Studying Elusive Mountain Lions at Grand Canyon

This article was recently published in the Grand Canyon Association magazine, “Canyon Views,” Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring 2013.

Although you can see many wildlife species at Grand Canyon, from small Abert’s squirrels to plentiful elk, some are more elusive. With patience and a trained eye you might catch a glimpse of a bighorn sheep scrambling up a cliff or a condor flying overhead. It’s rare to see a mountain lion, however. And that’s one of the reasons park wildlife biologist Brandon Holton finds them so intriguing.

“I love getting into the mind of a mountain lion and trying to figure out why are they going where they go,” he says. “It’s almost like being a CSI investigator.”

The mountain lion (Puma concolor), also known as the puma, cougar, panther or catamount, is a large cat whose habitat ranges from the Canadian Yukon to the Southern Andes of South America. Up until 10 years ago, little was known about these animals at Grand Canyon. Then, in 2003, the National Park Service began a biological study of mountain lions to uncover their habitat and behavior, how they impact park resources and whether they are a danger to humans. In 2008, Brandon took over the program. Since then, he and his team have put GPS collars on 32 cats – 22 on the South Rim and 10 on the North Rim – and typically track five animals at a time.

The most revealing places to study mountain lions are where they take down and feed on their prey – locations called kill sites. “It’s interesting to do kill site investigations and to recreate them,” says Brandon. “Why are they using a certain habitat? Where did they stalk the animal? Where was the ambush, and what was the struggle? I see all different types of burials, drags and day beds.”

Typically, males eat as quickly as possible and move on, spending one to five days at a site, depending on the season. Females will stay on longer, generally until the carcass is picked clean, especially when they are caring for older cubs. And yet one time. Brandon tracked a younger male who killed a bull elk and sat on it for 20 days. He had observed this mountain lion as a younger cat, and over time watched as the cat got bigger and bigger.

“When he was about three and a half, I walked in on him. He was 30 feet from me, and he had just gotten off a kill. He had to have known I was there, but he couldn’t have cared less. He just rolled onto his back, and his stomach was just so distended. This is not typical behavior when humans are nearby.”

Another cat, a female that was collared in July 2011, also exhibited atypical behavior. She dropped into the inner canyon in November and didn’t come out until April. She was mainly feeding on bighorn sheep and some mule deer. The female crossed the river four different times, always just below Turquoise Rapid. “Thus far, almost all of the collared cats remained on the rim year-around and rarely visited the deep inner canyon,” says Brandon, “but there could be more occurrences like this that we’re not tracking.” This uncommon behavior is one of the reasons the park is studying these powerful and solitary animals.

Mountain lions in Grand Canyon, especially males, typically have a very broad home range – about 150 square miles. Grand Canyon lion studies are run jointly between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Grand Canyon National Park Service (NPS) to increase sample sizes, distribute study costs and allow researchers to look at mountain lion ecology on a larger landscape scale. The lions roam far beyond the park’s borders; almost every collared mountain lion has used surrounding U.S. Forest Service land as much as, if not more than, the park itself. For example, two subadult males in the study dispersed south from Grand Canyon to the Flagstaff area.

Humans have virtually no reason to fear mountain lions. These cats avoid humans because they don’t see us as prey. We, however, can be very dangerous to them: 60 percent of collared mountain lion deaths are are due to hunting outside the park, and the second most common cause of death is being hit by a car, especially on East Rim Drive. Mountain lions cross the road, which parallels the rim, to set up their beds for the day. Their deaths could be greatly reduced if only people watched for animals and used caution when driving in the park.

In recent years, the joint NPS/USGS research program has begun to study predator-prey relationships, particularly interactions between desert bighorn sheep and mountain lions. As more is revealed about Grand Canyon’s largest wild predator, the ecosystem as whole can be better understood and protected.

One interesting result of Brandon’s study has been the contrast in behavior between South and North Rim mountain lions. The following data reflects what his team has learned from the mountain lions they have collared.

