Grand Canyon Travel Guide
Tribes: Who likes this place?
What the scores mean:
These scores tell you how well-liked a place is in each Tribe. Gogobot Tribes are groups who share a certain travel style, like Family Travelers or History Buffs.
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- 98%Outdoor Enthusiasts
- 82%Adventure Travelers
- 73%Family Travelers
- 66%Budget Travelers
- 57%History Buffs
- 54%Spiritual Seekers
Member Reviews (250)
- Grand CanyonMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsBudget Travelers+ 7Feb 02, 2014
One of the wonders of the world. Still has the power to move and to impress. I love Moab and Canyonlands, which are much denser in scenic beauty, but this should be on your bucket list.
- Grand CanyonAmbassadorMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsBudget Travelers+ 13Jan 16, 2014
Words cannot describe this wonder of the world, stunning and such a work of nature. I stood on the same railing that they did in the Brady Bunch, proud moment!
If you're an avid backpacker it takes a couple days, my grandfather has hiked from rim to rim several times. What a bada**!
- Grand CanyonJan 07, 2014
River Gods: Confessions of a Grand Canyon Guide
It all began, for me, at a meeting of the Canoe Cruisers Association, the Washington, D.C. chapter. In the midst of the button-down capital there is an underground of cutoffs and t-shirts that each weekend assembles by the banks of some Shenandoah or Appalachia river to rake the whitewater with paddles. A recent high school graduate searching for life’s passion, I joined up at the urging of my old Scout leader, and was immediately hooked. My summer weekends were consumed as I broached Grumman canoes and splintered white ash paddles on a cluster of Indian namesakes—Chattooga, Nantahala, Youghiogheny, Monongahela, Potomac.
My unwell-earned advice for Colorado River water (with help from TravelSmith)
Then, at a monthly meeting of the CCA, the main event was a home-made film of members who had canoed the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. As the screen flickered, a spell was cast. I was mesmerized: the waves seemed oceanic, ten times the size of anything I’d encountered on the Cheat or the Rappahannock, even in spring spate; the scale of everything crushed my mind—the canyon walls, the crests and troughs, the eddies, the wet grins. Some invisible, powerful hand reached from the screen and pulled me in like no $100 million movie ever had. I drove home with a monomaniacal craving: I had to run the Colorado, or die.
With no guiding background whatsoever, I composed a letter to the company that had outfitted the CCA, Hatch River Expeditions, and asked for a job, lying through my teeth about my vast experience. I had never rowed the Green; had never traveled west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But, something of my passion must have leaked through, as Ted Hatch, the owner, wrote me back: “Report to Lee’s Ferry April 28 for trip departing April 29. Welcome aboard.”
The flight into Page, Arizona, over the southern rim of the Colorado Plateau, across the brilliantly cross-bedded deposits of Navajo Sandstone that coat the escarpment, was gorgeous. I’d never seen such a vast expanse of uninhibited land, devoid of almost any sign of human presence. In the soft, coral flush of daybreak, I pressed my nose against the window in utter awe. Then, like a gash in the skin of the desert, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado appeared, a dark, crooked rip tearing across the landscape to the horizon.
My first job was to drive a winch-truck down to Lee’s Ferry from Page, Arizona, near the airport. It wasn’t easy for someone who had never used a clutch before, but despite a crushing conflict with the hanging plastic sign above the driveway of the Page Boy Motel, the trip was a success. I clutched and double-clutched the 50-mile route, crossed the 467-foot-high Navajo Bridge, and wheeled down the ramp at Lee’s Ferry.
A line of 33-foot-long World War II surplus pontoon bridges, refitted as passenger-carrying rafts, were being inflated by gasoline generators. Stepping out into the dry, 95-degree heat, I faced my colleagues to be, and for the first time encountered river guides. Ten of them. Bronzed beyond belief, muscles like a Rodin sculpture, hair thick and bleached by the desert sun, Skoal stains on their chins. One sported a tattoo, a fly chasing a spider. Everyone seemed several inches taller than my 6’1” frame, and at least 20 pounds heavier—all gristle and sinew. As I made the rounds of introductions, I felt as out of place as a white-tailed deer in a pen of mountain lions. What was I doing here? If I’m fired, I thought, I’ll hitch to Vegas and find a job as a bellboy.
