(Special Bulletin Nov 6 2018):
The US Bureau of Reclamation will be conducting a HIGH FLOW EXPERIMENT November 5 - 8 in 2018: Details are available through USBR and through the 2018 USBR Media Advisory.
The Grand Canyon is one of the seven Wonders of the World. Magnificent views of the geological record are on prominent display throughout a journey through this canyon. Every day that passes reveals new eras of time and new aspects of creation.
The long history and lore of the Grand Canyon have built the whitewater up to heroic proportions in the public mind. However, river running knowledge, skill, and equipment have improved tremendously in the century that boaters have been running this section of the Colorado River.
By modern outdoor sports risk standards the Grand Canyon is a very reasonable adventure.
The gradient tells the tale as most of Grand Canyon is flat water.
The infamous 1 to 10 rating system does not mean that these rapids are harder than class 6.
The hardest rapids on the run were simply given a 10 rating and everything else was rated respectively lower. A Grand Canyon 10 corresponds approximately to a class IV rating on the international scale. The 1 to 10 rating was system developed for heavily loaded large rafts, and a 10 on this scale might not require a single stroke from a kayaker (though perhaps a lot of bracing and rolling if one wanted to try that!).
Experienced river runners can apply their usual river-running judgment.
The skills required for a kayaker to negotiate Grand Canyon include:
1. A bomber roll. The water is cold and the river is so wide that swimming to shore is difficult.
2. The ability to turn sideways to a big wave train and paddle out of it.
3. The ability to keep your balance and your cool in sustained funny water (whirlpools and boils occur at the bottom of many rapids and along eddy lines).
4. The ability to scout and choose a big-water line and smash it.
The skills required for an oarboatman in the Grand Canyon are in some ways much more difficult. Rafts are typically overburdened and heavy. It takes a good understanding of the rapids, early decision making and a lot of hard work to get a raft to the right place in a rapid. The risk to a baggage boat is much greater than for other river runners. A swimmer can flush through the biggest rapids. A kayaker can get flipped and easily roll back up. But if a baggage boat flips, it will take a long time to get it to shore and a lot of manpower to got it flipped back over, upright. A flip can cost hours of effort and important supplies can be lost or ruined.
Boatmen need the:
1. Ability to tie great knots.
2. Ability to hang on to the oars in heavy water, the ability to manuver with only one oar if needed and the ability to quickly replace an oar.
3. Ability to maintain or recover a ferry angle in heavy water.
4. Ability to catch eddies at the bottom of rapids and the ability to break out across big eddy lines.
5. Ability to keep rowing when you miss a line, straighten out and push when facing a big hole, and get back in the seat when knocked off.
6. Ability to rig very well and maintain your anchor lines through changing night time water elevations.
Putting together an expedition that meets National Park Service requirements and keeps a group of river runners well fed and happy for 18 or more days is a leadership skill requiring task.
The launch point is Lee's Ferry, which is measured as mile zero.
Trip participants can arrange to hike in or out at a variety of trails in the mid-section of the run.
The most common location to exchange participants is Phantom Ranch (mile 89).
Exchanging allows people to do the upper or lower half of the run even if they do not have the time to do the full trip. Park service fees are about the same whether you do a full or half trip and these arrangements must be pre-arranged.
The majority of private trips in Grand Canyon travel 226 miles to Diamond Creek, Arizona for their takeout. Diamond Creek is an intermittent stream that doubles as a roughshod road.
The best takeoute is Pearce Ferry on Lake Mead (mile 279) which has been rehabilitated and re-opened after being closed due to low lake levels.
The next access point to the Colorado River is South Cove, which is 17 miles farther downstream into Lake Mead.
Diamond Creek access information:
The Hualapai Tribe charges a fee for each driver, person, and vehicle that accesses Diamond Creek Beach. In 2018, that fee is $67.50. You can arrange for a shuttle service to pick you up or you can make arrangments with the tribe for shuttle between the river and Peach Springs. This creek sometimes has a road in it. Flashflooding is regular.
