The Grand Canyon is one of the most unique and special places on earth. With nearly 5 million visitors coming to the Grand Canyon each year, 27,000 of those are visitors exploring the park by river. The full portion of the Colorado River running through the Grand Canyon is 278 miles and can take up to 19 days to float in the summer and 27 during the winter months. The only way to get to float the Grand Canyon is by going with a commercial company or be one of the lucky ones to win a lottery permit! Once you have gone down the Canyon you are not allowed to go down again in the same calendar year, making it so that you can only go once a year. This is the only river permit that I know of with this kind of restriction due to the popularity of applications. Before the lottery system it was a waiting list to see the Grand Canyon by river. Some people waited over 40 years to be able to go down the river. With this lottery system there is a lot more access for people from around the world.
Down in the Grand Canyon you will be met with a unique set of rapids that have their own grading system of 1-10. This is the only river that uses this scale, while everywhere else uses 1-6, 6 being unrunnable like Niagara Falls. On the first day you will hit the first big Class 7 as your warmup for the next coming days. The Grand Canyon can be broken up into two parts if anyone isn’t able to do the full 278 miles. The halfway point is Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. The only way to Phantom Ranch is by hiking 10 miles from the Rim down to the river and out is the same process, hiking from the river to the Rim of a total elevation of 2546 ft.
The upper part of the river, while still having plenty of rapids, is mostly known for the hikes side canyons, granaries (ancient dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo), and see the changes in geology- such as the Great Conformity (1.2 billion years of missing rock record, either due to erosion or nondeposition.)
The Lower section is full of fun rapids like the gems ( series of rapids named after rock features you can find in the canyon such as Agate, Sapphire, Turquoise, Emerald, Ruby, and Serpentine) and the Roaring 20’s ( series of rapids that have a 12 foot drop with waves and hydraulics) The classic most well recognized names and biggest rapids in the Canyon are House Rock, Hance, Crystal, Bedrock, Horn, Granite, Hermit, Upset and Lava.
To run a trip like this most people opt to rent a fleet of boats through some commercial companies that will also gladly pack your food and take care of your waste after the trip. Others may opt to bring their own gear and pack their own food, which, while being cheaper is a much more difficult thing to do especially with planning food and keeping ice for the next 15-27 days (depending on time of year). This last trip was a self-support trip and I got to bring my Hyside 14ft raft down the Grand Canyon for its second trip! I was almost the second smallest boat on the trip with the smallest being a 12ft Cataraft boat. We had the perfect flows with roughly 6 cfs-10k cfs. However, halfway through our trip we were surprised to wake up in the middle of the night with our boats free-floating in an eddy, a circular current of water, as the dam had released double the cfs and now had us sitting at 20,000 cfs! Not many people get to experience high water in the Grand Canyon which has typical flows ranging from 6,000 to 16,000 cfs. We were able to wrangle the boats back in, pick up any floating gear that was left on the beach before the water came in. All we lost was a small gear bag with a paddle for a pack raft and a harness, not the worst thing considering most of our boats were tied to whimsy willow branches when there was a beach at the lower flows. We finished the trip with true Grand Canyon highwater, and it was a real treat! While nerves were high everyone made it through safely, including the final rapid, Lava Falls! After the Lava the canyon starts to open again and lead back to civilization. This is one place I would highly recommend everyone to go see at least once as it has left a great impression on everyone who has ever been lucky enough to see it. It was a great trip with lots to see and even more memorable to share with my favorite people!