Climb atop the great, twisting snake of
the Colorado River as it slithers and strikes through the
Grand Canyon's depths and take The Ride of Your
It is a place where day and night
arrive in their own languid time. Where all is sky, rock, and
river. Where sun and moon touch rocks 1.7 billion years old, where
water moves with a force that can pretzel steel, and the creak of
oars is the loudest sound. Where bighorn sheep follow your progress
while perched on ledges little wider than a pin, and within a mossy
nook, if you turn your head just so, a waterfall creates a gauzy
rainbow the size of a fingernail.
These are just words, and when it comes to rafting the Colorado
River through the Grand Canyon, words fail miserably. Numbers, too.
Between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead, the Colorado River flows 277
miles. The river's average depth is 35 feet; its average speed is 4
miles an hour; its temperature, coming as it does from the depths
of Glen Canyon Dam, 50 degrees. There are more than 160 rapids
within the Canyon's confines; in some, the river's speed increases
appreciably. "I was told rafting through the Grand Canyon would be
the best experience of my life," a woman once told me. "And rafting
the Grand Canyon would be the second best experience of my life,
and the third
Such whispers had reached me for years. So I decided to take the
only possible course. I went to see for myself.
Here's the best thing about rafting
down the Colorado. Unlike other grand adventures - climbing
Everest, meditating with puff adders - pretty much anyone can do
it. Choose to sign on with a professional river outfitter (the
waiting list for private trips is currently 15 years, though
cancellations can make the wait shorter), and most companies
require only that you be at least 12 years old for an oar trip and
8 to ride in a motorized craft. Other than that, you just have to
adjust to a single pertinent reality.