The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Fall 2016 – #1


Overview:

On Sept. 17, 2016, Kathy, myself and a group of friends launched a 21-day “Grand” trip, from Lees Ferry, AZ. This was my 17th such trip, and Kathy’s 15th. Other members of the party with prior Grand Canyon experience included CJ Robison (former New Wave Rafting Co. guide, permit holder and trip organizer), Britt Runyon Huggins (current NWR Operations Manager and CJ’s significant other), Mark Lewis (Kathy’s brother-in-law) and Heather Manone (former NWR guide, who did a half-trip). First-timers included Jesse Verellen (current NWR guide, who shared a boat with me), Joe Cameron (current NWR guide) and his girlfriend Sara, James Shinas (former NWR guide) and his wife Lisle, Georgia Jenkins, her boyfriend Zack and Robert Tiesberg (who did a half-trip). The trip went off without a hitch, excepting the swim CJ took in Deubendorff Rapid, after being ejected from her boat. But she held onto the boat the entire time and suffered no injuries. Otherwise, the very professional “Whole Shebang” outfitting by Ceiba Adventures made for great ease in executing the trip, and was, in my opinion, reasonably priced. Apart from some rain, we had very pleasant weather and moderate temperatures, with little or no wind.

Day 0 

We assembled at Ceiba’s office/warehouse in Flagstaff on the 16th, where we loaded our personal gear into a trailer, and departed for Lees Ferry.

Loading up at Ceiba Outfitters, in Flagstaff

Loading up at Ceiba Outfitters, in Flagstaff

Once there, we unloaded Ceiba’s gear trailer, inflated the boats, attached the frames and loaded the boats. Come evening, we were picked up by Marble Canyon Lodge for dinner and after returned to Lees Ferry.

Beside the Colorado River, at Lees Ferry, the launch point

Beside the Colorado River at Lees Ferry, the launch point. Left to right: CJ, Lisle and Kathy

Ceiba's gear trailer. Ceiba personnel Sharkey and Katie accompanied us to Lees Ferry and assisted in setting-up the boats and frames.

Ceiba’s gear truck and trailer. Ceiba personnel Sparky and Katie accompanied us to Lees Ferry and assisted in setting-up the boats and frames.

Day 1

We received the NPS briefing at the private river-runners camp and launched shortly thereafter. We pulled over for lunch around Mile 3.

We're off! This is always a thrilling moment, as we leave civilization, and its discontents

We’re off! This is always a thrilling moment, as we leave civilization (and its discontents).

Our first lunch, on river left. It ewas hot enough that we were looking for shade.

Our first lunch, on river left. It was hot enough that we were looking for shade. Left to right: James, Lisle, Joe, Robert?, Britt, CJ, Mark and Jesse. The cliff seen across the river is composed of the Kaibab Limestone atop the Toroweap Formation.

Georgia and Britt. For 10 years, while living with Georgia's mother Jill, Britt played the role of Dad to Georgia, and they remain very close.

Georgia and Britt. Notice Britt’s clean white shirt and tie.

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Navajo Bridges. Photo taken in 2012.

We passed under the Navajo Bridges at Mile 4.5, and ran Badger Rapid (Mile 8.0) without scouting it. The only danger posed by this rapid is a hole to the right of the tongue, which I mention in the following video:

We passed Ten Mile Rock and arrived at Soap Creek Rapid (Mile 11.4), which also we ran without scouting. We had been warned of a new hole on the left, the result of a recent storm that caused debris flows and side canyon flooding in the area. So we entered the rapid to the right, and looked over at the large new hole to the left.

Ten Mile Rock

Ten Mile Rock, with slopes of the Hermit Shale seen behind. Ten Mile Rock is the Coconino Sandstone, which first appeared at the Navajo Bridges.

We made camp #1 at 12.4 Mile Camp, on the left.

Our boats are tied-up to a sand stake, covered by a pot. They are: five 16' NRS rafts (yellow) and one 18' blue NRS raft (blue). Jesse and I are rowing the latter, which handled well.

