Flash flood at Redbud.

IMG_2067The desert air darkened with thick clouds that moments before could not be seen through the walls of a canyon a mile deep. The August heat suddenly gone, shifting as fast as the moods of the people as fast as blackened pillows blocking the sun. In what normally is a peaceful part of the canyon began to feel threatening. The monsoon that would open up would last about 35 minutes, thoroughly soaking through every piece of clothing- rain jacket or not- where five miles upstream and downstream was as dry as the desert ever was.

Two distinct images remain poignant to me. The first when the people huddling under the draping drenched rain fly peeled their dripping heads away from the canvas and saw the thousand foot waterfalls pouring red mud off the rim and realized this might not be so bad.IMG_2070

As they emerged from their wounded tent pile they saw the unnaturally green river swirl red like blood taken from hundreds of sources along the vein, the Colorado River.IMG_2071
The second was when I walked away from the small beach camp called “Brower’s Bower”, named for David Brower who’s efforts in part prevented the Marble Canyon Dam that would have inundated this part of Grand Canyon, and walked into Red Bud Alcove. I had been here before when it looked like it usually does, an overhanging dry fall.IMG_1901

I crossed the stream and entered the short box canyon into a froth of thick moisture. The falls fell furiously, in some sort of hurry, and upon hitting the streambed pushed and rolled boulders toward the main artery. IMG_2066I could see that this was how rapids form. Inside the alcove the noise of the water intensified as the volume of water increased. Feeling the power of that place in that moment taught me the extremes of this canyon. IMG_2069Where thirty minutes prior the 115-degree temperature was sucking moisture out of my skin, now the water pounding my body felt like the verge of implosion.IMG_2068

And then it stopped. The rain first, the Arizona monsoon clouds empty. Then the water running together collecting the red sand down the slopes above and over the rim to the river, it slowed and stopped. All that red mud, changing the river to blood, went downstream like it has for six million years. Downstream. Back to green, the color of the water of the bottom of the reservoir named Powell. Time to cook burgers beans and brats for the hungry wet people.

Larry Stevens–River Map and Guide

Order this book from the our River Journeys Store!  
LarryStevensGrandCanyonGuide
Larry Stevens recently released his updated guide to The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  The guide is in full color and includes a map of the river similar to the Belknap River Guide.  River miles in the book correspond to the most recent USGS-GCMRC measurements.  Rapid ratings are based in order of four water levels:  Very Low(1,000-3,000 cfs), Low (3,000-9,000 cfs), Medium (9,000-16,000 cfs) and High (16,000-35,000 cfs).  The guide also includes camps that are commonly used and a sun and shade diagram that lets boaters know about when the shade will hit in the afternoon, and when the sunlight will hit the camp in the morning.

In addition to the river map the book is full of useful information about Geography, Geology, Human History, Biology, and Ecology.  Larry Stevens has a PhD in Zoology, and is a natural historian and river runner with 35 years engaged in ecological research in the American Southwest.

The Geography Section of the book engages the reader by introducing the Colorado Plateau region and explaining Spatial Scale.  A graph showing the average daily temperature and mean monthly precipitation is also included in this section.The section finishes up with some bleak predictions for the Colorado River because of Climate Change.

The Geology Section of the guide is very in depth and will keep the novice and seasoned geologist intrigued with its great diagrams and in depth information.  The geology section includes a diagram of geologic stratigraphy of the Grand Canyon, Landscape evolution paleographic illustrations by Ron Blakey, and a River Basin Development diagram.

The human history timeline of the Grand Canyon is another highlight of the book.  This timeline starts with the Paleoindian Period and ends at present day.  Find when Georgie White first experienced the river and when Verlen Kruger did the first non-motorized up run through the Grand Canyon.

The Biology and Ecology section has a lot of great information and pictures of the flora and fauna of the area.  It is especially interesting to see photos of all of the native fish of the Colorado River and read about the challenges they face.

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions just got a new shipment of these books.  To order this new guidebook for the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River just visit the new Colorado River & Trail Expeditions Store.

 

 

Bass Camp and Trail

Bass Cable Car in Service.

Bass Cable Car in Service.

