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Arizona

Rafting Grand Canyon’s Granite Gorge

Program No. 21044RJ
Few adventures in life can match the thrill of rafting the Colorado River. Come experience this journey as you join local experts to raft through the Grand Canyon and learn a whole lot!
Length
7 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
2,299

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DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 25 - May 1, 2023
Starting at
2,299
May 9 - May 15, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Sep 19 - Sep 25, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Oct 3 - Oct 9, 2023
Starting at
2,299
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 25 - May 1, 2023
Starting at
2,499
May 9 - May 15, 2023
Starting at
2,499
Sep 19 - Sep 25, 2023
Starting at
2,499
Oct 3 - Oct 9, 2023
Starting at
2,499

At a Glance

Rafting the Colorado River through Grand Canyon's Granite Gorge is the best way to access spectacular rapids and remote beaches. Experience the canyon on a hike-and-raft expedition in a little-seen part of western Grand Canyon uncovering a geologic past stretching back almost 2 billion years! Local experts provide knowledge and leadership on river and trail and prepare meals as you relax on spectacular riverside campsites.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Hiking 2-5 miles. Rafting three days. Sleeping in tents on a pad with sleeping bag. Daytime summer temperatures in the inner canyon can exceed 100 F. Elevations up to 7,000 feet.
Micro Group
Micro Group
These adventures feature our smallest group size, with 12 participants or fewer.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Camp for three days in the Grand Canyon and raft the Granite Gorge through thrilling whitewater rapids.
  • Study the geologic and natural history of the Grand Canyon with a geologist/naturalist.
  • Spend a day hiking in Grand Canyon National Park for a comprehensive view of this incomparable destination.

