The Colorado River provides varied opportunities for rafting adventures through the spectacular canyons it has carved. Rafting options fall into two categories — one-day trips on accessible stretches of the river and multi-day tours through the mighty Grand Canyon of three days to two weeks or longer.
Adventurers considering one of the longer expeditions do well to sample the experience on a shorter outing. If you find a half-day or full-day trip on the river too exhausting, scary or uncomfortable, you should think again about committing to a longer excursion. The shorter trips provide gorgeous canyon and river scenery, exploratory side trips, historical insights and glimpses of wild birds and animals. One includes some of the rapids that make the longer trips memorable.
Closest to Las Vegas, the raft trip offered by Black Canyon River Adventures floats the Colorado from just below Hoover Dam through Black Canyon to Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the river. The trip begins at a check-in area in the Hacienda Hotel on U.S. 93 between Boulder City and Hoover Dam. Buses transport rafters through steep canyons to the water’s edge within sight of the dam and the beautiful new bridge that spans the river just south of it.
Part of Forever Resorts, the company operates all year, using motor-assisted rafts of varying sizes carrying up to 40 people. They float past sandy beaches, near hot springs and waterfalls and close to the huge ring bolts used by steamboats to haul themselves against the current more than a century ago. A guide provides expert commentary on area history, wildlife, plants and other features. The rafts beach for breaks to enjoy the provided box lunch, as well as riverside exploration and warm-water wading. After several leisurely hours, participants board transportation at Willow Beach for the trip back to the hotel.
Check for times and make reservations for this raft trip at (800) 455-3490 or online at blackcanyonadventures.com. Tickets cost $87.95 for adults over age 16, $82.95 for youngsters aged 13-15 and $53.95 for children aged 5-12. Adult tickets include a $5 park entrance fee, which is waived for holders of federal park passes. Those making online reservations should check for other discounts on the website under “special offers.”
The raft tour exploring more than 15 miles of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lee’s Ferry remains Arizona’s most popular rafting adventure. Colorado River Discovery Tours in Page, Ariz., offers half- and whole-day guided adventures. Rafters assemble in Page for the bus ride through the dam’s access tunnel to the river and return them to Page from historic Lee’s Ferry, one of the few places where people could cross the river in pioneer times. The raft courses between 700-foot cliffs through scenic Horseshoe Bend, where the river doubles back on itself. The river supports wildlife, waterfowl and winged predators such as eagles and California condors. The rafts beach for lunch, which you bring for yourself, and a side trip to see ancient petroglyphs left by cultures of prehistory.
Half-day raft trips leave Page twice daily at 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., from May 1 through Sept. 30, and once daily at 11 a.m., from Oct. 1 through Nov. 30. Full-day trips operate on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays at 11 a.m., from March 1 through May 31 and Sept. 1 through Nov. 30. Half-day trips cost $79 for adults and $69 for children aged 4-11, while full-day trips cost $155 and $145. Add a $6 river-use fee to ticket prices. Book at (888) 522-6644 or raftthecanyon.com.
The one-day raft trip offered March through October by the Hualapai River Runners lasts longer, covers more river, includes whitewater rapids and ends with a thrilling 4,000-foot swoop in a helicopter from the water to the rim at Grand Canyon West, home of the famed Skywalk. The adventure starts at a tribal lodge in Peach Springs, Ariz. Rafters reach the river on the only access road in Grand Canyon. They board pontoon rafts and set out through 37 gorgeous miles of river, all on tribal lands, including a stop at Travertine Falls and a stop for the box lunch. The raft trip including lunch, bus and helicopter transport costs $353.96 per person. Rafters must be at least 8 years old and able-bodied. Make reservations at (928) 868-9378 or at grandcanyonwest.com/rafting.
Margo Bartlett Pesek’s column appears on Sundays.