William Wallace Bass moved to the Grand Canyon in 1883.  He moved from the East for health reasons and rumors of Gold brought him into the Grand Canyon.  When the rumors turned out to be false he turned to the tourist industry.  He set up a camp at Havasupai Point on the rim of the Grand Canyon.  This camp was accessible via a road Bass built from Ashfork.  During its 36-year history several thousand visitors registered there including such names as George Wharton James, writer Zane Grey, artist Thomas Moran, naturalist John Muir, industrialist Henry Ford and Army Lieutenant Joseph Ives.

From the Bass Camp on the rim, Bass constructed a trail and led tourists down to the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Guests were able to cross the river in a boat until 1908.  Then in 1908 Bass constructed a cable car across the river and attached a cart to ferry people, supplies, and animals across the river.

The Bass Tent Camp up Shinumo Creek

The Bass Tent Camp up Shinumo Creek

Once across the river, guests were led up and over a saddle into the Shinumo Creek  drainage.  A couple of miles up Shinumo Creek, Bass built a tent camp complete with an orchard.  The camp in Shinumo was nestled in an incredibly beautiful location with a nice stream and beautiful trees.  The guests who were able to experience the Grand Canyon with Bass were extremely lucky.

Today Bass’s broken down cable car is rotting away at mile 108.  This part of the canyon has always been one of my favorite parts.  Shinumo Creek is always a cool and relaxing stop.  In addition the rapids of Crystal, Horn Creek, Hermit, Granite, and Hance are now behind you.  Up on the rim the lone “lollipop” tree up on the Powell Plateau is in view.

The hike up to Bass Camp is also one of my favorites.  The views from the saddle up river are incredible, and hiking down along Shinumo Creek is heavenly.  The ancestral puebloans must have also like this area because there are a huge number of artifacts and structures that are still visible.

I have hiked the trail many times and when I get up to the abandoned camp I always think of the effort taken to carry things in and out of the Grand Canyon.  At the camp many artifacts are still present including an Iron stove and lots of coffee pots a

Water Education 101 – Grand Canyon Seeps and Springs

Did you ever stop to think, really think, about the relationship of people to water? In the beginnings of human history, people searched for water and migrated to it. They probably respected seeps and springs as sacred places, because they were life-giving and life-saving. Once we learned to harness water and bring it to us, instead of the other way around, most of the magic was lost. Today, in America, we take it for granted that good, cold, fresh, clean water will pour forth from our taps. We give little thought or regard to where this water really comes from, and we wouldn’t know if the source was overflowing or becoming depleted. It’s definitely something to think about – water as sacred, water as life, water as endangered.

This short video about Grand Canyon seeps and springs is beautiful. The amazing scenery, the whitewater excitement, and lovely grottoes and waterfalls, will make you want to visit, or maybe even take a river trip! If and when you go, you will have a better understanding of the importance of seeps and springs in the Grand Canyon.

Colorado River Flows

River Flow is an important things to know before going on a river trip.  In 2014 the Grand Canyon has seen some relatively low flows.  April and May had fluctuations between 5,500 cfs and 11,000 cfs, with the weekends, especially Sunday releases being much lower.  This is because the river is regulated by Glen Canyon Dam which backs up Lake Powell.  These lower flows make some rapids bigger, and some rapids smaller, but all of the rapids become rockier and more technical.  Above Lake Powell the Colorado and Green have gone up and down all spring.  The mountains have a nice amount of snow, but the temperatures have gotten hot and then suddenly cooled off and the flow through Cataract Canyon has taken on the appearance of a Sin wave.  For those interested in learning the flows of the river their are a few different ways.

#1.  Check out the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center River Map:  http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/gmap/gmapbeta.php?interface=river another nice feature about this site is you can click on the PEAK FLOW FORECAST LIST and one can see what the most recent Peak Flow forecast is for a particular section of river.  For instance on May 19, 2014 Cataract Canyon was given a 50% chance of peaking at 60,000 cfs sometime in 2014.

#2.  Call 1-801-539-1311.  This phone number goes to a recorded message which tells the river flows for a particular day.  This message is updated daily.

#3.  Buy or download one of the river flow apps on the itunes store.

#4.  For Grand Canyon, where the water is regulated, be sure to check out the Bureau of Reclamation Current Dam Flow Report for Glen Canyon Dam.

High water means a lot of excitement for rafters in Cataract Canyon.  Cataract Canyon is generally considered the biggest whitewater in North America at flows above 50,000 cfs so it looks like 2014 is going to be a big water year.

