We get a lot of calls here in the office, a lot. And when I say that we’ve heard it all, I really mean we’ve heard it all. From “Can I bring my dog?” (no) to “Why do the rocks end at the river?” (not answering that one).
Here are my top 10 questions from river trip passengers:
1) Will I fall out of the boats? It is unlikely, but possible. You’d almost have to be trying to fall out of our motor boats. The guides are going to give you instructions about the rapids before you go through them (“OK everyone, there is going to be a big hit at the end, TWO HANDHOLDS!”). And that is the most important thing, to be listening to your guides. When they say hold on with “two handholds” that means two handholds, not one handhold and your other hand is filming with your GoPro. Two means two! Now, our oar boats can and do flip occasionally or a passenger or guide may fall out of the raft. These boats are 18 feet long, much smaller than our motor boats. The guides will give plenty of instruction during orientation about water safety, should you happen to find yourself in the river.
2) What happens if there is a family emergency, can someone get in contact with me? Very unlikely. Our guides do have satellite phones but they only turn them on if there is an emergency on the river, or maybe once during the trip to check for messages. Even if there was a good way to get ahold of you on the river, there aren’t many options of getting you out. The National Park Service runs the search and rescue helicopter in the Canyon and they have a strict policy of only using it for life or death emergencies. That means they won’t fly the chopper in to give you a note about a sick family member and definitely won’t fly you out for an emergency at home.
3) How does going to the bathroom work on the river? Pooping and peeing! Look, get used to it if you’re on a river trip with Grand Canyon Whitewater, we’re pretty comfortable about pooping and peeing because everyone poops! It isn’t a big deal. Poop goes into our Groover, a portable vault toilet. It is the first thing set up every day and the last thing taken down when you leave camp. Pee must go into the river, so you just do your business from the shore. The first day of your river trip you’ll see people walk 3/4 mile up river just to pee; by the 7th day of your river trip that same person is peeing right by the boats. You just do you. Don’t worry about other people and if they are watching you pee then that is their problem!
4) Can I bring my own life jacket? Nope, per our National Park Service concessionaire’s contract, all guests must wear our approved PDFs. That one was easy!
5) Should I bring alcohol, how much? Most people don’t bring enough alcohol honestly. I’ve seen people on a 7 Day Motor trip bring a 6 pack of beer. By day 2 they are out and asking people if they can bum some from them. Alcohol does NOT count towards your 25lbs weight limit. I’m not a huge drinker but I’ll bring a case of beer for a 7 day trip, maybe a box of wine and the accoutrements for gin and tonics. You usually end up sharing quite a bit of it and if you have any left over then you give it to the guides at the end of the trip and have good karma for the rest of the year.
6) Why should I pick Grand Canyon Whitewater? The answer to this question always trips people up because they are expecting a sales pitch. But the truth is, all of the companies running in the Grand Canyon are great! I’d love for you to go with us but the most important thing is that you are going! We are all so highly regulated by the National Park Service, down to our equipment, training, etc. that all of the companies are top notch. The things I love about our company are that we’re family owned (Bruce and Bill are co-owners and their daughter and son, respectively, head things up in our office and our operations warehouse). I’m super proud of our guides too, some of whom have been rafting the Canyon since the early 1990s, which means we have a super low turnover. I also take a lot of pride in our equipment — we buy good gear, we repair it regularly and, when needed, we replace it. You’ll be proud to be cruising down the river on our classy-looking boats, and you won’t be lacking any gear in camp.
7) Who will our guides be? Speaking of guides, the warehouse operations team releases the famed guide schedule in the late spring. Feel free to give us a call before your trip and we’ll let you know who is scheduled on your trip. Keep in mind, the schedule can — and does — change (sometimes very last minute) but it will give you an idea of who they might be. Check our Bio page to learn more about our trusty guides.
8) Kids on a river trip, do they have fun? Ha! I’m a parent so let’s talk parent to parent here. When was the last time you spent 7 straight days with your kids? Talk about connecting. No phones, no TV, just pure quality time with your kid. I love having kids on the trip with me! They bring levity to stressful situations, bring humor to boring situations and are just generally awesome to be around. They have so much fun in the rapids, playing games in camp and all without phones.
9) Are the motors noisy? I mean, they are present. But it is a small 30-horsepower motor in the back of at 35-foot motor boat. If you find that the noise of the motor bothers you, move farther away from it, toward the front of the boat. Be warned, though — it’s a trade off. You won’t be able to hear your guide’s stories and tales as well from the front of the boat either.
10) Upper Canyon, Lower Canyon, what is the difference? Both are great and you can’t go wrong. We had to ‘split’ the canyon in half somewhere and the Bright Angel Trail happens to be near the halfway point. The Upper Canyon is great because you get to see the Canyon walls rise above you as you make your way downstream. You’ll start at Lees Ferry, river mile 0, and end around river mile 89. Incredible geology and Native American history in the Upper Canyon. The Lower Canyon starts around river mile 89 and ends at mile 225. It starts in the deepest part of the Canyon and you’ll see beautiful slot canyons and a lot of waterfalls. You really can’t go wrong. But I say, if you can swing it, do one of our Full Canyon 7 or 8 day motor trips where you see both the upper and lower Canyon!