Tapeats Creek is a unique boating experience. This miniature box canyon is a spring fed whitewater stream that flows into the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Intrepid creek boaters who are hungering for a quick fix of creeking can run Tapeats from the top of the micro gorge to the main river below.
The carry up to the top of Tapeats Creek is arduous and a bit dangerous, but well worth the effort. The whitewater is spring fed, refreshingly cool, and moderately difficult. Rescue by fellow boaters would be difficult but at least the canyon has rim side access for rappelling and rope extractions. If your are dedicated and want a beautiful creek experience in the middle of your big water Grand Canyon trip, then stop at Tapeats Creek.
From Thunder River confluence down to the top of the gorge, is relativel low gradient, brushy and scrapey at spots, so it probably does not get boated much.
From the top of the gorge to the confluence with the Colorado is a pretty short distance. After all the hiking, try to take your time in the gorge to enjoy the scenery.
Other Information Sources: Oregon Kayaking: Trip Report NPS Thunder River Trail pdfAW: Colorado in the Grand Canyon
Tapeats is fed by Thunder River Springs and Tapeats Spring, so flows will be relatively similar for most of the year. Some writers state that it is much higher during the spring. During heavy rains the flows can be much higher. This authors very rough guess on the flow is that it is around 40 or 50 cfs, which is plenty for the narrow canyon.
Permits are not required for this reach.
The trail on the west side of the creek is the most suitable for carrying boats. It is steep with many switchbacks, so expect an hour of boat carrying to get to the upper end of the box canyon. There are some good viewpoints down into the canyon from above, but some drops will be hidden. I think there are somewhat better views from the trail on the east side.
Above the box canyon the trail follows near creek level and the hiking is easy to the confluence with Thunder River. Boaters can inspect the creek as they go and decide if this upper section is worth boating.
The trail on the east side of the box canyon involves steep scrambling in places and would require rope work to get kayaks up from the raft landing area. Once the trail reaches the terrace above the creek canyon, the hiking is pretty level.
Thunder River begins
Tapeats Creek @ Thunder river
Tapeats Creek rapid
Tapeats Creek falls
Tapeats Creek from above
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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!
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