 

Canyonlands by John Wesley Powell

A Land of Rock

A Land of Rock-Toni Kaus

As we all know JW Powell had a way with words and his descriptions of the Grand Canyon have rarely been equalled.  Having just finished a Spring rafting trip in Canyonlands National Park we had to share Powell’s diary entry from July 17, 1869.  This entry includes the last 40 miles of the Green River’s course before joining the Grand, forming the mighty Colorado River, and plunging into the perils of Cataract Canyon.  The Colorado Plateau is such a unique place and if you have never seen Canyonlands National Park it is a place to put on your list.  The below entry will inspire your imagination:

-Wayne Ranney Photo

-Wayne Ranney Photo

July 17, 1869. – The line which separates Labyrinth Canyon from the one below is but a line, and at once, this morning, we enter another canyon. The water fills the entire channel, so that nowhere is there room to land. The walls are low, but vertical, and as we proceed they gradually increase in altitude. Running a couple of miles, the river changes its course many degrees toward the east. Just here a little stream comes in on the right and the wall is broken down; so we land and go out to take a view of the surrounding country. We are now down among the buttes, and in a region the surface of which is naked, solid rock – a beautiful red sandstone, forming a smooth, undulating pavement. The Indians call this the Toom’pin Tuweap’, or “Rock Land,” and sometimes the Toom’pin wunear^1 Tuweap’, or “Land of Standing Rock.”

Off to the south we see a butte in the form of a fallen cross. It is several miles away, but it presents no inconspicuous figure on the landscape and must be many hundreds of feet high, probably more than 2,000. We note its position on our map and name it “The Butte of the Cross.”

We continue our journey. In many places the walls, which rise from the water’s edge, are overhanging on either side. The stream is still quiet, and we glide along through a strange, weird, grand region. The landscape everywhere, away from the river, is of rock – cliffs of rock, tables of rock, plateaus of rock, terraces of rock, crags of rock – ten thousand strangely carved forms; rocks everywhere, and no vegetation, no soil, no sand. In long, gentle curves the river winds about these rocks.

When thinking of these rocks one must not conceive of piles of boulders or heaps of fragments, but of a whole land of naked rock, with giant forms carved on it: cathedral-shaped buttes, towering hundreds or thousands of feet, cliffs that cannot be scaled, and canyon walls that shrink the river into insignificance, with vast, hollow domes and tall pinnacles and shafts set on the verge overhead; and all highly colored – buff, gray, red, brown, and chocolate – never lichened, never moss-covered, but bare, and often polished.

We pass a place where two bends of the river come together, an intervening rock having been worn away and a new channel formed across. The old channel ran in a great circle around to the right, by what was once a circular peninsula, then an island; then the water left the old channel entirely and passed through the cut, and the old bed of the river is dry. So the great circular rock stands by itself, with precipitous walls all about it, and we find but one place where it can be scaled. Looking from its summit, a long stretch of river is seen, sweeping close to the overhanging cliffs on the right, but having a little meadow between it and the wall on the left. The curve is very gentle and regular. We name this Bonita Bend.

And just here we climb out once more, to take another bearing on The Butte of the Cross. Reaching an eminence from which we can overlook the landscape, we are surprised to find that our butte, with its wonderful form, is indeed two buttes, one so standing in front of the other that from our last point of view it gave the appearance of a cross.

A few miles below Bonita Bend we go out again a mile or two among the rocks, toward the Orange Cliffs, passing over terraces paved with jasper. The cliffs are not far away and we soon reach them, and wander in some deep, painted alcoves which attracted our attention from the river; then we return to our boats.

Late in the afternoon the water becomes swift and our boats make great speed.. An hour of this rapid running brings us to the junction of the Grand and Green, the foot of Stillwater Canyon, as we have named it. These streams-unite in solemn depths, more than 1,200 feet below the general surface of the country. The walls of the lower end of Stillwater Canyon are very beautifully curved, as the river sweeps in its meandering course. The lower end of the canyon through which the Grand comes down is also regular, but much more direct, and we look up this stream and out into the country beyond and obtain glimpses of snow-clad peaks, the summits of a group of mountains known as the Sierra La Sal. Down the Colorado the canyon walls are much broken.

We row around into the Grand and camp on its northwest bank; and here we propose to stay several days, for the purpose of determining the latitude and longitude and the altitude of the walls. Much of the night is spent in making observations with the sextant.

