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Old 04-24-2012   #1
Catman's Avatar
Reston, Virginia
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 42
Grand Canyon logistic help...

There's some things that I haven't got or found much beta on that I would appreciate if you good people could help me with in regards to Grand Canyon rafting trips:

1.) How many hours/day (on average) do you spend drifting/rowing?
2.) How many miles (on average) do you cover in that time?
3.) What are the best times to go? Worst times to go?
4.) Is there anything you would've done differently on your trip?

Thanks for any "helpful" input!

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Old 04-24-2012   #2
The Mogur's Avatar
Oregon City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 457
Originally Posted by Catman View Post
Questions with in regards to Grand Canyon rafting trips:

1.) How many hours/day (on average) do you spend drifting/rowing?
2.) How many miles (on average) do you cover in that time?
3.) What are the best times to go? Worst times to go?
4.) Is there anything you would've done differently on your trip?
The answer to Question 4 answers Questions 1 and 2. The one thing that EVERYONE agrees on is Take as much time as you are allowed. That will give you 16 days to travel 225 miles. That's 14-15 miles a day on average, a leisurely pace, even allowing time for scouting rapids (and turning rafts right-side-up, which you are almost certain to have to do somewhere along the way).

Best time to go? That depends on your priorities. October is nice because motors are prohibited. October is bad because there aren't any motor rafts to help in emergencies. Some say that it's too hot in June and July, but that's what water fights are for. August is monsoon season, when afternoon cloudbursts can turn side canyons into flash floods of frightening magnitude. Winter months are cold, but give a lot more solitude.

Float the stretch from Diamond Creek to Pierce Ferry. It's a nice float, and you won't have to pay the fees for a Diamond Creek take-out. Allow an extra three days for tht float, and (depending on the level of Lake Mead) consider taking a small 4-stroke outboard to use when you hit the flat water.

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Old 04-24-2012   #3
mtriverrat's Avatar
Lewistown, middle of MT
Paddling Since: 1982
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Posts: 222
It is so variable that it's hard to give clear answers. How long you float depends on if you are trying to beat someone to a great campsite (Ledges) or you are being leisurely and stopping at all the wonderful stops along the way. How many times you flip a boat and have to reflip it for instance is a factor. The big factor is the wind. When it is blowing, which is a lot - it can stop you in your tracks. We had a list of places we planned to stop at, but it had to be fluid - because of the above factors your plan can be kaput.
If you lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. Winnie the Pooh
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Old 04-24-2012   #4
Catman's Avatar
Reston, Virginia
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 42
I don't plan to rush anything. Sept. or Oct. would be my preference. I figured about 15-20 miles/day depending on what happens. Without paddling (except in the rapids), how fast does a boat drift? If I know this, it'll hopefully give me an idea for planning daily goals of how much time we have to hike/sightseeing, and how much time/daylight can be spent at the campsites, etc...

So, if Johnny Walnut gets on the river at 10am and floats an average of 2.5mph, he should reach his next campsite around 4:30-5:30pm. Now I know a river doesn't always flow at the same speed, but there usually is some bit of predictability and that's one of the things I'm trying to figure out.

Mogur, I'll take your advice into major consideration about the Pearce Ferry takeout rather than Diamond Creek.
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Old 04-24-2012   #5
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2010
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As far as how many river miles per day like folks are saying is variable on our trip I think we avg. about 20-25 miles per day but we also had a day where we went 1 mile but did a really long side hike so really you would want to figure out what you want to do and plan your river miles around that, in other words days you want to hike are going to be low mile days but days where there are not good hikes are good days to make miles. Best time to go any time, if you want to have fun you will. Oh and if you can't have a good time in the canyon there is something wrong with you.
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Old 04-24-2012   #6
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,927
#4: Is a contrast to above advice. I will likely always takeout at Diamond now. The only benefits I see to going to Pierce is the decreased cost (that road is getting expensive) and a few more miles or pristine scenery. Most the canyon below there is an epic contrast to the scenery and experience above Diamond. Don't underestimate how many helicopters come in and out of that area on the hour (we counted a hundred+ in Jan in the five miles or so around QuarterMaster). I look forward to ending the canyon with a bang at Diamond next year.

Mileage and speed: Hard to tell on a 226 mile run. Varies with flow and section. The most likely range is an average between 2-4 mph. You could row harder and go faster. We had plans for camps and hikes and then decided.....let the canyon decide. Granted we didn't see anyone for more than 3 weeks in Jan (and then not until Diamond and only for one day). Our next trip is May 2013 and I am guessing the winds will play a very different role in our plans than before.

