Kayaking the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon


kayaker taking a break on the Colorado River, looking at the geology of the Grand Canyon.

Kayaking the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is considered an adventure of a lifetime for many white water kayakers. With rapid names like Lava Falls, Sockdolager (archaic slang for knock-out blow), Granite and Upset – you know you are in for some fun times! The Colorado is known for it’s big volume of whitewater – with water levels controlled by the Glen Canyon Dam releases.

There are different options for going down the Colorado – you can choose to put together a private trip and you take care of all the logistics or you can choose one of the outfitters that already have permits for river trips and they take care of logistics. If you would like to kayak, you will need to find a trip that caters to kayakers or put together your own private trip.

If you aren’t an advanced kayaker, but still would like to spend some time not in a raft, you might bring along a “ducky” or inflatable kayak on your trip:

grandcanyon_duckyDepending on the outfitter and your skill level – you can run some rapids in the ducky – which is a lot of fun – that is what I usually choose during my last 3 trips down the Colorado!

One of my favorite parts of this trip is the fact that you can really unplug from the world – there is no cell phone covereage, no wi-fi, no access to news (or you have to use a Sat phone – so that limits the number of people with access). So you can really relax and just focus on the river, the hikes and the people on your trip – which for me is a great way to re-energize.

Here are some resources to help you with trip planning:

  • National Parks Service – they run the permitting for the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park
  •  - Belknap’s Waterproof Grand Canyon River Guide – some of the outfitters give you a copy of this guide at the start of the trip. It contains information about animals, plants, rapids, hikes and history.
  • - There’s This River… Grand Canyon Boatman Stories, by Christa Sadler – A great book with stories from different river trips.
  •  - Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, expanded 10 year anniversary edition. by Michael P. Ghiglieri, Thomas M. Myers. If you are the type that wants to be prepared for worst case scenarios – then this book gives details about deaths occuring both on the rim and at the river.

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