Looking over the Green-Wayne Ranney

 

Got Milkweed?

Got_Milkweed_thumbThe monarch butterfly migration is one of nature’s most wondrous events. Millions of monarchs travel from as far north as Canada to gather each winter in a forested mountain range of Michoacan, Mexico, now a World Biosphere Reserve. Sadly, without milkweed to eat along the route, the incredible long-distance monarch migration is doomed. You can help the monarchs by planting milkweed this spring. It’s a fun and simple way to preserve an amazing migration and beautify your yard!

Over the years, at the Colorado River & Trail Expeditions’ office in Salt Lake City, Utah, we’ve seen a lot of monarch butterflies pass through our yard. We have a wild crop of milkweed that blooms each year and then turns into silver filaments of “cotton” that drift away on the breeze. When we consider how far these dainty monarchs fly on their journeys between Canada and Mexico, we consider their stopover in our yard as a gift. It’s a pleasure to watch them through the window and as we go about our work. With our first river trip launching today, it’s officially “spring,” and time to check the milkweed and make sure it’ getting ready to bloom!

Portions of this article was reprinted from Wild Earth Guardians, http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/PageServer#.Uzr2vVcVBr8. (highlight and right click on this link to visit the web page).

 

Geologist Wayne Ranney to Host Canyonlands National Park River Trip

An incredible journey to an amazing destination.

An incredible journey to an amazing destination.

Wayne Ranney, world famous geologist, author, and interpreter will be hosting a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Canyonlands National Park.  The trip dates are May 2-11 and include a 7 day rafting trip along the Green and Colorado Rivers and through Cataract Canyon.  There will also be a ground based field trip into the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park prior to the river trip.  The land based trip will be based out of Red Cliffs Lodge on the Banks of the Colorado River and will be outfitted by licensed Canyonlands National Park Concessionaire Colorado River & Trail Expeditons.  The trip cost is $3140 per person.

Wayne Ranney is the author of “Carving Grand Canyon” and co-author of “Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau.”  This will be his second Colorado River rafting trip with Colorado River & Trail Expeditions.  In addition to his great books, Wayne’s interpretation and explanations make Geology exciting and fun.  Besides the rafting part of the trip, there will be numerous off river hikes to explore the Geology and beauty of the area.  There really is no better way to see Canyonlands National Park than by boat and having a geologist the caliber of Wayne will make the trip exceptional.

The river portion of the trip will start at Mineral Bottom on the Green River.  The first couple of days on the river will offer great opportunities to see Native American artifacts and ruins.  Once the river joins the Colorado River the rapids begin.  Colorado River rafting through Cataract Canyon is worth the trip itself.  The rapids of Cataract Canyon can dwarf those of the Grand Canyon at extremely high flows and at low flows the river challenging because it is clogged with huge boulders.  The trip ends at North Wash in the upper reaches of what once was Lake Powell Resevoir.

This trip only has a couple of spaces remaining.  To find out more information call Colorado River and Trail Expeditions at 1-800-253-7328.

Second Annual Rafting Photo Contest Set To Launch

Grand Canyon Kayaking

Licensed Grand Canyon rafting concessionaire Colorado River & Trail Expeditions(CRATE) will be launching their second annual photo contest.  In addition to the photo contest there will also be a video contest.  The contest will launch on Monday March 31, 2014 and conclude on November 30, 2014 at midnight.  There will be three categories:  people, river, and scenery.  The Grand Prize winner will receive a 2015 Grand Canyon River trip and will be selected by a professional photographer.  In addition, the winner from each photo category and the video category will receive their choice of a Desolation, Cataract or Westwater Canyon river trip with Colorado River and Trail Expeditions.  Category winners will be chosen by popularity on Social Media and by fellow rafters.  All photos submitted to the contest must follow all rules, terms, and conditions.   Only photos taken on Colorado River and Trail Expeditions’ trips or of their boats will be accepted.

In addition to the photo and video contest those who submit photos will be able to share the photos amongst fellow rafters from their river trip.  This will be a nice addition to those rafting with Colorado River and Trail Expeditions this year.  Trips usually have about 24 participants so if everyone shares their photos there will be potentially 240 of the best photos from the trip shared amongst the group.