Our boats are tied-up to a sand stake, covered by a pot (amongst other tie-offs). They are: five 16′ NRS rafts (yellow) and one 18′ NRS raft (blue). Jesse and I are rowing the latter, which handled very well.

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Evening on the beach. Left to right: Robert, James, Lisle and Heather. The rim catches the last rays of the sun.

Day 2

Just downstream from camp we entered the Supai Gorge. We then began to notice new features from the flooding mentioned above, including what I believe are some new rapids:

There was no question about the newness of the next rapid that we encountered, in Mile 13. In the video, the first thing seen is the new fresh-looking delta and then a sandstone ledge that juts out directly over the rapid. There was no rapid here before, as can be seen in the accompanying photos:

Jutting ledge of sandstone, Mile 13, downstream view

Jutting ledge of sandstone, Mile 13, downstream view

Jutting ledge of sandstone, Mile 13, upstream view

Jutting ledge of sandstone, Mile 13, upstream view

Reflections, the Esplanade Sandstone, Mile 13

Reflections, Mile 13

Sandstone overlaps, Mile 13

Sandstone overlaps, Mile 13

Kathy and Heather hit the big wave in House Rock Rapid, Mile 17.1

Kathy and Heather (already wet) pass to the side of the big wave in House Rock Rapid, Mile 17.1

Boulder Narrows, Mile 18.7

Boulder Narrows, Mile 18.7

We stopped for lunch and a hike at North Canyon.

North Canyon. Photo taken in 2002.

North Canyon, in the Supai Sandstone. Photo taken in 2002.

North Canyon Rapid, at Mile 20.7, starts the “Roaring Twenties” section of whitewater. The Supai Group of sandstones is now  at riverside.

 21 Mile Rapid Reflections


Reflections, 21 Mile Rapid

Kathy, approaching Mile 23 Rapid

Kathy, approaching Mile 23 Rapid

23 Mile Rapid, Kathy and Heather

23 Mile Rapid, Kathy and Heather

Our second camp was Lone Cedar Camp, at Mile 23.5

From Lone Cedar Camp, at Mile 23.5, the moon and cliff in last light

From Lone Cedar Camp, the moon and cliff in last light

Day 3

Just downstream from camp we would encounter the more demanding of the Roaring Twenties rapids – 24 Mile, 24.5 Mile, 25 Mile and 27 Mile.

Joe goes big in 24 Mile Rapid (aka Georgie Rapid)

Joe goes big in 24 Mile Rapid (aka Georgie Rapid), while another trip scouts

24.5 Mile Rapid

24.5 Mile Rapid. The big hole is directly downstream. The river is now running through the Redwall Limestone.

The big hole in 24.5 Mile Rapid

Passing to the right of  the big hole in 24.5 Mile Rapid

24.5 Mile Rapid

24.5 Mile Rapid

27 Mile Rapid (aka Tiger Wash)

27 Mile Rapid (aka Tiger Wash), in the Redwall gorge

After these great rapids, we switched-over to land-based entertainment – namely, Silver Grotto, at Mile 29.5

Robert uses a handline to descend a slippery slab to the foot of the first pool

Robert uses a handline to descend a slippery slab to the foot of the first pool

Lisle, above the first pool

Lisle, above the first pool (which one must swim across)

Looking out the mouth of the grotto

Looking out the mouth of Silver Grotto, with the first pool in shadow and the second pool below

Looking out the mouth of the grotto

Looking out the mouth of Silver Grotto at the Redwall Limestone

The head of the oval pool

The head of the oval pool

Descending into the second pool. Kathy is very happy to be here.

On the way down – descending into the second pool. Kathy is very happy to be here.

I talked most of the group into the direct descent, in place of re-climbing the handline slab

I talked most of the group into the direct descent, in place of re-climbing the handline slab

The last pool was a number of feet lower than the last time I had done this, making a slide into the pool more prolonged and scary. So we again set-up a handline. Mark appears to be very concerned!

As it turned out, the surface elevation of the final pool was a number of feet lower than the last time I had done this, making for a longer and scarier slide into the pool. So we again set-up a handline. Mark appears to be very concerned!

