Keep it straight and square up for the big hits! Often times, piloting a fully loaded, monstrous raft through Grand Canyon whitewater is as simple as that. Our craft are far from hot rods—they measure in at 16 or 18 feet long, are fully loaded, and are powered by a single oarsman. To make it unscathed, lines through the crashing waves and boiling eddies must be chosen carefully to allow as much margin for error as possible. And when you find yourself mid-rapid, pushed in the wrong direction, and headed directly for a notorious raft-flipping hydraulic? Square up and hope for the best!
Luckily, during the course of our 21 day, 280-mile adventure we only flipped one raft. It happened in a rapid called Horn, several miles below the Phantom Ranch access point. The oarsman got stuck in a surging, inescapable eddy mid-rapid and had no choice but to abandon ship. Luckily, Erik Boomer was on hand to jump in the raft and manually force it to capsize, a superhero-like move that not only showed his extreme proficiency in whitewater, but also earned him some precious beer rewards from the grateful owner of the raft. Fortunately, the other big rapids—Crystal, Hance, Hermit, Granite, Lava, etc—all went more smoothly.
It’s not easy to describe the experience of rowing a raft through the Canyon’s biggest rapids, but the relief of making it through unscathed feels a little bit like narrowly avoiding a major car wreck.