Prey: 65% elk, 30% mule deer
Age: 2-1/2 years old
Range: South Rim cats rarely go into the inner canyon = 95% of collared cats have stayed on the rim.

Prey: 95% mule deer (there are no elk on the North Rim)
Age: 2-6 years old
Range: North Rim cats have gone into the canyon more often than South Rim cats to hunt desert bighorn sheep, especially during winter when the mule deer on the North Rim disperse to lower elevations.

Chicken Salad Recipe

Over the years, we’ve had many compliments and questions about the meals we prepare on our river trips.  We thought we would share a recipe with those of you who would like to try preparing one of more popular lunches at home.

Chicken Salad Wraps (Serves approx. 5)

- 2-3 Cans (7.5 oz) Canned Chicken- 2 Cups Celery
- 1-2 Tomatoes
- 1 Cucumber
- 1 Red Onion
- 2 Cups Red Grapes
- 1 Cup Whole Cashews
- 1 Head of Romaine or Iceberg Lettuce
- Mayonnaise
-1 Package of Tortillas

Open/drain the Canned Chicken and add to a large bowl.  Dice Celery, Tomatoes, Cucumber and Red Onion and add to the bowl.  Shred the Lettuce and add to the bowl.  Add Red Grapes (can be whole or sliced in half) and Cashews.  Add enough Mayonnaise to get the consistency you want and mix all the ingredients together.

Serve in a tortilla and enjoy!


Spring in Canyonlands Rafting, Hiking, and Geology with Wayne Ranney a GREAT SUCCESS!!

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions April 27-May 6, 2013 Spring in Canyonlands Trips was hosted by geologist and author Wayne Ranney.  The trip included 6 nights camping on the banks of the Green and Colorado Rivers in Stillwater and Cataract Canyon.  In addition 3 nights were spent at Red Cliff’s Lodge on the banks of the Colorado River above Moab.  Everyone arrived at Red Cliff’s Lodge the evening of April 27.  On April 28 Wayne led a land based tour around the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.  Stops included Upheavel Dome and the Canyonland’s overlook of the Turk’s Head.  The tour came back to Moab via the Shafer Trail.

The next day, after a quick suburban ride to the Moab airport everyone was loaded onto planes for a 10 minute flight into the bottom of Stillwater Canyon.  The flight was spectacular in every sense.  The Plane flew down Hell Roaring Canyon most of the time under the rim of the plateau.  Then the plane made a sharp left turn following the Green River to the Mineral Bottom airstrip.  The plane landed on a weed covered dirt runway and we had to turn the plane around manually so it would be able to take off.  The rafts had come down from Green River, Utah about a 70 mile trip to meet the group at Mineral Bottom.  After a quick orientation everyone was loaded onto the rafts and the adventure began.  Shortly after we left ,Wayne was pointing out the incredible geology of Canyonlands National Park.  After a deli lunch on a sandbar we hiked to the hill top ruin at Fort Bottom.

Metoposaurus-An amphibian that lived 220 million years ago

Metoposaurus-An amphibian that lived 220 million years ago

On the way up to the ruins we saw fossilized scutes left behind by Metoposaurusan amphibian that lived during the Triassic Period over 220 million years ago.  These amphibians have been measured up to 10 feet in length.  We also saw petrified wood and checked out the old “Outlaw Cabin” in addition to just taking in the incredible view.  Camp was set up at the beach below Fort Bottom and Outlaw tales about Butch Cassidy were spun around the campfire.




Fort Bottom Hilltop Ruin

The second day of the river trip started with a geology presentation from Wayne about the younger rock layers of Canyonlands including the Navajo, Wingate, Chinle, and Moenkopi Formations.  We also were able to check out the Geological Map of Canylonlands National Park and get a bering on exactly where we were in the Colorado Plateau.  On the river stops were made at the rincon and abandoned river channel of Anderson Bottom, the Turk’s Head, for looking at ancestral puebloan granaries and checking out the chert knapping sites used by the ancestral puebloans to craft arrow heads and other tools, and Lunch.  Camp was set up just below Horse Canyon which is 37 miles below Mineral Bottom.  During the night we had a big windstorm and enough rain to set up tents for.  You know it is a great trip when everyone is laughing and telling jokes at one in the morning during a 60 mile an hour windstorm with rain in April.


