Grand Canyon: Small Boats, Big Water

Traditionally, the Colorado has been a big-raft destination only. However, thanks to changes in the National Park Service river regulations, it is now possible for advanced paddlers to run this greatest of American rivers on a raft-supported kayak trip.
Though most of the river is fairly smooth and quiet, in spots the Colorado features the most outrageous hydraulics and standing waves that you'll find anywhere in North America. These can be negotiated with relative ease in a large raft, but in something as small as a kayak, you have to be awfully good to make it through in one piece. For this reason, any kayak expedition should be accompanied by a support raft which can carry the kayaks and their crews through the most hazardous sections.

Practically Speaking
Although the Park Service does allow properly qualified private kayak groups to run the Colorado, access to the river has been tightly controlled, and the waiting period for kayak permits can be as long as two years. The only way to run the river any time soon is with a regularly scheduled commercial trip. Most kayakers and whitewater canoeists who run the Colorado now do so in conjunction with a commercial rafting trip.
Trips run from May through October and cost about $185 per day including food and raft support, but not kayak rental. Multiple-day trips are also available, most stretching from 12 to 14 days and cost around $2,500. Most trips are booked up to six months in advance in many cases, so advanced planning is highly recommended.

Published: 8 Jul 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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