When you were on your Grand Canyon river tour, did you happen to notice the fancy knot the swampers used to tie up the boats? Or were their hands moving too fast for you to catch it? Our guides know how to tie a lot of different knots, but the one I see used most often is the simple half-hitch. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it works perfectly on Grand Canyon expeditions.
The water release from Glen Canyon Dam, which controls the flow through Grand Canyon, varies a bit in any given 24-hour period. That means the guides might pull into camp and tie up the boats with the river at one level, and wake up the next morning to find the water at a different level — usually lower. (You might have overheard your trip leader talking to the crew about waiting for the water to come back up before running certain rapids, or maybe about running some at low water. Different features in the rapids can make them either easier or harder to run at high water.)
Anyhow, those fluctuations in water flow can mean the guides have to move their boats around a bit — pull them in or let them out — so they don’t end up beached or with the boats 20 feet from shore. This knot is super easy to pull in and to let out, making it a favorite on the Colorado River.
Now you can impress your friends with a real Grand Canyon river guide knot!
Photo: Sometimes, even a super awesome knot won’t save you from being beached.