View Looking Upstream From Above Stovepipe Camp

Our third day on the river trip took us just 8 miles down river to the Stove Pipe trail and hike.  We set up camp early and ate lunch,  then we hiked up the stove pipe trail about 1300 vertical feet and a couple of miles to an incredible view of the Maze and Needles Districts of Canyonlands from the Island in the Sky.  After checking out the landscape we continued to an amazing double arch in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone.  After hiking to the arch we checked out an old burned down Cabin and peered straight down to our camp on the banks of the Green River.  After the hike everyone went for a swim in the River to wash and cool off.  That evening we had a great dinner followed by a night of SMORE cooking perfections.


An incredible journey to an amazing destination.

An incredible journey to an amazing destination.

The morning of the 4th day of the river trip we started with a great lecture from Wayne and then headed down to the Green’s Confluence with the might Colorado.  To river runners this is considered the center of the universe, because most river running started on these two rivers.  At the confluence we were able to locate a couple of really cool inscriptions.  One was an inscription from Stanton’s railroad survery in 1889 another was an inscription from the United States Reclamation Service who was looking to build a dam at the confluence in 1914.  Lucky for us neither of these projects ever were completed.  After Lunch we headed down to sign up for our camps for the next few nights in Cataract Canyon.  Lucky for us Brown Betty, which is probably the best camp in Cataract Canyon was open for a layover day.  We signed up for two nights at Brown Betty and one night below the big drop rapids at Gypsum Canyon where we could search for the Paradox Formation.  Wayne gave another great geology lecture about the Paradox Formation and Cataract Canyon.

Learning about Cataract Canyon, Grabens, Salt Valleys, and the Paradox Formation

Learning about Cataract Canyon, Grabens, Salt Valleys, and the Paradox Formation

Day 5 of our river trip was spent hiking into the Doll’s House of the Maze District.  Once again we hiked up about 1300 vertical feet from the river.  From the Doll’s house we had an incredible view of the Island in the Sky and the Needles, but the view in front of us was even more spectacular.  We took a leisurely loop hike through the spires, narrows, and wildflowers of the Doll’s House.  Lunch was spent on a rock overlooking a Graben where the salt left behind by over 60 ocean episodes had flowed into the vacancy of space left by the river cutting Cataract Canyon leading to a huge slump of land sliding into Cataract Canyon and leaving a “surprise valley” below us.  We then hiked back to our fabulous camp and enjoyed a perfect starry night.

Day 6 it was all about Cataract Canyon whitewater rafting.  we ran rapids 2-14 and then stopped at Capsize Rapid to check out the old inscriptions left by the Stanton Expedition and Best Expedition of 1891 that spent 7 days trying to rescue a boat pinned against one of the many rocks in the rapid.   After Capsize we stopped for lunch and then ran in quick succession Ben Hurt, Big Drop 1, Big Drop 2, and Big Drop 3 as well as the remaining rapids.  Camp was set up at Gypsum Canyon and most of the group did a hike up Gypsum where we did find the Paradox Formation.

The last day of the trip was spent motoring through the lower parts of Cataract Canyon. The trip ended at North Wash just past the Dirty Devil.  After unloading the boats everyone flew back to the Moab airport where a shuttle took everyone back to Red Cliff’s Lodge for a Banquet Dinner.  The trip was incredible and the people were some of the best you could ever hope to meet.

Cataract Canyon Photography River Trip Hosted by Tom Till

tomTillSpecial Photography River Trip Hosted by Tom Till, July 29-August 4, 2013

Colorado River Cataract Canyon, Canyonlands National Park

We are excited to announce this special on-river photography workshop with Tom Till.  Tom has lived in Moab, Utah, and has been exploring and photographing the surrounding red rock canyon country for 40 years.  Sharing Tom’s enthusiasm and expertise in his “own backyard,” is a rare opportunity.  The trip is limited to 12 participants to ensure that Tom is able to provide some one-on-one instruction to each person.  Don’t wait too long to make your reservation if you want to photograph Utah’s beautiful Canyonlands with one of the best and nicest photo pros in the business, reserve your place today.