General Notes

This is a Micro Group program, with 12 or fewer participants. River permits cannot be acquired until five months prior to program start date. Check with Road Scholar before purchasing plane tickets as program dates may change. Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Sherri O'Neil
Sherri O’Neil grew up in Connecticut. Backpacking in Grand Canyon in the early 1990s, she decided to live and work there. She worked for the National Park Service as an Interpretive Ranger and Backcountry Ranger for nearly a decade. Sherri has hiked thousands of miles and led ranger programs and groups studying archaeology, ethnobotany, and geology. She rafted the Colorado River during science research projects and studied anthropology and archaeology at Northern Arizona University. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and a Wilderness First Responder.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Sherri O'Neil
Sherri O'Neil View biography
Sherri O’Neil grew up in Connecticut. Backpacking in Grand Canyon in the early 1990s, she decided to live and work there. She worked for the National Park Service as an Interpretive Ranger and Backcountry Ranger for nearly a decade. Sherri has hiked thousands of miles and led ranger programs and groups studying archaeology, ethnobotany, and geology. She rafted the Colorado River during science research projects and studied anthropology and archaeology at Northern Arizona University. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and a Wilderness First Responder.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Writing Down the River: Into the Heart of the Grand Canyon
by Collection of Authors
Copious, dramatic color photographs and poetic quotations illustrate these essays describing the whitewater rafting experiences of 15 prominent female writers sent down the Colorado River during the summer of 1997.
The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons
by Powell, John Wesley
Full text of Powell's 1,000-mile expedition down the fabled Colorado in 1869. Superb account of terrain, geology, vegetation, Indians, famine, mutiny, treacherous rapids, mighty canyons. 240 illustrations. 432pp
Woman of the River: Georgie White Clark, White-Water Pioneer
by Richard E. Westwood
Georgie White Clark-adventurer, raconteur, eccentric--first came to know the canyons of the Colorado River by swimming portions of them with a single companion. She subsequently hiked and rafted portions of the canyons, increasingly sharing her love of the Colorado River with friends and acquaintances. At first establishing a part-time guide service as a way to support her own river trips, she went on to become perhaps the canyons' best-known river guide, introducing their rapids to many others-on the river, via her large-capacity rubber rafts, and across the nation, via magazine articles and movies. Georgie Clark saw the river and her sport change with the building of Glen Canyon Dam, enormous increases in the popularity of river running, and increased National Park Service regulation of rafting and river guides. Adjusting, though not always easily, to the changes, she helped transform an elite adventure sport into a major tourist activity.
Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, Theories, and Mystery
by Ranney, Wayne
Ranney explains how rivers in general can physically carve canyons, looks chronologically at the numerous theories that have been presented by successive generations of geologists regarding the Grand Canyon's formation, and describes a plausible sequence of geologic events that could create such a landscape. Numerous color photographs, detailed illustrations, and maps are provided. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR 160pp; 2nd edition 2012.
Living at the Edge: Explorers, Exploiters, and Settlers of the Grand Canyon Region
by Anderson, Michael F
A comprehensive look at the pioneer history of the Grand Canyon Region, from its earliest residents to the creation of the national park at the end of the pioneer era (circa 1920). Included are close to two hundred historic photographs, many never published before, and 12 custom maps of the region. 184pp
The Emerald Mile
by Kevin Fedarko
In the spring of 1983, massive flooding along the length of the Colorado River confronted a team of engineers at the Glen Canyon Dam with an unprecedented emergency that may have resulted in the most catastrophic dam failure in history. In the midst of this crisis, the decision to launch a small wooden dory named “The Emerald Mile” at the head of the Grand Canyon, just fifteen miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam, seemed not just odd, but downright suicidal. The Emerald Mile, at one time slated to be destroyed, was rescued and brought back to life by Kenton Grua, the man at the oars, who intended to use this flood as a kind of hydraulic sling-shot. The goal was to nail the all-time record for the fastest boat ever propelled—by oar, by motor, or by the grace of God himself—down the entire length of the Colorado River from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. Did he survive? Just barely. Now, this remarkable, epic feat unfolds here, in The Emerald Mile.
Sunk Without a Sound
by Brad Dimock
Grand Canyon, this adventure / mystery / biography details the true story of Glen and Bessie Hyde, who vanished on their 1928 honeymoon river trip through Grand Canyon. When they did not appear at journey's end, Glen's father launched an exhaustive search of Grand Canyon. Although the boat was soon found upright and fully loaded, no trace of the honeymooners was ever found. They had vanished from the face of the earth. Or had they? In the years since, four people appearing to be either Glen or Bessie have emerged, each with a tale implying murder and mayhem. Author and boatman Brad Dimock has unearthed the true story of the Hydes, followed each tale to its source, and gone so far as to retrace the Hydes' fateful voyage in a replica of their archaic scow.
The Man Who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through the Grand Canyon
by Fletcher, Colin
The remarkable classic of nature writing by the first man ever to have walked the entire length of the Grand Canyon. 256pp
Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West
by Stegner, Wallace
Here Wallace Stegner, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, gives us a thrilling account of Powell's struggle against western geography and Washington politics. We witness the successes and frustrations of Powell's distinguished career, and appreciate his unparalleled understanding of the West. "Stegner's most exciting work." (San Francisco Chronicle) 496pp
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis
by Glennon, Robert
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas casinos use billions of gallons of water for fountains, pirate lagoons, wave machines, and indoor canals. Meanwhile, the town of Orme, Tennessee, must truck in water from Alabama because it has literally run out. Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wickedly comical. Unquenchable reveals the heady extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that are sucking the nation dry.
I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People
by Hirst, Stephen
I Am the Grand Canyon is the story of the Havasupai people. From their origins among the first group of Indians to arrive in North America some 20,000 years ago to their epic struggle to regain traditional lands taken from them in the nineteenth century, the Havasupai have a long and colorful history. The story of this tiny tribe once confined to a too small reservation depicts a people with deep cultural ties to the land, both on their former reservation below the rim of the Grand Canyon and on the surrounding plateaus. 276pp
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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Flagstaff, AZ
D
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:30 - 4:45 p.m. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table in the hotel meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to learn the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: 4:45 - 5:15 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. 5;30 - 6:15 p.m.: The river staff will conduct an orientation focused on the rafting portions of the program. Each person will receive one large and one small dry bag to pack their things into. Space is ample in these bags as sleeping bags and pads are packed separately. We’ll also discuss packing suggestions and what to expect on the river. Luggage you do not bring on the river can be stored safely at the hotel until we return. For questions, contact the Program Provider (Northern Arizona University) at (928) 523-2359; or RoadScholarprograms@nau.edu Unless noted otherwise, field trips will be conducted by our Group Leader, a seasoned and experienced naturalist, who will also function as our Study Leader. Transportation will be provided primarily by passenger vans unless specified otherwise. Be prepared for repeatedly getting on/off the raft, helping to carry gear to set up camp, and camping on sandy beaches. Some beach areas may be small and camping spots will be relatively close together. Camp will be exposed to the elements. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: After walking to a nearby restaurant, we’ll enjoy plated meals with appetizers, soups, an extensive salad bar with more than 50 fresh items including seasonal and specialty salads, just picked vegetables, fresh fruits, and desserts, plus soft drinks, coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Following dinner, enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure.