Hualapai River Runners
P.O. Box 246
Peach Springs, AZ 86434(928) 769-2210 / (800) 622-4409
Boaters may also launch at Diamond Creek and travel 54 miles to Pearce Ferry Boat Ramp. The permit for doing this section is much easier to obtain than for launching at Lee's Ferry. Diamond-Down River Trip Application Grand Canyon NP: Diamond down information
Grand Canyon Weather links:Weather Forecast for Grand Canyon ParkPage, AZ, is just upstream of the put in.Zone Area Forecast for Marble and Glen Canyons, AZ NOAAZone Area Forecast for Grand Canyon Country, AZ NOAAPhantom Ranch is about half way through.South Cove, Lake Mead Sunrise/ SunsetWebcams
Other information Sources: Grand Canyon National Park: river running informationGrand Canyon River - Audio/ Video Podcast Channel
The Grand Canyon is perennially represented among American Whitewater's Top 40 River Issues. Check out AW's articles on the fee demo program and the wilderness and access lawsuit.Grand Canyon Private Boaters' Organization. They do excellent work for private boaters and have a very informative online discussion forum.River Runners for Wilderness wikiGrand Canyon River Guide's AssociationMoenkopi blogSlideshow of rapidsColorado River NASQAN programGrand Canyon Monitoring and Research CenterTime Lapse Videos of beach erosionGrand-canyon-favorite-hikesPacking-for-grand-canyon-tripDurango Bill's 3D tour
There are many videos on youtube videos referencing rapids of the Grand Canyon. Search for grand canyon, rafting, kayaking, whitewater and similar, or by rapid names.
Interesting Water facts:
Lee's Ferry is the dividing point between the Upper and Lower Colorado Rivers for water rights politics.
Water for the South Rim Village flows through a pipe from near the north rim, down right Angel Canyon, across a bridge and then back up to the south rim. It is all gravity fed.
Pumpkin Springs is arsenic.
Reaches of the Colorado River:01. Hot Sulphur Springs to Hwy 40 bridge (Byers Canyon) (CO, IV)02. Gore Canyon (CO, IV-V)03. Pumphouse campground to Rancho Del Rio (Pumphouse) (CO, III)04. Hanging Lake Exit 125 (I-70) to Shoshone Power Plant Exit 123 (I-70) (Barrel Springs) (CO, IV-V [V+])05. Shoshone Power Plant, Exit 123 (I-70) to Grizzly Creek, Exit 121 (I-70) (Shoshone) (CO, III-IV)06. Cameo Dam (Big Sur / Lucky 7) (CO, III)07. Loma to Westwater (Ruby / Horsethief Canyons) (CO-UT, II)08. Westwater to Rose Ranch (Westwater Canyon) (UT, I-IV)09. Cisco (Rose Ranch) to Moab (Professor Valley) (UT, I-III)10. Moab to Powell Reservoir (Cataract Canyon) (UT, I-IV)11. Lees Ferry to Lake Mead (Grand Canyon) (AZ, I-IV)12. Black Canyon (AZ-NV, I)
A large parking area and unloading area is available next to an expansive boat launch area. Commericial groups generally rig on the left side of the ramp while the general public uses teh left side. Toilets, potable water, and a campsite for river runners are all available here. A covered picnic area is available for lunch, but not for any cooking.
An old and a new bridge cross here about 500 feet above the river. The old bridge is now a pedestrian walkway and viewing area. On the north side of the bridge is a parking area, bathrooms and a small visitor center. The view from the bridge is tremendous. The view from below looking up at the bridge is pretty neat also. Keep your eyes open for California Condors.
Badger is the first real rapid with Grand Canyon waves. It is more difficult at lower flows when there are some rocks and holes to avoid.
Soap Creek enters on the right just below the beginning of the rapid. This is a typical rapid with large rocks and holes on either side at the top, but a wide tongue down the middle into standing waves. Decent camping is available above the rapid on river right.
This rapid is named for House Rock Wash. The rapid curves gradually to the right, so the current carries boats towards the left into a number of very big breaking waves. Lurking in the waves at the bottom of the rapid is a boat flipping hole. Avoiding this hole is the first big test.