If you have any questions or would like more details about the 2013 Photography Rafting Expeditions hosted by Tom Till, please contact our office at 1-800-253-7328 or  Additionally, our current brochure includes descriptive information about Cataract Canyon rafting.

About Tom Tom has a degree in education from Iowa State University and was a professional teacher for eight years.  His forty years of exploring the Canyon Country and the world with his camera, and his 32 years as a professional photographer make him uniquely qualified as a workshop instructor and tour leader.  Tom is also an experienced river runner.  He is approachable, eager to share his knowledge, and patient and encouraging with his fellow photographers.  He believes everyone has a unique vision of the world that better photography can reveal.  Proficient with 4×5 medium format, and 35mm cameras, Tom is up-to-date with the latest technology and film and digital cameras.  Visit Tom’s website at

Tom’s traveling exhibit of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, sponsored by the UN and U.S. State Department is in its third year of crisscrossing the world.  Tom recently received an award for his work with the Nature Conservancy, the second from that organization he has earned.

Colorado River Rafting: An Amalgamation of Real Adventure and Thrill

Adventure and thrill are not just two words to explain the excitement of the recreation outdoor sport – rafting. They are specific reasons for which millions of professional as well as novice rafters, tourists and water sport lovers of all sizes and types visit great rivers of the world every year. When it comes to living rafting moments ceaselessly and openly, Colorado River rafting outshines all other rivers of the world with its free-flowing, untamed and boisterous water. Rafting on the Colorado River makes people feel energetic and refreshed, shedding their monotony and boredom of everyday life.

The gigantic and colossal river is fairly called the “granddaddy” of rafting trips owing to its dramatic canyons and whitewater rapids that induce adventure in the heart of rafters. Being one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the river entices millions of people across the world to taste all ten grades of difficulty in whitewater rafting within its youthful and bouncy water waves. Another thing that makes the river and its tributaries popular for whitewater rafting is the availability for customized rafting trips

Women’s Solstice Rafting Trip, Desolation Canyon, June 19-23, 2013

Sun Salutations, Beach Yoga, Good Hikes, and Exciting Rapids!
A great way to rev up your spirit in honor of the new solar year.

Calling all women! Mothers and daughters, sisters, best friends, old friends, and new friends! Whether you are an experienced outdoor enthusiast or a first-time camper, you will LOVE this beautiful rafting trip down the Green River through Utah’s Desolation Canyon. Begin each day with a yoga session on the beach, saluting the sun as it rises above the canyon walls. On the Summer Solstice, we’ll have a special celebration to welcome new joys and challenges into our lives.

The trip begins in Green River, Utah, with a get-acquainted meeting the evening before departure. On the day the river trip begins, you will see the river and canyon from the perspective of an eagle as we fly via air charter from Green River to Sandwash, where the actual river trip begins. This spectacular 30-minute flight is an incredible beginning to the river adventure.

Our crew of friendly, capable girl guides will meet you at the Sandwash airstrip and accompany you down the trail to the river (approximately one mile of fairly easy hiking). This is a chance to stretch your legs and get a little exercise before starting the river trip. If you are unable to walk down to the river, you can catch a ride in the truck that will be hauling all of your gear down to the rafts.

Prior to boarding the rafts and starting down river, the trip leader will give a safety talk and each participant will be fitted with a life jacket. If you want to try paddling a 1-person or 2-person inflatable kayak (“duckie”), this is a good time to practice. There will be calm water for most of the first day, allowing you an opportunity to get used to paddling, falling out, and climbing back in. It’s good preparation for the upcoming rapids, which start out small on the 2nd day of the trip and gradually get bigger each succeeding day. If you don’t want to paddle a duckie, you can ride on one of the comfortable 18-foot oar rigs that are rowed by the guides.