Hours on river: all depends on the personality of your trip. Do you like just being on the river and floating (like myself)? Do you like lazy mornings (like myself) or early rises? Are you seeking specific camps and hikes? Do plan on layovers? Do you have specific deadlines to reach Phantom (it doesn't have to be an equal split for the sections) or the takeout? Do you have a specific cutoff time for big rapids (ours was 3:00 pm for Jan to give us plenty of recovery time if we had a flip before dark)? What is your philosophy on scouting? (We scouted Badger so we all could get an idea of that scale, Horn so new passengers got a sense of scale, anything 7+ and then anytime someone wanted to). Scouting takes time that many people fail to allocate.

Ideal time: For me, not to be smart, its anytime I can get a permit. This means I have floated at odd times of the year (Jan and May). Because I apply for slots with less pressure (and have luck it seems) this will be my second trip in 4 years. If you don't mind dealing with worse odds in the lottery then I hear late March and mid-October are beautiful weather in GC. Every trip will have its costs and benefits so it is hard to define best and worst. Don't go in the winter if you can't suffer through cold and lots of rain (we had 6 days straight). Don't go in June-early Sept if you can't tolerate the heat. I hear wind is almost always an issue, which every other river I have done supports.

#4: Also, to be a little contrarian, I would prefer to not boat the GC with someone I don't have first hand experience with or who is new to the entire group. Interpersonal conflicts are gonna happen anytime you spend 3 weeks with people. Its nice knowing folk's triggers, preferences and body language before you embark so deep into the backcountry. I survived our interpersonal ordeals but it put a damper on several days.

Its a great river no matter how it all goes down. It will change your life.

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Old 04-24-2012   #7
wildh2onriver's Avatar
irvine, California
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 1,197
Getting on the river early, say by 9 ish Or earlier means you can choose a camp early. Also, you'll avoid afternoon winds more often than not. When we did 18 day trips several years back, we always managed to have 3 layover days without much effort. Wavester's trip a few years ago was able to have 2 layovers.

Stay in the current and push through the flat water and you'll average 3.5-4.5 miles per hour even with a scout or two.
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Old 04-24-2012   #8
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Someone may have mentioned already but I'll toss in a few of things to remember:

A few longer days on the river equal more layover days equals less rigging and more lounging and hiking.

The "tides" on the GC work out so you'll be working hard to make miles in the early part of the trip, then due to the timing of the higher flow pulses from power generation, you'll make lots of miles in the lower part.

Get the Martin and Whitis guidebook, get Lindemann's book also.

And have fun!
Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 04-25-2012   #9
Catman's Avatar
Reston, Virginia
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 42
Thank you everybody for all the sound advice. I can't wait for the chance to go on this trip. Hopefully I can pull a permit for 2014.

Speaking of permits, I heard that a good way to improve your chances is if each of the people (who've never been on a GC trip before) in your group apply for the same launch day and don't list anybody as a alternate trip leader. That way instead of having 5 names in the "hat," you could have maybe 30 names. I know that this could be risky if somebody had to bail out, but if you have a good core group of dedicated peeps, is this uncommon practice?
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Old 04-25-2012   #10
shattusi's Avatar
steamboat springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 23
a lot of personal party questions. i have been down a few times.each trip is different. one trip we worked hard covered like 18 to 21 miles a day, and we had 6 full layover days( i am a big fan of the layover. a lot less rigging, longer days on the river though. a lot more hiking and seeing the canyon world). we got up early AND FINISHED IN THE DARK WITH DISHES, SHORTER DAYS in the fall. this was a november trip. u r allowed more time in the off seasons also, we did 23 days. there is not always a lot of current in the inner canyon. it divers to the bottom like in westwater canyon. u r following the winding small current with huge eddies on both sides, a lot more rowing and less floating than i had originally thought. we used canyon r.e.o. for food. they did a great job. i do not think that i would want to go in the middle of summer. it seems like it would be an inferno. it was hard to get to sleep for me even on the early oct launch trip. the rocks held so much heat. i would have to get in to the river before i went to bed to cool down. bring sheets to sleep in. did not even want fires in the evening it was too hot to sit close, we had very big circle (far away) around it the few fires we did have. even taking out after thanksgiving, i did not need the 0 degree bag. never even frosted after the put in. there is a much better chance of getting a permit in the more off season, and less competition for camps and after nov like 5 no more motor rigs. we also had a rule of helping to set up the group stuff: kitchen, groover , firepan before people ran to find their ideal spot. there will always be the few who think their needs r more important than the group. this was the hardest part. group interworkings...there will always be some conflicts on a long trip with the same people and their same issues stuck in a small space for three weeks... everybody try to be extra patient with others. we had like 5 kayackers on our trip and 4 rafts. there was a lot of rigging, and being one of the captains got stuck with more than my share. while lazy kayackers sat on the beach and stretched or wandered. for future i would want each kayacker to be assigned to a boat to help with rigging. bring plenty of lotion. wear gloves when rigging.( saved my hands!) have a great time.

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