It is easy for kayakers to go to the right of the hole, or to go through it and roll back up afterwards. Loaded rafts have to pull hard to stay right. If there is enough water, smaller rafts can sneak far right at the top and maneuver their way through shallow rocks.
Start of the "Roaring Twenties", a series of fun and relatively closely spaced rapids.
This rapid is new and formed in 1989.
A BIG hole scout left.
On the left is a giant natural ampitheater carved out of the limestone. It is an easy and very popular stop. It is dark and cool in the back. Sounds carry loudly through the cavern.
A big rock occupies the center of the river. Clean tongues are on either side. At some flows kaaykers can find decent surfing. At high flows, the rock creates a monster hole, but you have plenty of room to avoid it to the left. A campsite is availble on river left.
The Little Colorado enters from the left. During the dry season it will be flowing milky blue and with a few hundred cfs coming from limestone springs just a few miles upstream. During rainy times this river will be muddy with flows from its vast drainage.
A long boulder strewn rapid.
This is the first real ass kicker with big holes. It is one of the longest rapids on the river and the rapid most cluttered with boulders and holes. Boaters must make multiple manuvers throughout the rapid. People typically scout from river left, but you can also scout on river right to better inspect the hero route through the biggest holes on the right. This also gives you a higher vantage point to view the rapid.
Most boaters enter the rapid center right then work left to avoid the biggest holes.
Don't get too far off the big V waves and find yourself smacked around.
A long set of big wave trains.
Only relevant at low flows.
The trails provide access to the rim and Phantom Ranch where a post office and eatery are a popular stop for river runners. Three different trails meet the river here. One to the north rim and two up to the south rim. You can hike a fun loop over the Bright Angel bridge and back over the Kaibab bridge.
Possibly the most difficult and intimidating rapid at lower flows. Dark walls rise raggedly on both sides. A big clean tongue enters the rapid on the right and flows into big breaking waves and finally into a monster wave hole.
One strategy is to enter on the tongue, then get left of the bottom hole. Another route is to enter between two horns at the top left of the rapid, punch some big waves then easily stay left of the bottom hole.
The waves through out the rapid are powerful.
Granite is a long rapid with big waves. The tongue funnels towards the right against the wall, and the waves tend to be largest on that side. It is an easier ride to the left of center.
The biggest free standing waves up to this point on the river.
Crystal became the big one in 1966, after a big flash flood in Crystal Creek dumped big boulders in the river and constricted the main channel to the left. Crystal Hole dominated the center of the river and large diagonal waves surfed rafts towards it.
Over time high flows in the main river have gradually reduced the power of the central hole and made it easier to miss the hole. It still remains a serious rapid. Scout from river right.
More of the "gemstone series"
There is a wonderful short hike up to a pretty swimming hole. It does involve some scrambling. Adventurous climbers can continue scrambling past the main swimming hole and eventually come out above.
Fossil Rapid is a read and run rapid at the start of the Middle Granite Gorge.
The main current runs down the left side of the channel then piles up against a large bedrock midstream island. Half of the current turns sharply to the right of the island and that is the safe route. The other half of the current pushes to the left of the island, then turns sharply right on the downstream side. The left side of the island is a narrow and extremely turbulent chute. The rock walls on both sides are honecombed with potholes carved by the water. Scout from river right and take some time to explore the interesting rock formations there. Bedrock creek is also a nice hike.
This rapid is deceiving. It is big and wide and easy at the top. Once it picks up speed it curves a bit to the right then has large holes scattered through out. With a heavy raft it is easy to blunder into a few of them. If you find yourself in that situation, hold on tight and square up to hit them.
The rapid is a minor rapid, but the creek offers wonderful hiking. Two trails climb the cliffs on either side of the creek then traverse narrow ledges above the gorge. Facing upstream at the mouth, the trail on the left is easier, while the trail on the right requires some scrambling. Tapeats Creek flows year round because it is fed by two major springs: Thunder River and Tapeats Spring. Thunder River is the closer but still requires a couple hours of hiking. The trail past Thunder River, continues on to Surprise Valley and eventually to the north rim or over to Deer Creek.