In honor of the Solstice, each day on the river will begin with sun salutations and yoga. Our yoga teacher will make these morning sessions fun for everyone, from beginners to more experienced women who might enjoy a more challenging session. On the evening of the Solstice, we’ll have a special “dress up” celebration, so you will want to bring a sarong, muumuu, or casual skirt/dress with you on the trip.

Throughout the river trip we’ll be camping on beautiful white sand beaches next to the river, hiking to ancient ruins and rock art sights, exploring old ranches and outlaw hideouts, and following cascading streams into the backcountry.

Delicious healthy meals will be prepared and served by the guides throughout the trip. We also provide an assortment of non-alcoholic beverages, including coffee, cocoa and tea in camp, lemonade and ice water on the rafts, and various juices and sodas. If you like a beer with lunch or an evening cocktail, you may bring your own modest supply of beer, wine or spirits.

Meet in Green River, Utah, the afternoon prior to departure.

For more information, please call our office at 1-800-253-7328, or send an email to


New for 2013 – Photo Sharing/Photo Contest Instructions

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions has designed and developed a section on our website where our rafting guests can share photos from their river trip with each other.   Additionally, CRATE has instituted a 2013 Photo Contest with some incredible prizes.  Here is how it all works:

1.             CRATE customers create a login for themselves.  This can be done through your social media accounts or just through your e-mail address.


2.              After creating a user file and agreeing to CRATE’s privacy policies, participants can upload their 10 best photos from their river trip onto CRATE’s photo sharing webpage.  This can be done by a drag and drop method on more modern browsers(Chrome, Firefox, Opera), or by selecting the photos on your computer and clicking the “upload” button.


3.              When the upload is complete, participants will be asked to tell more about each photo.  Who took the photo? What was happening when the photo was taken? Where was the photo taken? When was the photo taken – time of day, how far into the trip? How did you take it – type of camera, special camera settings, unique physical location or requirements, etc.  Why – what prompted you to take this picture? The more that is written in the description section, the more interesting it will be for others to look at.


4.              After you have set up your account, you will be able to download photos posted by other participants from your trip onto your own computer for your personal use.  We think this will be a great feature for our guests, because up to 250 of the best pictures from your trip will be available for sharing.


5.              Participants will also be able to browse photos from other CRATE trips, although the download feature will only be available for guests on the same trip.


6.              In addition to Photo Sharing, CRATE will also be running a Photo Contest in
2013.  After agreeing to our rules and procedures a participant can enter a maximum of six photos split among three categories.  The categories are “Landscape,” “People,” and “River. “ For the Landscape category we are looking for beautiful scenery.  For the People category we are looking for photos with people having a good time hiking, relaxing, getting splashed with a wall of water, or just having a good time on a river trip.  For the river section of the contest we are looking for great shots of boats and rapids.

7.              Now the EXCITING PART —The Photo Contest will run until midnight on November 30, 2013.


The winners will be decided based on fan votes and popularity.  Every time a photo is downloaded by a fellow trip-mate, shared on social media, or liked by someone it will receive points through CRATE’s photo contest algorithim.  The photograph having the most points will be deemed the Grand Prize winner.  The Grand Prize winner will receive a space on the 2014 Tom Till Grand Canyon Photography Workshop Trip May 3-14.  The winner from each category will receive 1 free Utah rafting vacation through Desolation, Cataract, or Westwater Canyon.  GET YOUR PHOTOS UPLOADED EARLY SO YOU CAN START ACQUIRING VOTES!!!

That’s it! You’re entered.

Best of all, by using Crate’s Photo Sharing Web Page, all CRATE customers can see your photos and be inspired by the fun, excitement, beauty and adventure experienced on a river expedition.


Photo Sharing Rules and Licensing Agreement

Legal Details // Your Rights

You will retain all rights to any photograph you submit other than those rights licensed in the following paragraph.

