April 23, 2016

4/2/16 - Colorado River Raft Trip

We stopped at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center so George could get new Passport Stamps from Lake Powell National Recreation Area.  The building perches on the top of the canyon and we could look down and see the lake and the dam and the river.

While I was standing there, I saw a couple of big rubber rafts come up river and apparently tie up to the bare canyon wall on the Arizona side.  We couldn't figure out what they were.  Soon they were joined by more rafts--and then more rafts.  It looked like something interesting going on, but there was only one person in the raft, and no one waiting on shore.  Weird...

I found a ranger and asked about the rafts.  She handed me a brochure from Colorado River Rafting, a concessionaire with the NPS.  (Wow--missed that one! I usually do my homework better than that.)  I checked it out on-line and made reservations for a Half-Day Colorado River Float Trip.

We met up at the Colorado River Discovery store in Page to check in.  I browsed around inside for a bit then we went outside and sat down on the patio and talked to a couple from England until the buses arrived.

After going through a security gate, we drove to the base of the dam through a dark 2-mile long access tunnel. Sometimes all we could see were the dash lights from the bus and then there'd be a flash of light off to the left where we could see daylight.  Mostly it was just dark.  Once we were back out in the sunshine, we found we really were at the base of the dam.  It's a really big dam!
We had to put on some funky hard hats to walk from the buses to the water.  Apparently people sometimes toss stuff off the bridges.  I hardly think the hard hats would keep us from getting hurt, but it must fill in someone's checkbox.  (Manual of Cautionary Procedures for Tourists in Governmental Facilities.)  Looks a lot different looking up.
As each boat got full, they cast off and started down the canyon.
Our guide was Native American and he shared a lot about his culture, as well as interesting info about the dam and the canyon. At one point he sang to us in his language. That was pretty cool! 
Remember when I said that as we drove through the access tunnel, there would sometimes be a flash of daylight? When they built it, they didn't just cart the debris back out through the tunnel--they punched holes out through the side and dumped the fallen rock into Glen Canyon. Now those holes are used for ventilation.  I think it's pretty cool.
The rafts just float down the river, and there's hardly a ripple in the water. This is smooth, lazy rafting, not wet white water stuff.  The Navajo sandstone of the canyon walls comes in many colors.  The black coating is called "desert varnish" and is actually manganese oxide; the red and orange is iron oxide.
Our guide pointed a pair of ospreys out to us. I know there's a shortage of trees in the desert, but I don't know why these birds prefer nesting platforms to more traditional ledges in the rocks. Maybe these are modernistic birds of prey.
There's more shoreline than I expected, although in many places the vertical walls go straight down into the water.  If there's soil, stuff grows.  There's certainly enough water.
The guide showed us where there's a natural trail down into the canyon from the rim.  I thought he called it the Steps Trail, but it could have been called the Ropes Trail. He said it's about a mile and a half, and he used to take his kids when they were little, using the ropes that are strung to help across the really steep part.  Don't think I could talk George into that one!
We came around this big rock at a bend of the river where there were other rafts pulled up to the shore.  This was our rest stop, a chance for lunch, a pit stop, and a stroll past wildflowers to the Petroglyph Panel to view the petroglyphs.
Back to the boat and then downriver to Horseshoe Bend. Just to the left of the middle are people who hiked up the dune so they could look down on the dramatic bend in the river. Looking up at the tiny people up on the rim isn't quite as impressive as looking down on the boats in the water.  (Horseshoe Bend 2012)  We went around the bend just past a sandy campground and then we twirled a bit in the water, for those who could figure out how to do a 360 panorama with their cameras. That wasn't me.
We'd spent a little too much time on the river, so we had to hustle a bit going up river. Apparently these guys in the other raft had to catch an earlier bus because they blew past us.
Then it was back to the dam, back to the bus, back to the store, then back home.  Start to finish it was over 4-1/2 hours. Think we got our money's worth on this one!

More pictures (yes, really!) of the Colorado Raft Trip.

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