Kayakers can carry boats up the trail so that they can paddle through the narrows. See Tapeats Creek— Thunder River to Colorado River.
Camping is no longer allowed at the mouth of Tapeats Creek.
Deer Creek is spring-fed and flows all year long. Boaters are provided with a dramatic sight where the creek gushes out of a notch in the cliff, then free falls about 170 feet, into a pool next to the main river. A large sand bar seperates the base of the falls from the river. A trail starts at the mouth of Deer Creek and goes all the way to the north rim. A long, but popular day hike from the river, during the cool season, is from Tapeats Creek to Deer Creek via Surprise Valley. The steep hike to the valley above the falls is very nice by itself.
Experienced Canyoneers can travel through the short narrows leading down to the top of Deer Creek Falls. It requires good rock climbing/canyoneering skills. There are several bolted rappels past waterfalls within the narrows, while the final rappel is said to be 180 feet. See canyoneeringusa.com, and Todd's Hiking Guide.
This large rapid makes a gradual right turn against the cliff wall on the left with the debris fan on the right. A very large wave hole lurks in the center of the waves about 2/3 of the way through.
The conservative route is as far right as you can scrape down. An exciting line is available on the left side which avoids the main hole, but requires punching other wave holes that are only somewhat smaller.
Tougher at lower flows. Not sure at what flows the wave holes wash out.
Lava rapid (mile 179) is the most intimidating rapid in the Grand Canyon. Because of another flash flood in Prospect Canyon, the left side of the rapid (which is considered by some to be a sneak) is cluttered with boulders, and more popular with rafters at higher flows (at least 15,000). Center at the top of the rapid is one of the biggest pourover holes you'll ever see, yet you will not be the first to throw some ends there if you try. You can scout from either side, but the impressive scout is to follow a small trail on river right up to an outcrop of lava where you can overlook the maelstrom. It doesn't look good, but you can't see while you're in it. The standard line is to start center right. Rafts commonly punch through the maw of the V-wave, but kayakers can bust through the lateral that feeds it from the left and smooth out their ride.
Granite Springs drainage flashed sometime in 2016. The river was narrowed and many boulders were deposited in the channel. A large boat flipping hole or wave is in the middle of the rapid.
A rough dirt road comes down the side canyon to the river. The eddy is fairly small and Diamond Creek rapid starts immediately downstream. During the monsoon season in July and August, Diamond Creek can flash flood and wash the road out.
This new rapid that formed at around mile 281 has become a class 10+++ on the Grand Canyon scale, or a class 6 on the international scale. As of 2016 it is not safe to run this rapid. That may change as the river continues to erode the rock ridge that causes the rapid. The rapid can be viewed by walking downstream from the Pierce Ferry take out along well used trails.
Reservoir silt has filled in the old river channel which ran along the cliffs to the north. The river has cut a new channel to the south, exposing a rock ridge. As the reservoir level dropped the rapid has become bigger and bigger.
Photos of Superimposition Rapid near Pearce Ferry, uncovered by the low lake levels. Photos from February 2008.
Durango Bill's page with excellent photos and explanation of the formation of this rapid.
The satellite view on the map tab gives a good close up view of this new rapid when you zoom in.
When the lake level is around 1105 feet or lower, a rapid appears at the end of Iceburg Canyon. An excellent surfing wave is reported to form there, also. The location and rating are approximate.
Before Pierce Ferry road was extended all the way out to the river channel, South Cove was the only viable take out past Diamond Creek. Now that there is a good take out at Pierce Ferry there is no need to go to South Cove. Now that the Pierce Ferry Rapid is class 6, it would be dangerous to continue to South Cove and have to run that rapid..
Scripps Institute has published a study suggesting that Lake Mead could go completely dry by 2021.