I’d never met anyone like these people. Exuding lava flows of confidence, fitter than any lifeguard, they went about their tasks with pure confidence and blithe indifference. Not a one spoke with the enforced sense of grammar and syntax that had filled my upbringing. All were from the West, and a different culture prevailed. Here, style, smile and tan made nobility.
I was assigned the cook boat, piloted by 26-year-old Dave Bledsoe, a black-headed bear of a boy, son of a Lake Mead marina manager. Sharing the raft with me was Rick Petrillo and trainee Jim Ernst. Our job was to precede the ten-raft armada to each camp and set up the commodes and kitchen. Each morning, after our passengers from the Four Corners Geological Society departed, we would remain behind to clean camp and bury the mountain of trash and excrement that 110 geologists, 10 boatmen, 10 assistants, 4 trainees and 1 swamper (me) had left behind.
As we launched into the swirl of green that is today’s Colorado—the silt that led Spanish explorers to name it “red colored” now settles out in the reservoir 15 miles upstream behind Glen Canyon Dam—I was grabbed by a view as absurdly otherworldly to me as that of another planet. Mesas, side canyons, bosses, ramparts, benches, monoclines, and faults all shared the intimidating landscape. This was the place I wanted to be. I went into high gear, playing vassal to river guide Dave, and saw the Canyon in all its glory. In turn, Dave showed me the ropes, literally, from half-hitches to the layered rock history. His syllabus was the open textbook of 1.7 billion years of exposed geology, more than a third of the earth’s 4.6 billion year age. His lectures were filled with tales of crusty hermits and florid raconteurs, of the gold-miners’ greed and the romantics’ bitter comeuppance.
Within the depth of this holy gash, as the rapids came one after another and the space between the walls narrowed, I soon learned that river guides were moved to create a myth or two.
I witnessed and was part of an odd transformation that took place that summer. Ordinary people---many college dropouts, ski bums and ranchers’ sons from the hard-scrabble patches of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona—became extraordinary on the river. They turned into men who faced danger with chests and chins thrust forward, with a smug curl of a smile under any circumstance or crisis. People who were a bit soft or insecure around the house turned gneiss-hard on the Colorado, resolute souls who held together when Ivy League lawyers, doctors and corporate CEOs panicked. They were men who lured wives away, if only for a fortnight, with the arch of an eyebrow; men who lived by wits and wile and animal resourcefulness in a Spartan way: with a pair of sun-faded shorts, a Buck knife, a sleeping bag, a bottle of Jim Beam, and a pair of pliers.
The subjects of these myths—and their perpetuators—are the boatmen themselves. Most river guides are quick to capitalize on their center stage position: they sing off-key before appreciative audiences, they tell bad jokes that send laughter reverberating between the Supai sandstone walls; they play rudimentary recorder as passengers sway revival style. Most of all, though, every guide takes advantages of the rapids—all 161 of them. Those white knots in the river’s long, emerald ribbon are chances to shine, to polish the legend of the dauntless river guide.
As big and visually impressive as the Colorado rapids appear, they are, by most measures, relatively safe. If a raft flips, wraps, broaches, jackknifes, tube-stands, noses under, or all of the above, the entire crew could swim the rapid from tongue to tail waves and everyone would almost certainly emerge intact in the quiet water below. But the boatman seldom admits to the rapids’ general forgiveness. That’s a secret.
The script calls for high drama at each cataract, and the river guide knows how to milk the scene dry: “Hold on tight. The next one’s a killer.”
