is not good.  The Western United states is in a drought and an increasing population is demanding more and more water that the Colorado River can not supply.

For more information about Colorado River rafting contact Colorado River & Trail Expeditions(www.crateinc.com).  In addition to running Cataract Canyon they also operate commercial rafting trips

Celebrating Valentine Day with Stories of River Romance

The idea of starting a river rafting business was born in the hearts of Vicki Woodruff and Dave Mackay after they met on a Grand Canyon river trip in 1968. Vicki and her friend, Lucy, hiked down the Kaibab Trail on the morning of August 10, 1968, to join a rafting expedition down the Colorado River. It was something totally new and adventurous for the two LA girls who worked together at Los Angeles International Airport. When they arrived at the boat beach near Phantom Ranch, they were met by the Trip Leader, Dave Mackay, and were soon on their way down the river!

Vicki’s life was never the same again. She fell in love with the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Her journal entries tell about “the brightness of the stars at night,” and the “breathtaking scenery.” It was a “magical, mystical experience.” Each new day was an “exciting adventure of discovering beautiful places hidden away in narrow canyons” and “secret grottoes.” She and Dave got to know each other casually during the course of the trip, and she learned that he lived in Salt Lake City when he wasn’t running rivers, and that he was a student at the University of Utah. She told him she would give him a call when she was in Utah over the upcoming Christmas holidays and maybe they could get together for lunch or something.

Vicki Woodruff hiking down the Kaibab Trail to join the river trip Aug. 10, 1968.  Dave Mackay running the boat in the Grand Canyon Aug. 13, 1968.

Vicki Woodruff hiking down the Kaibab Trail to join the river trip Aug. 10, 1968. Dave Mackay running the boat in the Grand Canyon Aug. 13, 1968.

The Christmas get-together led to a long-distance”affair of the heart,” and Dave seemed to appreciate Vicki’s interest in all things Grand Canyon and Colorado River. He sent articles, suggestions of books to read, and told her river stories when they talked on the telephone. The following summer, Dave invited Vicki to go on a Grand Canyon trip and help out. Happily, she agreed and got the time off work so she could go early and help get the trip ready and then stay after to help clean up. To tell the truth, she was clueless in every way. She packed ALL of the canned goods in one big box so it weighed about a thousand pounds! The other guides who worked with Dave probably thought, “oh boy, here we go, can’t expect much from this girl!” But, they put up with her and she did better as the trip went on. Dave started telling her of his dream to start his own company. By the end of the trip, they were pretty sure they were met to run rivers together forever! And, it’s almost been that long! Forty-plus years since they ran the first Colorado River & Trail Expeditions trip in 1971. Vicki and Dave still run the company and show up for work every day. According to Vicki, “there’s never been a boring day! We still love what we do, and we still dream of our days and nights on the river.”

On one of CRATE’s early trips, Vicki’s sister, Iris, came along with her four kids. Daughter Holly, then 17, met Russell Reeder, who was a crew member on the trip. It was “love at first sight,” and it wasn’t long before they got married. They recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary, so they are almost as “old” as CRATE! Holly and Russell’s son, Zak Reeder, became a CRATE guide right out of high school and worked 15 years. Even though he now has a “real” job, Zak comes back to run trips for us every now and then.

Over the years, running rivers and canyoneering have also played an important roll in the lives of CRATE guides. Even when they “retire” or “grow up” and get “real” jobs, they can’t seem to get the river water out of their veins. Take for instance, former guide Abel Nelson, who met his wife, Erin, on a Grand Canyon trip in 1990.Abel and Erin Marriage Announcement Picture Abel and Erin Marriage AnnouncementAnd then, there’s Laurel Worden and Shawn Rohlf who worked a good many years at CRATE before settling down and starting a family. As a committed couple, they didn’t see a reason to “formalize” their marriage until this past summer, when they “got hitched in the ditch.”  (The bottom of the Grand Canyon on a river trip.) They couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful or romantic cathedral for their ceremony. Their “vehicle” was appropriately decorated, labeling them “Just Married.”  And the whole thing was sealed with a kiss at sunset.Laurel and Shawn Wedding Ceremony_DSC_0083Laurel and Shawn GC River Wedding Laurel and Shwan Sunset_DSC_0128Some CRATE “couples” actually met each other while working at CRATE. According to the gossip of the day, when Ashley Knight showed up at the Green River warehouse to start her guiding career, all of the young and single boatmen were “smitten.” Jeff Cole was the lucky guide who stole her heart. After their marriage, they settled down to “normal” life in Oregon and are now the proud parents of baby Ruby (could she be named after Ruby Rapid in the Grand Canyon??)