By submitting your photo(s) for inclusion on Colorado River and Trail Expeditions’ Photo Sharing Web Page and/or Photo Contest:  (1) you hereby grant to Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, Inc., a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, publicly display and publicly perform the photograph(s) you submit, and the right to use your name, state and country of residence in promotions and other publications; and  (2) you hereby grant to other Photo Sharing Participants on your same river trip the right to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display your photographs for their personal use only.

Please Note:  When you place your photos on the CRATE photo sharing sight, you retain the copyright and ownership of the photos, but you are permitting other people on your trip to download them and use them for personal purposes that may include showing them in a public slide show and/or sharing them on social media sites like YouTube, Facebook  and Pinterest, or other media sites. This is great exposure for your art, but we urge you not to post any photo that you do not want to share with the world at large.


If any person appearing in any photograph is under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian is must give all necessary releases and consents to the photographer.


Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, Inc. will review all submitted photographs and retains the right to reject or remove those that in our opinion are inappropriate, obscene, provocative, defamatory, sexually explicit, or otherwise objectionable.


Photo Contest Rules and Licensing Agreement


*The photograph, in its entirety, must be a single work of original material taken by the Contest entrant. By entering the Contest, entrant represents, acknowledges and warrants that the submitted photograph is an original work created solely by the entrant, that the photograph does not infringe on the copyrights, trademarks, moral rights, rights of privacy/publicity or intellectual property rights of any person or entity, and that no other party has any right, title, claim or interest in the photograph.


*If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the photograph in the manner set forth in these Official Rules.


*Upon Colorado River & Trail Expedition’s request, each entrant must be prepared to provide a signed release from all persons who appear in the photograph submitted. Failure to provide such releases upon request may result in disqualification at any time during the Contest and selection of an alternate winner.


Legal Details // Your Rights

You will retain all rights to any photograph you submit other than those rights licensed in the following paragraph.

By submitting your photo(s) for inclusion on Colorado River and Trail Expeditions’ Photo Sharing Web Page and/or Photo Contest:  (1) you hereby grant to Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, Inc., a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, publicly display and publicly perform the photograph(s) you submit, and the right to use your name, state and country of residence in promotions and other publications; and  (2) you hereby grant to other Photo Sharing Participants on your same river trip the right to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display your photographs for their personal use only.

Please Note:  When you place your photos on the CRATE photo sharing sight, you retain the copyright and ownership of the photos, but you are permitting other people on your trip to download them and use them for personal purposes that may include showing them in a public slide show and/or sharing them on social media sites like YouTube, Facebook  and Pinterest, or other media sites. This is great exposure for your art, but we urge you not to post any photo that you do not want to share with the world at large.


If any person appearing in any photograph is under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian is must give all necessary releases and consents to the photographer.


Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, Inc. will review all submitted photographs and retains the right to reject or remove those that in our opinion are inappropriate, obscene, provocative, defamatory, sexually explicit, or otherwise objectionable.





Funyaks, Duckies, or Inflatable Kayaks Oh My!

Experienced Inflatable Kayak Paddler Takes a Swim

Paddling an “Inflatable Kayak,” also known as the “Ducky” or “Funyak,” is a great way to experience a rafting trip.  The boat is similar in shape to a canoe, but it is much more stable and forgiving.  Inflatable kayaks come in one man and 2-man varieties and are fun for both beginners and advanced paddlers.  CRATE offers the inflatable kayak option on all of their Desolation Canyon rafting tours as well as on kayak support trips in the Grand Canyon.

Desolation Canyon is the ideal place for the craft because the water is warm and the

2-Man Paddling Team Challenges Desolation Canyon Rapids

2-Man Paddling Team Challenges Desolation Canyon Rapid.

rapids are exciting.  For those new to paddling whitewater, it is a good idea to practice self-rescue.  This can be accomplished by flipping the boat over in calm water and then flipping it back over and climbing back into the boat, all while maintaining control of the paddle.  This is good to know because it is common to have the inflatable kayaks tip over in the larger rapids on the Green River.

The larger rapids on the Green River in Desolation Canyon include:  3-Fords, Coal Creek, Wire Fence, Cow Swim, and Steer Ridge.  It depends on the river’s level which will be the biggest of the  bunch.  In general the highest water of the season is in early June.