All this theater reaches its climax at Mile 179—Lava Falls. Formed of flows from eruptions within the last million years, it was named by John Wesley Powell upon his arrival at its chapped lip on August 25, 1869. He was the first boatman to wax dramaturgically about the volcanic intrusion. “What a conflict of water and fire there must have been here! Just imagine a river of molten rock running down into a river of melting snow. What a seething and boiling of the waters: what clouds of steam rolled into the heavens!”
Rimmed with black, burnished rock, chopped into a mess of crosscurrents and nasty sharp holes, the rapid drops 37 feet in 100 yards. It has been clocked at 35 miles-per-hour, claiming title as fastest navigable water in America. Statistics notwithstanding, Lava Falls strikes terror in the hearts of first-timers---swampers and boatmen included. It appears so angry, confused and huge, with no evident passage, that the initial urge is to look for a hidden staircase out of the canyon or a bush to crouch behind. It is all quite deceptive, nonetheless. Wherever a boat enters this thundering, fuming, spitting monument to chaos, the chances are better than even it will issue upright at the bottom. If a boat flips—and many do—the passengers have the swim of their lives. But they bob out okay, unscathed, almost every time.
For the river guide, however, the performance begins days upstream with a casual campfire mention of the upcoming conflagration. The anecdotes build over guacamole salad, with tales of near-disasters, party to or witnessed. Then one day it dominates the conversation over breakfast, building to a crescendo as the boats float downstream to Vulcan’s Anvil. This basaltic neck, the core of an ancient volcano, now sits mid-river one mile above Lava Falls—looking, some boatman say, like a 40-foot-high tombstone. From this point a respective silence descends, and the boats drift closer to the low, guttural groan of Lava.
The boatman’s danse macabre begins at Lava’s lip. The boats are beached, and the guides climb to the sacred vantage, a basalt boulder some 50 feet above the cataract. Once there, weight shifts from heel to heel, fingers point, heads shake, and faces fall. This is high drama, serious stuff---the white stuff….and passengers eat it up. This is the reason people spend good money to sleep on hard ground, eat stew mixed
- Grand CanyonMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsBudget Travelers+ 8Dec 03, 2013
It is definitely one of my favorite places in the world! Just avoid the crowds and go to the less popular areas! Especially the ones you can only get to by car! the Sunrise can be cold BUT the pictures come out beautiful because of the contrast in colors!
- Grand CanyonMember ofOutdoor EnthusiastsBudget TravelersAdventure TravelersNov 28, 2013
You can't help to feel anything but tiny when standing over this immense hole in the ground. You have absolutely no sense of how big the canyon actually is. Standing at the rim, you can't tell that it's about a mile deep. But don't just stand at the top and look down, hike down into it and get familiar with it. You will be amazed!
- Grand CanyonMember ofLocal CultureFoodiesWellness+ 2Nov 16, 2013
One of the 7 wonders of the world. I believe its a must see for anyone... I was so astonished how big and deep it is. I could sit there and stare out for days and not get bored. Some of the sections are a little dangerous in that you can walk over to the edge with out any guard rails. I laid down and put my head over- gave me one of the biggest adrenaline rushes ive ever had. I couldnt recommend it more
- Grand Canyon
- Grand CanyonMember ofLocal CultureOutdoor EnthusiastsFoodies+ 4Sep 01, 2013
i have been here 3 times over a period of 25 years and every time i stand at the edge, i feel the same awe and wonder. The circus around the south rim visitor circus is a bit too "touristy" for me, but anywhere else and especially the more isolated north rim is wonderful.
- Grand CanyonFeb 18, 2014
Do you want to experience a breathtaking site? here you go, the grand canyon! you cannot explain the feelings when you are looking at this amazing site! I am very amazed with the rocks formations. indeed a very beautiful creation for a mankind! though it is very hot because it's summer, I still very much appreciate the site and scenery. I flew to Vegas then drove 3hours just to see grand canyon, it's worth it! come see it yourself and be amazed too!!!
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Aliases: Grand Canyon National Park