Ashley Knight (center front) and Jeff Cole (right) on the river with Ariana, Kimo and Adam Teel.

Ashley Knight (center front) and Jeff Cole (right) on the river with fellow guides Ariana Brechtel, Kimo Nelson and Adam Teel.  June 2000.

Jeff and Ashley Cole with baby Ruby, Christmas 2013.

Jeff and Ashley Cole with baby Ruby, Christmas 2013.

 John Toner and Kristen Sorenson met each other while working at CRATE. Kristen is the CRATE office manager and John is our senior-most guide. When John realized she was the best swamper he’d ever had, he started sending her flowers. That will melt a girl’s heart, for sure. They were married in Fredonia, Arizona, “the center of the universe” (according to John) and the location of of CRATE’s Grand Canyon headquarters.  John knew Kristen was a keeper when she suggested they celebrate their wedding night in his sheepcamp cabin.

Kristen and John Formal Wedding Picture J and K Kristen and John Honeymoon SuiteAlthough Annie and Chris Parks didn’t exactly meet while working at CRATE, they did meet on the river when Annie Kester was working for another outfitter. We were all happy when she joined the CRATE Crew the next summer. Annie and Chris logged a lot of hardworking years at CRATE while they both finished college and Chris finally got a “real” job as a mechanical engineer. They were married among fields of wildflowers in a remote area near Haines, Alaska, home of Chris’ parents and headquarters of CRATE North.

The Wedding Ceremony of Annie Kester and Chris Parks

The Wedding Ceremony of Annie Kester and Chris Parks

Annie and Chris Parks!

Annie and Chris Parks!

Bill Trevithick was one of the “initial” guides at CRATE when the company was starting out. He taught several generations of CRATE youngsters how to work hard and run a boat safely down the river. Along the way,he met Sue on the river and they began a long-term friendship that grew into a serious relationship and finally (!) to a happy marriage.

Bill and Sue on a Grand Canyon side hike in 2006.

Bill and Sue on a Grand Canyon side hike in 2006.

Bill and Sue Wedding

Mr. and Mrs. Trevithick

Running the river is a big thing in the life a guide. It becomes a part of his or her identity, and most guides never quite give it up. Mike Sneed wanted to share the river trip experience with his fiance, Leslie, before they tied the knot. It’s always a good idea to let a girl or guy know before they marry you, that they will have to share you with the river.

Mike and Leslie on a CRATE trip through the Grand Canyon. Yep! She liked it!

Mike and Leslie on a CRATE trip through the Grand Canyon. Yep! She liked it!

Emile Eckart worked as a CRATE guide until he decided upon a career in the United States Air Force. He came back to swamp trips when he was on leave, and when he met Meredith, he wanted to show her the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon before they formally wed. While on the river trip in August 2013, they were “married” at Deer Creek Falls by the trip leader, “Captain Mackay.” In December, Emile and Meredith followed up with a more formal ceremony at the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Deer Creek Falls ceremony in Aug. 2013

The Deer Creek Falls ceremony in Aug. 2013

The "formal" wedding on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

The “formal” wedding on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

Walker Mackay didn’t meet Mindy on the river, but he knew she was the girl for him when he took her down the Colorado as his swamper in May 2003. They were married a short time later in November 2003 and chose a place on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to say their vows. Friends, family, and the Crate Crew gathered on the rim above Buck Farm Canyon, where the Colorado River could be seen far below. The marriage was blessed by a California Condor (#22) that came sweeping up from the depths of the canyon and flew over the gathering.