Catclaw Acacia

Catclaw Acacia

The Curved Spines of the Catclaw Acacia

The Catclaw Acacia(Acacia greggii) is commonly found in the Grand Canyon.  From a distance it is hard to differentiate from the Western Honey Mesquite Tree.  Up close the Catclaw Acacia can be identified by its small catclaw shaped prickles.  The Catclaw also has smaller bipinnate leaves than the mesquite and the seed pods are constricted between the seeds unlike the mesquite.

For anyone who has done a side hike from the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon you have surely encountered the Catclaw Acacia “grabbing” your clothing as you try to make a turn on the trail.  When Grand Canyon rafting the Catclaw Acacia first appears around the proposed Marble Canyon damsite and continues throughout the canyon.

13 Experiences For 2013


#1.  Walk on a Glacier

Walker Glacier

On the Walker Glacier with the Alsek River in the background.

Positioned below the Tatshenshini and Alsek River confluence is the Walker Glacier.  Though the Walker Glacier has been receding continually since the first Colorado River & Trail Expeditions trip in the late 1970′s,  it still offers a relatively short hike to its base where it is possible to get on top of the glacier and hike on it amongst miniature ice rivers and waterfalls, deep blue crevasses, and huge boulders it has carried on its back for thousands of years.


#2.  Captain Your Own Boat 

Preparing for the rapids

Enjoying the calm between rapids on the Green River.

Join Colorado RIver & Trail Expeditions on a Green River rafting trip through Desolation Canyon and pilot your very own one-person or two-person inflatable kayak through over 50 mild to wild Class II and Class III rapids.  No prior experience is necessary, as the guides will give you instruction. Each day the rapids get bigger to match your increasing ability.


#3 Take a Leap 

Jumping at Elves Chasm

The Elves Chasm Leap

One of the most beautiful places in the Grand Canyon is Elves Chasm.  The chasm is full of ferns and a lovely waterfall in a setting that is as spectacular as any on Earth.  During the times the Colorado River is flowing muddy, Elves Chasm is especially inviting because of its cool clear water.  The only way to truly experience Elves Chasm is to swim through its inviting pool and climb up behind the waterfall where there is a perfect place to take a jump into the pool below.



#4.  Sleep Under a Blanket of Stars

Star Pattern Captured at Grapevine Camp in the Grand Canyon

For most of our human existence the stars have been our compass, our calendar, and our source of myths and legends.  Unfortunately, over the last 100 years the light pollution from cities and towns has made it hard to see the sky as our ancestors did for thousands of years.  A river trip down any of the rivers in the Southwestern United States is a great way to see the moon, stars, and planets in a setting free of light pollution.  The Colorado Plateau is recognized as one of the best star gazing areas in the United States because of how sparsely populated it is.


#5.  Enjoy a Thunderstorm in the Desert

Mikenna Clokey’s photo of Rimfalls above the Marble Canyon Dam Site

It is rare for it to rain in the desert, but when it does, it is incredibly exciting.  The Monsoon Season usually starts in mid-July and ends about the third week in August in the Colorado Plateau region.  The normal scheme of things is for the clouds to start building shortly after lunchtime leading into wind, thunder, lightning, and finally a downpour of rain in the afternoon. The storm is usually short lived and clears up by dinner time.  During the months of July and August the storms are usually a welcome cool down from the hot dry summer.  If one is really lucky they might get to experience rim falls.  Rim falls are waterfalls that pour off of the canyon walls into to river.  They are formed when it rains hard enough for the water not to soak into the desert soil.


#6.  Choose Real instead of Virtual 

frog on max arm

Trade Virual For Real Memories

In today’s society it is hard to escape the virtual world.  Everywhere you go, people are zoned in on their smartphone partaking in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and watching Youtube videos.  2013 is a year to get back to real friends, real family, real games, and real experiences.  The best way to do this is to go to a magical place where these devices don’t work.  Multiday rafting tours are an excellent way to accomplish this. Once a couple of days have passed, real adventures and memorable experiences will far outshine the virtual world.


