Many folks who have paddled a boat down a river on a day trip don’t understand why GCW doesn’t typically run similar Colorado River tours. Although we can make exceptions and create paddle-hybrid trips, nearly every trip we run is with either motorized boats or oar-powered boats. Unlike paddle trips, where passengers propel the boats, Grand Canyon Whitewater tours are powered by our guides. They sit in the middle of the oar boat and do all the rowing (unless, of course, a passenger asks for a turn at the oars, in which case the guides are usually happy to accommodate the request).
We do our best to assure our go-get-‘er types that they will have more than enough to keep them busy on our trips, even without paddling. This might sound hard to believe, but relaxing under the Arizona sun for a full day can take a lot out of you! Besides that, there are daily side hikes to get the blood flowing and, if you’re on one of our oar trips, you’ll be expected to bail buckets of water out of the boat after rapids. Loading and unloading the boats at camp and setting up your own campsite also provide opportunities to burn some calories. Now imagine multiplying all that by 6, 8, or 13 days, and you might get a pretty good idea of how you’ll feel by the end of your “vacation” — We’re guessing you might rather have someone plant a nice, cold beverage in your hand than a paddle.
Still, we know some people just aren’t convinced they will get to play an active enough role in their adventure of a lifetime. Until I took my first day trip on a paddle boat, I had a hard time understanding the difference between our trips and others. I spent a week in Costa Rica recently and I went on my first paddle trip, on the Savegre River. I guess the easiest way to explain what I learned is: Grand Canyon is just different. It’s not called “Grand” Canyon for no reason; consequences are magnified down there.
If, for example, you happen to flip a paddle boat on another river, you might find yourself in water 6 feet deep. In Grand Canyon, on the other hand, some stretches of river are more than 100 feet deep. And the current is fast, and the water is cold. Going for a swim in the Colorado River is no laughing matter.
So try to trust us when we tell you you’ll have a blast on our trips, and you probably won’t want to paddle once you get down there, and you’ll be very grateful for the expertise and incredible skill all our guides bring to your adventure. Let them worry about the hard part; the only thing you need to worry about is relishing every moment you get to spend in one of the world’s most magnificent wonders.
Photos: (Above) Paddling a 15-foot boat through water no deeper than I am tall. (Below) GCW guide driving a 35-foot boat down the Mighty Colorado.