Grand Canyon Rafting Trip Options

River runners from around the world seek out the thrilling excitement of Colorado River Rafting through the Grand Canyon.  The Grand Canyon is know as one of the top ten whitewater rafting experiences in the world, and its reputation is well earned. Class 4 rapids are common, and the scenery is in a class of its own. With rapids like Lava Falls, hikes to hidden places like Elves Chasm, and remnants of both modern and ancient canyon explorers, who could pass up such an amazing opportunity? Grand Canyon Rafting offers many multi-day river trips from 4 days up to 2 weeks.  For those of you with less time you can also enjoy a one day whitewater rafting tour which will leave plenty of time to explore the other activities the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas have to offer.

For those of you want a little less excitement or have a family with young children, you can enjoy a smoothwater rafting trip.  These trips take place on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, just above Grand Canyon National Park.  The fees are less than the whitewater rafting trips and the scenery is still beautiful.  This mild float trip takes about a half a day, and makes several stops along the way, including the chance to view an ancient pictograph panel.


Experience the thrills of whitewater rafting on this one day adventure. The Hualapai River Runners have the only single day whitewater trip in the canyon. This trip departs from Peach Spring Arizona and includes a helicopter ride out of the canyon to get you back to the rim. Learn More about One Day Whitewater

If you want to truly experience rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon than a multi-day whitewater expedition is the only way to go. These rafting trips through Grand Canyon National Park are 3-14 days and use either motorized rafts or oar boats. Learn More about Multiple Day Whitewater

For visitors who want a more mellow rafting experience try a smoothwater float down the Colorado River. These trips go through Glen Canyon just above Grand Canyon National Park and offer very scenic and relaxing experience. Learn More about One Day Smoothwater 

Just below the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead is Black Canyon. This is another smoothwater trip on the Colorado River that offers amazing views on a beautiful section of the river and even some hot springs you can take a side hike to. Learn More about Colorado River Kayaking

If you're heading out for a day of rafting on the Grand Canyon it's important to be prepared. Check out our rafting preparation page to get all the facts. Learn More about Rafting Preparation


Rafting the Grand Canyon From Day One

Long before the advent of modern day whitewater rafting, Major John Wesley Powell led the first successful expedition of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869. Spanish for "Red River," the Colorado was so named for the red sediment of side tributaries flowing into the clear waters of the main river channel. On May 24, Powell embarked from Green River, Wyoming with nine men, four boats and ten month's worth of food. The group continued down to the confluence of the Green River flowing west into Utah, and it is here that the two rivers merged into the mighty Colorado. Powell sought out, among other things, to prove his theory that the River predated the Canyon and actually carved the Canyon as the land elevated.

Early in the trip, Frank Goodman quit the expedition, stating that at that point, the Colorado River had shown him enough excitement for an entire lifetime. Over the next couple months, the journey through the Grand Canyon proved itself to be dangerous and quite treacherous. The group encountered numerous rapids that, according to Powell, could not be run safely. The Major was a courageous, yet cautious leader, always mindful that they could lose supplies and perhaps even their lives. In such instances, they lined the boats down the side of the rapids, or carried boats and supplies through the rocks along the shoreline. There was, however, Grand Canyon whitewater that could not be evaded, and these rapids were rafted with some skill and a lot of luck. Late in the journey, Bill Dunn and the Howland brothers were convinced that they would not make it out alive if they continued on. They left the expedition the next morning, and Powell left his boat at the head of what is now called Separation Canyon should they change their minds. This all transpired ironically two days before the group reached the culmination of their journey at mouth of the Virgin River, after traversing almost 1,500 km. The three who left the group were later killed, the specifics being a subject of conjecture and speculation to this day. The official record states that they were killed by the Paiute Indians, however, some Powell biographers have raised the possibility of a Mormon ambush. John Wesley Powell was successful in proving his theory, and made a second expedition in 1871 to create a map and other research documents. 

River Rafting in the Early Days

Several other adventurous souls braved the river after Powell's expedition, creating some momentous firsts. In 1949, Ed Hudson and Dock Marston drove the first power boat through the Grand Canyon, the Esmerelda II, setting a record run of four and a half days. Two years later Jim and Bob Rigg rafted the length in two and a half days. Jimmy Jordan and Rod Sanderson were the first to use outboard motors on the river. But it was Gorgie Clark who, in 1947, pioneered white water river rafting as we now know it. With surplus of inflatable rafts from the war, Gorgie lashed 3 bridge pontoons with an outboard motor and carried upwards of 50 people and gear down the Grand Canyon. This boat, known as the G-rig, named for Gorgie Clark helped create the modern-day river rafting business.

Glen Canyon Dam

The Glen Canyon Dam Project began construction in 1956, and began blocking the flow of the Colorado River in 1963. The purpose of the dam is to provide water storage for the southwest, and to generate electricity for the region's growing population. Glen Canyon was chosen by the Bureau of Reclamation for several reasons: the basin could hold a huge amount of water; the Canyon walls and foundation were strong and stable enough to safely support the 3,700 ft. dam; and a large source of good rock and sand was available nearby. The dam has been controversial since its inception, because it caused the flooding of beautiful Glen Canyon and its tributaries to create a man-made reservoir, Lake Powell, which took 17 years to completely fill for the first time. However, if the Colorado was not dammed here, river rafting would not be possible during the summer because of low water levels in the Grand Canyon.

Environmental and Cultural Effects

The number of thrill seekers rafting the mighty Colorado of the Grand Canyon has increased exponentially since the time of John Wesley Powell's first expedition, but all these thrills are not without cost. In the flooding of Glen Canyon, countless natural and archaeological resources are lost forever. Although the National Park Service and other entities are making an effort to preserve the Grand Canyon for future generations, habitat along the Colorado River corridor is being eroded away, and some native plant and animal species are disappearing. It cannot be argued that the Glen Canyon Dam creates the summer river flows necessary for the whitewater rafting adventure of a lifetime, but in enjoying our natural wonders, it is important to be aware of the impact we cause and make a conscious effort to tread lightly.