#7.  Peruse an Ancient Gallery

Ancient Rock art in Canyonlands National park

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

The ancient rock art left behind by the Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan Cultures of the Colorado Plateau is some of the most interesting and beautiful found anywhere.  No one can definitely say what the art means, but most agree it was an important part of ancient culture.  The rivers of Southeast Utah and Northern Arizona offer a great way to experience these magical, mysterious rock art panels.


#8.  Float into the Wild West

Abandoned Ranch Equipment at Rock Creek Ranch

 Desolation Canyon is in a remote area of Eastern Utah.  It is Cowboy Country in every aspect of the word.  Access to the area is the Green River, which offers the perfect highway to see the sites and ruins of the old West.  Desolation Canyon has been home to homesteaders, ranchers, wranglers, outlaws, and Native Americans.  All along the banks of the Green River are reminders of this, including herds of wild horses.  Highlights of the 5-day Desolation Canyon adventure include stopping at historic Rock Creek Ranch, hiking to an old bootlegger hideout, and stopping at Flat Canyon to view a spectacular petroglyph panel.


#9.  Watch the Grand Canyon’s Walls Rise and Fall

Watch the Canyon Walls Rise and Fall Raft all 278 Miles

To know the Grand Canyon is to travel through all 278 miles of its grandeur.  This means rafting the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead.  There is something special about seeing the canyon’s walls rise at the beginning of the trip and gradually fall away at the end.




#10. Un-runable Rapids? Then Helicopter Portage

Helicopter Picks up the First Cargo Net of Gear for Portage Around Turnback Canyon

Experience a thrilling helicopter ride over a section of Class VI rapids when you join Colorado River & Trail Expeditions on their Alsek Rafting Expedition August 4-15, 2013.  At Turnback Canyon the Tweedsmuir Glacier has pushed the river up against a solid wall of granite, creating a 5 mile section of whitewater that is un-runable for rafts.  The night before the portage, the rafts are de-rigged and prepared for portage.  Then the next morning the helicopter swoops in, picks up the gear and passengers, and transfers them below Turnback Canyon.  The portage takes about 10 helicopter trips.


#11.  Rejuvinate with a Power Nap

Rafters Power Nap After a Delicious Lunch

Maybe the best thing about getting away for a few days on a river trip is the ability to leave your troubles at home.  To have a mind that is worry free is one of a river’s great blessings. After a few days of living with the Earth and the wind playing with your hair, relaxation will come easy.  This relaxation will lead to the great pastime of taking a noon time power nap sprawled out on the sand after a yummy lunch!


#12.  Capture True Wilderness in the Soul

Wild Alaska Rafting

Mindy Mackay’s Chaco Tanned Foot next to a Grizzly Bear Track

On Colorado River & Trail Expeditions’ last Alsek River trip, the group saw over 30 Bears (Black and Grizzly), 2 Wolverines, a Wolf, Mountain Sheep, and countless Eagles.  The wildlife is the just the beginning! Besides the animals, there are glaciers, icebergs, craggy peaks, dense forests, giant unnamed lakes, and a huge river with a couple of Grand Canyon style rapids.  Sitting around a big fire in the midnight sun telling stories and soaking up the wildness does wonders for you soul.


#13. Do Something You Never, Ever, Ever,  Dreamed of Doing

Swimming in the Little Colorado River

 There are countless stories of people who had never camped a night in their life until they took their first river trip.  For most of them, the river trip was life-changing, and they claim it was the best thing that they ever did.  Many have come back for other trips.  So don’t let a fear of camping or living outside deter you.  The meals, camping equipment, and bathrooms are better than any campground, and the river is always there for washing your hair.  Besides, Colorado River & Trail Expeditions will take great care of you, as will the the Rivers and Canyons.


Colorado River & Trail Expeditions offers rafting trips through North America’s most beautiful locations.  To learn more about these incredible experiences visit their website or call 1-800-253-7328.