Rafters in Middle Granite Gorge
Running the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a superb way to explore the canyon's backcountry, and floating the river with modern equipment is safe and easy. There are many excellent day hikes from the river that take you to places that are very difficult to reach from the rims.
Commercial River Trips
You can go on a commercial river trip with a river company operating under permit from the National Park Service. On these trips, professional river guides conduct the river trip, which are a half-day to 18 days in length. Most commercial trips are motorized but some companies offer oar-powered trips. If you have the time, oar-powered trips are the best, because you get to experience both the thrill of the whitewater and the awesome natural quiet of the Grand Canyon on the calm sections of the river between the rapids.
To participate in a commercial river trip, make reservations with one of the river companies.
One Day Trips
Half- and full-day river trips start from Lees Ferry at the head of Marble Canyon, and float through lower Glen Canyon, the section of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lees Ferry. While not part of Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon is visually stunning, and there is no white water on this trip. For more information, see Colorado River Discovery's website.
Other one day river trips start from Diamond Creek in the western Grand Canyon and end at Grand Canyon West. For information on these whitewater trips, see the Grand Canyon West website.
Three to 18 Day River Trips
These river trips all launch from Lees Ferry at the head of Marble Canyon. While the oar-powered rafts, motorized rafts, or dories float the entire length of the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead, trip participants can run shorter segments of the Colorado River by hiking the South Kaibab Trail to join or leave a river trip at Phantom Ranch in the eastern canyon.
Another option is to be picked up or dropped off by helicopter at Whitmore Wash in the western canyon. Flights from Whitmore Wash take river runners to Bar Ten Ranch, a private, working cattle ranch, where visitors may stay overnight and then fly out from the ranch airstrip.
Commercial River Companies
For information on river trips starting from Lees Ferry, the the park's list of authorized commercial outfitters.
Private River Trips
If you have the experience and the equipment, you can organize a private river trip of 3 to 25 days in length. Private trips are almost always oar-powered. Remember that the Colorado River through Grand Canyon is a technical run with many large, difficult rapids, and that river conditions change radically with water levels.
Private river trips require a permit which is issued via a lottery system. The lottery is necessary because the demand for permits far exceeds the number of permits available.
Three to Five Day River Trips
The shortest private river trips launch from Diamond Creek, which is located in the western Grand Canyon on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Permits are required from both the Hualapai Tribe, which owns the access road and put-in, and the National Park Service (the Colorado River is in the national park). For more information, see the National Park Service Diamond Creek website.
12 to 25 Day River Trips
These trips all launch from Lees Ferry at the head of Marble Canyon, and end at Diamond Creek in the western Grand Canyon, or at South Cove on Lake Mead below the Grand Canyon.
For more information on private trips starting from Lee's Ferry, see Private River Trips from Lees Ferry.
Private River Trip Regulations
Support Companies for Private River Trips
Additional information on both commercial and private river trips can be found on the Park's website.
We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! we may conjecture many things. -John Wesley Powell