Adventure awaits even busy people in Page, Ariz. If you're short of time but love the water and want to see the region's stunning scenery, historic sites and plenty of wildlife, a half-day raft trip to Page offers a taste of them all. And you'll savor the memories for years to come.
Page is located at an elevation of more than 4,000 feet, so temperatures are often five to 10 degrees cooler than Las Vegas, making it a perfect September destination.
The float trips are on relatively smooth water, so they're suitable even for younger, older or less daring members of a family. Anyone 4 or older can take this trip. It starts directly below the Glen Canyon Dam and travels downstream about 15 miles to Lees Ferry. Visitors assemble in Page and take a motor coach or van down through the two-mile Glen Canyon access tunnel to the water's edge. There, the voyagers board a motorized pontoon raft. The best seat you can get is on one of the outer pontoons, with your legs straddling it.
At the start of your trip, you will have an unbeatable view of the dam as it rises above you 583 feet. As you head downriver, you will be surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs. You will see small waterfalls, large alcoves, hanging gardens and most likely plenty of birds, including eagles, great blue herons and ospreys.
Other highlights include heading around Horseshoe Bend, where the river makes a 270-degree turn. The walls at this point tower 1,200 feet above. Spectacular when viewed from above, it's one of the most-photographed scenes in the West. If you look closely as you cruise by, you might see people on top at an overlook trying to capture this dramatic scene in a camera or perhaps to memorize it.
About halfway through the 3 ½-hour trip, you will stop on a sandy beach where you can take an invigorating swim in 50- to 60-degree water and take a short walk up to see some American Indian petroglyphs.
The trip ends at Lees Ferry, a place also known as Mile Zero of the Grand Canyon, and the starting point for extended whitewater rafting trips down the Colorado River. Just before you dock, you will pass by the original ferry site named for the Lee family that operated it in early years. It was used from the 1870s until 1928, when the Navajo Bridge was built across the river.
Once off the raft, you'll take a few minutes to get your land legs back and then board a bus for the 45-minute scenic drive back to Page. The last time I drove this stretch of road, I saw a complete double rainbow as the sun was setting.
Several rafting companies offer these smooth-water trips. The Page Tourism Bureau has links to several such companies, besides other information to get you started, at visitpagearizona.com. Its phone number is 888-261-7243.
Deborah Wall is the author of "Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide" and "Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States," published by Stephens Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.