I have collected video, GPS info, River Mile Markers (Blue Flags), Camp Locations (Green Flags), Rapid Locations ( Red Flags), Points of Interest (Yellow Flags), videos (click on Rapid Flags), NPS Regulations, interesting links, Photos, Wikipedia links, and AW... links, and ... if you want something on there let me know. It's a work in progress, I'm already behind a major update so check back every couple of days or so.
Once you get Google Earth open, and get tired of flying around on your own, if you look in your Google Earth Temporary Places and click around, you'll find a funny looking triangle looking icon. If you play it, it will fly you down the entire Grand Canyon. You can see the various Places as you fly. Stop anywhere and click on a marker for more info. It is a long flight.
Sign up to join the Sultan River (WA) working group and stay informed on issues related to improving flows through hydropower relicensing.
A normative approach was used to develop evaluative information about streamflows for whitewater trips in the Grand Canyon, below Glen Canyon Dam.
Press release of accommodation plan for Grand Canyon launches cancelled due to the government shutdown.
Min and max flow are just a rough guide. Modern-day flows are limited by maximum output from the river outlet works and power plant which is 48,200 cfs. Historically flows were regularly greater than 100,000 cfs during spring snow melt, but now that can only occur if the reservoir reaches the spillways.
Historical flow At Lees Ferry
USGS reports flows at several locations along the river.
Colorado River near Grand Canyon, AZ
Colorado River above Diamond Creek near Peach Springs, AZ
Lake Mead reservoir levels are reported by the Bureau of Reclamation in feet. Google maps reports in meters.
A lake elevation of 1105 feet (sept. 2008) is equivalent to 337 meters. At this elevation the river meets lake near the end of Iceburg Canyon, which is 6 miles from South Cove.
Lee's Ferry Campground is located 128 miles North of Flagstaff, Arizona on HWY 89.
217 Mile Rapid
Three Springs Rapid
164 Mile Rapid
Matkatamiba Canyon Mouth
Deer Creek Falls
135 Mile Rapid (Helicopter Eddy)
Middle Granite Gorge
110 Mile Rapid
Scorpion at Bass Camp
Salt Creek Rapid
Horn Creek Rapid
Bright Angel Bridge
83 Mile Rapid
Lava Canyon Rapid
Hopi Salt Mine
Little Colorado River
60 Mile Rapid
Saddle Canyon side hike
Marble Canyon Dam Site
Night Sky at Martha's
Tiger Wash Rapid
Soap Creek Rapid
Boys on the Oars at Navajo Bridges
Loading Boats at Lee's Ferry
Blowing Up Boats at Lee's Ferry
the gems rapids
Griff Gilbert at Deer Creek in the Canyon
Griff Gilbert at Havasu
Roman Ryder @ Lava Falls
The Big Ditch!!
New Year's Eve
Float the Flat
Bow Stall Above Granite
Bob Runs Lava
Grand Canyon Mug Shot
Alive Below Lava
Canoes in Hance
Nautiloid Canyon camp
Start of the Journey
Lee's Ferry boat ramp & lunch pavilion
Lee's Ferry parking lot
Marble Canyon Rim
Hole at Crystal
Making the Move at the Top of Horn
C2 through Hance
Hance Rapid, second half
Hance Rapid, first half
President Harding Rapid
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
In the ongoing saga of hydro dam developments proposed within striking distance of Grand Canyon National Park, American Whitewater is asking for help from the paddling community to stop a development that would impact the greater Grand Canyon area and its tributaries. Back in October 2019, we wrote an article outlining the proposal submitted by Phoenix-based hydroelectric company Pumped Hydro LLC to place two dams on the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River’s mighty Grand Canyon. This proposal was met with a large amount of pushback for the cultural impact on indigenous tribes, ecological impacts, and water use. To address these concerns, Pumped Hydro decided to file an alternative (yet equally problematic) proposal for a hydro development on Big Canyon, a tributary of the Little Colorado River. The Big Canyon project permit application has been accepted into the Federal Energy Regulation Commission’s (FERC) registrar, initiating a public comment period on the project ending August 1 and we need members of the paddling community to step up and make their voices heard!