Walker and Mindy Mackay wedding ceremony,

Walker and Mindy Mackay wedding ceremony,

condor couple

The Crate guide family with Walker and Mindy Mackay at their wedding on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Crate guide family with Walker and Mindy Mackay at their wedding on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Front L-R: Mike Sneed, Mary Allen, Mikenna Clokey, Latimer Smith,John Toner, Ashley Knight Cole. Back L-R: Zak Reeder, Shawn Rohlf, Loren Sorenson, Mindy Heyborne Mackay, Walker Mackay, Marc Smith, Kimo Nelson, Jeff Cole, Chris Parks, Annie Kester, Sybrena Smith, Mel Kirkland, and Kristen Sorenson.

It’s fitting that we conclude this blog post with a note about the most recent CRATE Romance.  Bonnie Mackay, daughter of Vicki and Dave and sister to Walker, is also a river running gal who met her fiance, Adam Hiscock, in a chance encounter at Deer Creek Falls while on a Grand Canyon rafting trip. Bonnie was working a CRATE trip and Adam was swamping on a trip with Grand Canyon Expeditions. There must be magic at Deer Creek to bring them together at that particular place and time. Now they are engaged to be married in October!

Bonnie and Adam jumping for joy as they announce their forthcoming wedding.

Bonnie and Adam jumping for joy as they announce their forthcoming wedding.

As long as there are rivers to run and people who love rivers, the romance will continue. Thirty years after his adventurous journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers with Major John Wesley Powell in 1871 (Powell’s second trip), Frederick Dellenbaugh wrote a book titled “The Romance of the Colorado River.”  In the preface he wrote, “I shall never cease to feel grateful. It gave me one of the unique experiences of my life. Now, these thirty years after, I review that experience with satisfaction and pleasure, recalling, with deep affection the kind and generous companions of that wild and memorable journey.”

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing Availability on May Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacations

A photo from David Wille taken in the Lower Grand Canyon.

A photo from David Wille taken in the Lower Grand Canyon.

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions has announced availability on two May Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacations.  The trips are scheduled for May 10-12 and May 22-24, 2014 and are all-inclusive from Las Vegas, NV.  The trips includes two days of whitewater rafting and one day at a working ranch.  “May is one of the best times to take this particular trip,” commented 20 year Grand Canyon river guide Walker Mackay.

The Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacation includes all meals, camping gear, and transportation.  The trip begins with a scenic flight from Las Vegas to the Bar 10 ranch on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Ranch activities includes horseback riding, skeet shooting, and ATV rides.  Evening accommodations include the option to stay in a covered wagon.  While at the ranch guests are fed grass fed beef raised at the ranch.  Nightly entertainment includes a variety show put on by the working ranch hands and cowboys.

The second day of the trip starts with a helicopter ride from the rim of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River.  At the Colorado River participants are fitted with life jackets and given an orientation about safety and protecting the Grand Canyon.  The next two days are spent rafting the whitewater of the Colorado River, hiking, and enjoying the beautiful scenery.  Camping takes place on Cots along the river.  Participants are fed healthy meals riverside from the camp kitchen. Highlights of the rafting section of the trip include hiking to beautiful Travertine Grotto and running 232 mile rapid where it is believed the honeymoon couple of Glen and Bessie Hyde disappeared in 1928.

The trip ends with a Jet Boat ride from Separation Canyon, the point where three of John Wesley Powells men decided to leave the Powell Expedition of 1869, to Pearce Ferry.  Points of interest viewable from the Jet Boat include the Grand Canyon Skywalk and the Bat Caves.  At Pearce Ferry an air conditioned Van or Coach will be waiting to take participants back to Las Vegas.

Vacationers interested in learning more about Colorado River & Trail Expeditions’ Grand Canyon Multi-Sport Vacation can visit www.crateinc.com/raft-trips or call 1-800-253-7328.

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, a leading outfitter in all-inclusive multi-day rafting trips, has been under original ownership since 1971.  They are a small, family owned business, with 20 employees who prides themselves in customer relations and introducing high quality wilderness experiences.  They operate in the Grand Canyon, Utah, and Alaska.