DAY
2
Grand Canyon National Park South Rim
Flagstaff, AZ
B,L,D
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Driving about 90 miles one way to Grand Canyon, approximately 1.5 hours. Hiking about 1-2 miles, approximately 2-3 hours with stops; well-maintained packed dirt trails. Elevation of 6,800 feet with change of about 150 feet.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with choices such as waffles, hard boiled eggs, fresh fruits, pastries, bagels, cereals, and muffins, plus juices, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll board our vans and travel to Grand Canyon National Park for a hike with our Group Leader. From the South Rim, we’ll enjoy sweeping canyon views from various vantage points and begin to gain a perspective of the canyon's immense size. We’ll also catch glimpses of the Colorado River that will be our home for the next three days. Our Group Leader will share and interpret the park's natural and historic features throughout the day as we walk.

Lunch: During our hike, we’ll have sack lunches including a sandwich, fruit, chips, a cookie, and water.

Afternoon: Continuing to explore rim viewpoints, we’ll also see the historical Grand Canyon Village and other points of interest. Highlights of the village include the Kolb Brothers Photography Studio and the buildings of Santa Fe Railroad designer Mary Jane Colter including the Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio and the Hopi House. With our Group Leader, we’ll join back together at the east end of the village to visit the 100 year old El Tovar Hotel, one of the great hotels in the National Park System. From the village boardwalk, we’ll be able to see the North Rim and various spires and buttes rising from the canyon floor. We’ll also have time to explore rim trails and admire canyon vistas.

Dinner: At a local restaurant with a variety of entrée choices, we’ll have plated meals with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to pack up your river gear and rest up for our early transfer in the morning for our rafting campout.

DAY
3
Rafting Lower Granite Gorge Canyon
Grand Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Colorado River Campsite

Activity note: Driving about 140 miles; approximately 3 hours. Walking about 1 mile; approx. 1 hour; river shores are sandy, rocky terrain that requires some agility. Getting on/off raft; help carry personal and group gear to set up camp; camping on sandy beaches. Rafting up to 10 miles throughout the day; class 3 rapids. The Colorado River uses a 1-10 rapid rating scale; Class 3 rapids rated 6 – 7's locally; intensity of rapids depends on river conditions at the time of program.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll travel along parts of historic Route 66 and the Hualapai Indian Reservation to our launch point down the only road to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the Diamond Creek Road, which is a thrilling experience itself. As we descend into the canyon, the red rock walls will seem to rise and soon engulf us. The final 20 miles of our drive today are over a dirt road, sometimes bumpy. Upon arrival, we’ll board our rafts at the Diamond Creek beach and start our journey down lower Granite Gorge, the final 56 miles of the Grand Canyon and John Wesley Powell's "Great Unknown." Commentary will be provided en route by raft leaders and our Road Scholar Group Leader. Rafts are 16 and 18 foot "Oar Frame" pontoon style rafts with an attached metal frame. The boatman pilots and powers the raft using 2 oars situated in the oar frame. Passengers sit on top of the rubber pontoons or on top of gear boxes. There are strong nylon straps (webbing) to hold onto in the rapids. Depending on weather and the groups interest, the raft company may also bring one "paddle raft" so participants can be involved with the navigation of the boat and a few inflatable kayaks to enjoy on the flat portion of the river (no rapids). Final determination on the array of boats will be announced during our orientation meeting with the rafting leaders on night one.

Lunch: On a beach along the river, we’ll stop for a buffet meal of cold cuts, other assorted goodies, and beverages.

Afternoon: We’ll load our personal gear into the rafts, have a safety orientation on shore, then be off to face our first rapids and experience thrilling Class 3 size white water. Expect splashing and hold on! Our first stop will be at Travertine Grotto for a hike while our knowledgeable Group Leader expands on the fascinating story of Grand Canyon's geology and natural history. If you prefer not to join in the hike, you may wish to relax or explore the area on your own before we continue traveling down the Colorado River. Upon arrival at our campsite after continuing downstream, we’ll help the crew unload the communal cooking equipment, food, and personal gear from the boats. We’ll each find our own space to set up on the sandy beach. Camp will be exposed to the elements and tents will always be available, but under clear skies most participants opt not to set up a tent and, instead, sleep under the stars. Some beach areas may be small and camping spots will be relatively close together. We will hope for and frequently enjoy balmy days but be prepared for shifts in the weather including cold fronts and wind. Once camp is set up, the crew will prepare a meal. A group toilet system will be set up at camp each evening, with a thorough orientation to the system and hygiene. During the day, female and male areas will be identified along the shoreline and bushes with a discussion of correct protocol.

Dinner: In the beautiful riverside setting, we’ll have freshly prepared buffet meals every night. You may offer to help the crew in prep and clean up.

Evening: At leisure. Settle in for the evening and enjoy chatting with new friends under the stars. Be ready to pack up camp and continue downstream in the morning.

