White Water Rafting in the Grand Canyon

September 27, 2012 by

Things to Do, Top Attractions, Tours & Activities

Rafting on the Colorado River

Rafting on the Colorado River. Photo credit: Ms President via Flickr.

If you’re a fan of river rafting, the Colorado River may be one of your ultimate destinations. With wild rapids, varying skill-level requirements and epic scenery, the Grand Canyon’s original creator (17 million years ago, anyway) offers unlimited fun times and adrenaline highs. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning  to go white water rafting in the Grand Canyon area:

Commercial or non-commercial.

For a variety of reasons, going with a tour agency is almost always the best way to go. Because of environmental restrictions, it can take a very long time for private permits to go through, and it’s also a big hassle to transport the necessary equipment. Joining a group is easy, quick, and immensely less stressful—as long as you book ahead.

Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s Grand Canyon recommendations.

Degree of difficulty.

Although the international scale of river ratings is I-VI (1-6), with I (1) being obstacle-free and VI (6) being impassable, the Colorado River’s course and level is so complicated and fickle that it is often rated on a 1-10 scale. When researching, check to make sure you know what scale is being used; for example, some agencies will say they take you on ‘class 5′ or ‘class 6′ rapids—that’s not the international scale!

What to bring.

Definitely pack rain gear, no matter what month you’re visiting—August is often the rainiest month. Of course, it’s fun to get splashed by the river (and you will get very wet while rafting), so bring appropriate clothing anyway. Sunscreen and a waterproof camera are good things to have on you, and you should check to see how much camping gear (tents, chairs, meals, drinks) is provided by your tour company so you can be sure to bring what isn’t.

Who can go.

There is often an age minimum for rafting trips, so double-check that everyone in your group is allowed. As far as any physical problems, talk with your group leader about opting out of strenuous side hikes during the trip if it’s a concern. Knowing how to swim is not always a necessity (life jackets are always provided), but if anyone is uncomfortable or unsure, this should be addressed beforehand. Naturally, there are limits to how many people can be seated on a raft, so factor in the size of your group when planning.


This cannot be stressed enough; some trips are booked up months or even a year in advance. To get the most out of your trip, think about what you’d like to do well before the time comes and try to get the preparations made as early as possible.

-Natalie Grant

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