Page 2

First Rapid 1


Scouting the Badger Creek Rapid (Class 5), our first big rapid of the trip.

Rapids are part of rafting the Grand Canyon. We seldom went more than a couple of miles between rapids and they were often more frequent than that. While most of the rapids were just fun, there were plenty that could flip a raft and needed to be approached with knowledge. In addition to our Martin and Whitis map book, we carried in each raft, "How to Row the Grand Canyon," by Jim Michaud. In this booklet, he describes the best way to run 49 rapids. These ranged from Class 3 to Class 9 rapids. There were many more rapids not in his book, but these were considered, "read and run," rapids with an obvious path through them.

In a read an run rapid, one generally goes down the "Tongue." This is a V shaped area of smooth water that penetrates the rapid and spills into it. It suggests that most of the water is going this way, hence the path of least resistance. Actually, at the end of the V, one almost always gets into very large standing waves, also caused by the fact that most of the water is going this way. However, this is usually the safest (and most fun) way to go so long as one keeps the raft pointed into the waves. It is much more difficult for a big wave to flip a boat lengthwise than sideways.

Keeping the boat oriented lengthwise is often easier said than done. Huge forces are swirling water which can spin a raft sideways in a second. The oarsman is continually making corrections. Perched on the top of a wave, the oarsman often grabs more air than water as he pulls hard on his oars. The tongue of a rapid often drives a raft to one side of the river, where boulders and cliff faces come into play. It is often necessary to pull sideways in the river to get away from such obstacles.

However, many rapids are not read and run rapids. The tongue can contain spill overs where water passes over a submerged rock face which can easily flip a boat. There are hidden or partially hidden boulders that can be anywhere. Boulders displace water around their sides. Because of this, there is usually a hole behind the boulder which is continually trying to replenish itself with water. These holes love to suck in rafts and can hold a raft for some time. They are a flip hazard. Underwater debris kicks up huge waves, which can flip a raft. There can be large fields of visible boulders and rocks which will spoil one's day if not avoided.

On the Grand Canyon, these hazards are there, but with proper information they can be minimized to the point of being reasonable challenges. We were careful to anticipate our rapids and read up on them. The big ones we scouted by pulling over and sighting visually. With the information in the book and a good scout, we had a plan of attack. It never seemed to work quite like we planned it, but ultimately we did get all the rafts the 280 miles without flipping one. We did bounce 6 people out of rafts and had to patch two holes in rafts. Some of the other groups were not so lucky and did flip some boats and lost some oars.


1st Rapid 2

Going down the tongue of Badger Creek Rapid. Photo: Layla

1st Rapid 3

Mike rows Rus and Dana into white water.


1st Rapid 4

Amber and Mark, less naive than us, took the rapids seriously.

Mitch in Rapid

Mitch takes Layla and Kim into the first wave.


Mitch having fun

OK, call Mitch naive; he was having fun. Photo: Layla


Pulling in to camp

Pulling in to our first camp, Brown's Inscription. We all have lots to talk about.


There are ample places to camp along the river, and they are usually near rapids or riffles. The debris that causes a rapid,creates an eddy of fairly smooth water behind the debris, where the water circles backwards upriver. This quiet water has less energy than the water rushing through the rapid, so it drops its debris, particularly sand, creating a beach. These are wonderful places to camp; sugar-like sand and the sound of rushing water. The sand supports vegetation, so most camps have dessert flora.

Pulling into a camp was usually, although not always, easy. After running the rapid, one would paddle sideways to the eddy, and even if one overshot the campground by 100 yards or so, the eddy would carry the raft upriver to the beach. We would tie the rafts to available trees, or if none presented, we would drive a couple of large aluminum stakes into the sand. The rafts were tied not only to the shore, but to each other, to minimize the chance of one breaking free in the night.



Breakfast in camp.

Dan adds oil while Irene and Dennis cook breakfast. The purple box was a spice box with all manner of spices. Additionally, each daily food box contained spices, salsa or sauces to complement that day's menu.

Slot canyon

This creek has carved a slot canyon. Photo: Layla


House Rock Rapid. Class 7

Our first serious rapid was reached on day two at mile 17. House Rock Rapid had a stern reputation, and Mark and Amber insisted that we properly scout it. Here is the excerpt from Jim Michaud's pamphlet on how to run House Rock

Description for running House rock rapid.



Mike in House Rapid1


Mike hits the first hole in House Rock Rapid.


Mike in House Rapid2


Mike hits the second hole. Rus and Dana are a bit damp.


House Rapid2


Mark and Amber start down, rowing backwards in the prescribed manner.


House Rapid3


Mark and Amber approach the first hole.


Mark and Amber tip out of the raft.


The first hole tips Mark and Amber out of the raft.


House Rapid4 Mark and Amber flipped out of boat.


Emerging from the first hole, one can see that Mark and Amber are no longer in the raft. Mark is visible at the back of the boat, still wearing his hat and reaching for the safety line. Photo: Layla


House Rapid 5


Emerging from the second hole, Mark and Amber are still not in the boat. Just after this, Mark was able to pull himself into the raft. Meanwhile, Amber, a good swimmer, sprinted across the river to the eddy on the right side of the river. Working on adrenaline, Mark quickly regained the oars and rowed across the river to the eddy. He picked up Amber, and moved up to the beach to where the rest of us were waiting. Other than being well chilled, they were OK. Photo: Layla


Mark picks up amber in the eddy.


Mark finds Amber in the eddy and picks her up. Photo: Layla

Video of Don, Dan and Charlie running House Rock Rapid.

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Rugged errosion in rock

Pattern erosion in the Supai Sandstone. The Esplenade stands in the background.


Pulling into Cave Springs for Lunch.



Dan inside Cave Springs.


Cave Springs was a smallish cave at water level.


Shot from inside the cave.


From inside the cave.


Multiple canyon faces.


Here one can see various rock formations. The Supai Sandstone, upper left, would not be seen at river level again. Straight ahead in the background, is the famous Redwall Limestone, which we would see for most of the remaining 250 miles. It is actually a tan color, but gets its darker hues as a stain from the overlying Supai and Hermit foundations. The Redwall Limestone was formidable, usually presented in the form of 500 to 700 foot cliffs.


Fahitas for dinner


Dan grilling meat for fajitas. Mike and Warren looking on.



Irene, Dana, Layla and Kim ready the fixings for fajitas. The three ring binder was our outfitters guide, giving the menus for each meal, in what compartments to find the food, and how much of each ingredient was needed for 16 people.