DAY
4
Rafting & Rapids
Grand Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Colorado River Campsite

Activity note: Getting on/off raft; rafting between 10 and 20 miles throughout the day; class 3 rapids. The Colorado River uses a 1-10 rapid rating scale; Class 3 rapids rated 6 – 7's locally; intensity of rapids depends on river conditions at the time of program. Elective hikes of approximately 1/2 to 2 miles available; even, sandy, rocky trail; elevation changes up to 500 feet on some hikes. Helping to carry gear and set up/break down camp.

Breakfast: Wake up early to the shout of “coffeeeeee!” as our rafting leaders prepare a tasty buffet meal, which will change daily. Choices include, depending on the day, an egg dish, French toast, fresh fruit, breakfast meats, bagels, juice, water. All river meals will be buffets.

Morning: We’ll break camp and help load the raft before floating downstream with commentary provided by our Group Leader and river experts on the geological, natural, and human history of the area. On our way, we’ll encounter more rapids and, for those who wish, go on an exploration of side canyons including a hike in Bridge Canyon. In addition to learning more specifics of geology and canyon history, we’ll also stop at Separation Canyon. This historically significant spot is where, after months of challenges, turmoil and deprivation, three members of the famous 1869 Powell Expedition left the river trip to strike out on their own and attempt to hike out of the canyon rim. They were never seen again. Our experts will tell the rest of the story.

Lunch: Buffet lunch on a canyon beach.

Afternoon: We’ll continue rafting down the river, deeper into the Grand Canyon, with stops for short side hikes. Our river experts will provide commentary and interpretation of passing sights. We’ll then land and make camp.

Dinner: River camp buffet.

Evening: At leisure. Enjoy the evening chatting with the group, writing in your journal or looking up from your camp spot as the stars begin to pop out. Be ready to pack up camp and continue downstream in the morning.

DAY
5
Following the Rhythm of the River, Halfway Point
Grand Canyon, AZ
B,L,D
Colorado River Campsite

Activity note: Getting on/off raft multiple times, helping to carry gear and set up camp. Hiking approximately 1/2 mile, about 1 hour, over sandy, rocky terrain. Rafting up to 15 miles throughout the day; mostly flat water today as we have typically passed the rapids by this point of the trip. Help carry gear to break down/set up camp.

Breakfast: Riverside camp buffet.

Morning: We’ll continue floating downstream, running rapids, and learning more about how to “read” the river. As we go, we’ll float within view of the now famous Grand Canyon Skywalk. Located 3,500 feet above the river, the horseshoe shaped glass walkway juts out over the rim of the canyon giving visitors a thrilling view of the canyon below their feet.

Lunch: Buffet on a canyon beach.

Afternoon: As we continue rafting downstream, we’ll take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves for exploring side canyons, going on hikes, or other activities as determined by our river experts based on factors such as the itinerary, timing, and local conditions. At some point during this day the rapids run out and the river becomes primarily flat water. To get us down the river the boats use an outboard motor as the flow is not enough to enable us to cover the miles we have to go.

Dinner: River camp buffet.

Evening: At leisure. Another evening in a different camp with a different view. Life doesn't get much better than this! Be ready to pack up camp and conclude our river adventure in the morning.

DAY
6
Explore the Grand Canyon, Return to Flagstaff
Flagstaff, AZ
B,L,D
La Quinta Inn & Suites Flagstaff

Activity note: Breaking down camp and assisting with unloading the boats and packing gear. Driving approx. 220 miles to Flagstaff; about 4 hours. Getting on/off raft; rafting up to 10 miles throughout the day; no rapids as we flow into the backed up waters of Hoover Dam. Help carry gear to break down camp/load gear.

Breakfast: Riverside camp buffet.

Morning: We’ll break camp for the last time and raft the final stretch of the river through the Grand Canyon as we quickly pass the Grand Wash Cliffs make our way to the farthest reaches of Lake Mead. The river take out is at Pearce Ferry landing, site of a historic pioneer Mormon river crossing. We’ll then unload the boats of our personal gear.

Lunch: Buffet on a canyon beach.

Afternoon: After loading the vans, we’ll transfer to Flagstaff with arrival back in “civilization” expected in the afternoon. We’ll check in to our hotel rooms and no doubt jump into a well-deserved hot shower!

Dinner: At a local Greek restaurant, we’ll have plated meals for our farewell dinner together, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: We’ll gather one last time together as a group at the hotel for a program wrap-up, impressions, and final reflections. Then be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
7
Program Concludes, Independent departures
Flagstaff, AZ
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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