The snow is melting fast, Spring Breaking families are streaming to the South Rim, and the birds are turning up the volume. These are all surefire signs that the backpacking and river running seasons are upon us at Grand Canyon National Park. I’ve covered both of these activities extensively in this column, and regularly participate in both. But rafting is on my mind today with my next trip just a few weeks away, so I’ll focus on the world-class whitewater experience that over 20,000 lucky souls will enjoy this year.
The season more or less kicks off every year with the Guide Training Seminar that takes place at the end of March near Marble Canyon, Arizona, located just a few miles from Lees Ferry, the launching point for most Grand Canyon rafting trips. This event is sponsored by the nonprofit Grand Canyon River Guides and features excellent speakers, workshops, service projects, hikes, and a party or two. It’s mostly geared towards boatmen and outfitters, but there are public sessions as well (see link below). After that, a new season is christened, and the launches of both private and commercial trips ramp up dramatically, hitting a crest in midsummer, and trailing off in early October.
Waiting for the salty old veterans and bucket-listers alike are raucous rapids, sandy beaches, waterfalls, soaring cliffs, intriguing plants and animals, and a chance to spend quality time with kindred spirits. If you’d like to join the fun this year, you’ll want to call one of the licensed commercial outfitters right away as available spots will be in short supply as most people book a year or two in advance. A link to the National Park Service webpage describing the various types of trips, and other helpful information, can be found below. Here’s to another safe, and exciting year of river running through what John Wesley Powell called “the great unknown”!