Last year’s Grand Prize winner was David Wille.  David won a space on the Tom Till Grand Canyon Photo trip that will take place May 2-12.  The category winners of the 2013 photo contest were Adrienne Prosser and LeeAnn Peterson.  Adrienne is scheduled to do Cataract Canyon river trip in May and LeeAnn is still deciding which trip she will join.  To see all of the photos from the 2013 contest go to www.crateinc.com.photos.

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions prides itself on introducing guests to nature on high quality outdoor expeditions.  2014 will mark CRATE’s 44th year under original ownership.  For more information about the photo contest or river rafting call 1-800-253-7328 or visit CRATE on the web at www.crateinc.com.

 

 

10 Questions to ask when planning a Grand Canyon Rafting Expedition

Grand Canyon Rafting on the Colorado River

Left Side Run In Lava Falls

#1.  When is the best time to experience the Grand Canyon?

If the focus of ones trip is the rapids and the side canyons with waterfalls then go in June, July and August.   If hiking is important opt for May or April.  Honestly anytime of the year is fabulous.  Many people choose to go in September or October when it is a little cooler and it gets dark earlier.

#2.  Rowing, Paddle, Kayak, or Motor?

Some people prefer the larger motorized rafts while other prefer to be right next to the action in a paddle raft.  With the quiet modern motors used in the Grand Canyon the noise of the motor is not really a bother, but some folks prefer to here the silence and sounds of the canyon on a rowing trip.

#3.  How much time do you have?

If general to travel through the entire Grand Canyon one needs at least 8 days.  A rowing or paddle trip through the entire canyon will take 13 days or more.  There are also shorter trips available that only travel through parts of the canyon.

#4.  What are the different trip options available?

There are a lot of different trip options available.  The best thing to do is see the entire 278 miles of Grand Canyon National Park.  Another popular Grand Canyon rafting trip takes out at river mile 187 via helicopter take-out.  Other options available include hiking in or out at Phantom Ranch, and coming in via helicopter at Whitmore Wash.  These partial trips can be as little as a couple of days on the river.

#5.   How fit do I need to be?

Although living in the elements of the natural world can be tiring, it is not essential to be in great shape to participate in a rafting expedition.  If one has any questions about their ability it may be a good idea to try the Ranch and Raft trip and see if you like it before committing to a long period of time.

#6.  Do you want to do a trip with all of your friends?

It is popular in Grand Canyon to charter a commercial trip for ones friends and relatives.  If this is the direction you are thinking about it is important to plan at least a year ahead.  This is because one can not only organize and customize their trip, but also get a date that will work for them.  Charter trips require a minimum of 24 participants.

#7.   Is there a minimum age requirement?

Commercial companies have different requirements on this.  It seems that twelve years old is a universal age.   Twelve year olds can interact well with adults and are usually old enough to take care of themselves if they end up swimming in one of the many Grand Canyon rapids.

#8.   What is the camping like?

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions is a licensed concessionaire in Grand Canyon National Park.  They supply cots, sleeping bags, tents, and paco pads.  Their bathrooms are clean, hand washing before meals is required, and the meals are incredible .  Common meals include free-range chicken and eggs, natural beef and pork, wild caught fish and vegetarian options.  In other words the camping is deluxe if you are comfortable using a non-flush toilet and washing and bathing in the Colorado River.

#9.  Where do I want to hike?

Lets start by saying that the off-river hiking on a Grand Canyon rafting trip is as incredible as the river portion of the trip.  Hiking and exploring is a must.  Some of the best spots include the Nankoweep Granaries, swimming in the Little Colorado, the waterfalls at Elves Chasm, the geology of Blacktail Canyon, and Deer Creek falls.  One of the hikes intentionally left off the list is Havasu Canyon.  This is because it is overcrowded and dirtier than the rest of the Grand Canyon.  The place would be incredible if it was not so dirty.

#10.  What about the Whitewater?

When someone thinks about Grand Canyon rafting the first thing that comes to mind is the rapids.  Although the Grand Canyon has big rapids full of waves, whirlpools, holes, boils and rocks it is also kind with large recovery zones.  That said the river is still a class IV river and boats flip and accidents happen so it is important to feel comfortable swimming in big water and accepting the risks involved.

If you still have questions about rafting the Grand Canyon be sure to check out Colorado River & Trail Expeditions(www.crateinc.com) on the web or call them directly at 1-800-253-7328.