In October of 2019, we reported that Phoenix-based hydroelectric company, Pumped Hydro Storage, submitted applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for preliminary permits for two different hydroelectric projects in the Little Colorado River basin. At the end of May, both proposals received approval for their preliminary permits despite formal intervention from Native American tribes, American Whitewater, many of our members, and numerous environmental organizations. Thank you to those of you who provided your comments to FERC! These comments are on record and will help the continued fight against these dams. Next up, the same hydropower company has submitted another preliminary dam proposal on Big Canyon. American Whitewater is reviewing the Big Canyon application and is working on providing our supporters with guidance to submit your own comments.
Take action today using our easy online form to protect National Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act! A public comment period began on May 12th and ends July 10th for an April 26th Executive Order which directed Interior Secretary Zinke to conduct a review of all Presidential designations over the past 21 years. A number of Monuments being reviewed are of significant interest to paddlers and provide protections for cherished whitewater stretches, including Bears Ears (Lower San Juan River, UT), Grand Canyon-Parashant (Colorado River, Grand Canyon, AZ), Giant Sequoia National Monument (Tule River, CA), Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (East Branch of the Penobscot River, ME), Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (Rio Grande, Taos Boxes, NM) and many more.
Arizona – Right now, legislation to construct a massive, amusement park-style development in the Grand Canyon has been introduced to the Navajo Nation Tribal Council. This massive development includes a tramway from the Grand Canyon Rim to the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers, a food pavilion, amphitheater and an elevated walkway at the confluence, and at the rim hotels, restaurants, and cultural center. As paddlers who’ve either experienced the Grand Canyon, or dream to one day, we’ve got to voice our opposition to this project NOW.
Your voice is needed to help protect and restore the beaches, habitat, and cultural resources on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. For the first time since 1996, federal resource agencies are considering the future operations of Glen Canyon Dam, which will impact flows on the Colorado. Your comments can help shape the alternatives that will be considered in an upcoming Environmental Impact Statement for the operation of the dam. If you love the Grand Canyon, have been lucky enough to do a trip on the Colorado, or hope to experience it one day, your comments are important! They are due Tuesday, January 31st!
Earlier today the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard rock mining claims on roughly 1-million acres of land surrounding the Grand Canyon. We would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to Secretary Salazar, his staff, and the administration for acting as responsible stewards of one of America's most treasured places.
Unhappy with a plan to protect 1 million acres of land along the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining, congressmen recently introduced a rider to an appropriations bill that would prevent these protections. Tell Congress that opening the Grand Canyon to new uranium mining would be a huge mistake!
The Secretary of the Interior recently announced a 6-month extension to his Department's moratorium on new uranium mining claims on over 1 million acres along the rim of the Grand Canyon. This extension will protect the area while the Department of the Interior reviews the 300,000 comments received on their proposal to extend the protections for the next 20 years.
The paddling community is rallying to support a proposed 20-year federal moratorium on new uranium mining claims around Grand Canyon National Park, citing unacceptable risk to the recreational, environmental, and aesthetic values. Read more to learn how to submit a comment of your own.
“Our shared focus is on problem solving and the implementation of sound, responsible and lasting solutions to outstanding issues.” - AW et al. in Joint Comments<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
American Whitewater's comments are attached on the Colorado River Management Plan in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Grand Canyon. We would like to remind our members that the deadline for comments is February 1, 2005.
"The joint recommendations are the product of what we regard as a major and historic achievement, the coming together of Grand Canyon river user groups... We have worked very hard to move beyond past differences. Our united purposes are to constructively participate in and support the NPS in its effort to advance Grand Canyon river management and, most importantly, to meaningfully resolve major outstanding controversies. Our shared focus is on problem solving and the implementation of sound, responsible and lasting solutions to outstanding issues."
Here is a summary of AW's observations regarding the Park Service management alternatives for the Grand Canyon. AW has not yet finalized our comments; however, we want to share some of our considerations with our members in advance of the January 9th deadline.
Colorado Stewardship Director
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!