Camp #3 was at South Canyon, Mile 31.8.

Georgia, at South Canyon

Georgia, at South Canyon

Weather moved in and we set up the rain fly over the kitched

Weather moved in and we set-up the rain fly

Day 4

Leaving South canyon, upstream view

Leaving South Canyon, upstream view

Just downstream of South Canyon is Vasey’s Paradise, at Mile 32.2.

At Vasey's, with the group from Arkansas The left-hand orifice is dry!

At Vasey’s, mingling with the private group from Arkansas. The left-hand orifice is dry!

The right-hand orifice and monkey-flowers

The right-hand orifice and monkey-flowers

Poison ivy surrounds the little fall where people fill up their water jugs

Poison ivy surrounds the little waterfall where people fill up their jugs

Poison ivy, fall colors

Poison ivy and maidenhair fern

A few minutes downstream brought us to Redwall Cavern, at Mile 33.3.

Approaching Redwall Cavern

Approaching Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern, from way to the back

Redwall Cavern, from the back wall with a super wide-angle lens (10mm)

Fossil sponge in a boulder at Redwall Cavern

Fossil sponge in a boulder at Redwall Cavern

Upstream view

Upstream view

Downstream view

Downstream view

We had lunch under the overhang at Little Redwall Camp, Mile 34.1

We had lunch under the overhang at Little Redwall Camp, Mile 34.1

View down the aisle at Mile 34. This view is seen in an illustration in Maj. John Wesley Powell's book, entitled "Noonday Rest"

View down the aisle at Mile 34. This view is seen in an illustration entitled “Noonday Rest” in Major John Wesley Powell’s book – The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons.

36 Mile Rapid, at Mile 36.3

36 Mile Rapid, at Mile 36.3. The river is now running in the Muav Limestone.

Downstream view below 36 Mile Rapid, at Mile 36.5

Downstream view below 36 Mile Rapid, at Mile 36.5

Tatahatso Camp, at Mile 37.9

Tatahatso Camp, at Mile 37.9

Marble Dam test tunnel. We are VERY grateful that this dam was not built.

Marble Canyon Dam test tunnel. We are VERY grateful that this dam was not built.

Downstream view of the aisle that follows below the north wall of Point Hansbrough

Downstream view of the aisle that follows below the north wall of Point Hansbrough

Joe, approaching the rock in President Harding Rapid, Mile 44.0

Joe, approaching the rock in President Harding Rapid, Mile 44.0

We did a lay-over at Eminence Camp – nights #4 and #5. The lay-over was to provide time to hike the Eminence Break trail, which follows a fault gully to the rim. Congrats to Mark, who went all the way to the top – about 2500′ vertical! Others, such as myself, rested.

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Eminence Camp , Mile 44.5. Left to right: Kathy, Jesse and Zack.

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Clouds wreath the rim, downstream view from Eminence Camp

Storm light, looking downstream from our camp at Eminence Break Camp, Mile

Storm light, looking downstream to the Triple Alcoves from Eminence Camp

Day 5

Lay-over at Eminence Camp

Day 6

It was raining as we came to Saddle Canyon, and we passed it by. We stopped at Nankoweap for lunch and the hike to the granaries. The next layer to appear was the slope-forming Bright Angel Shale, the bottom-most layer seen in this river to rim view.

Nankoweap delta, view upstream. Photo taken in 2002.

Nankoweap delta from the granaries, view upstream. Photo taken in 2002.

The first rapid downstream of Nankoweap is Kwagunt Rapid, which we ran without scouting.

The Desert Facade, on the east side of the Canyon, above Below Awatubi Left Camp

Directly above Below Awatubi Left Camp, the Desert Facade. This is a river to rim cliff.

Camp #6 was at Below Awatubi Left Camp, Mile 59.1.

Day 7

During the night, a considerable amount of water (5,000 cfs, we were informed) from a flood upstream on the Paria arrived at camp. The river rose into the kitchen and floated away a plastic box of small musical instruments that Kathy had brought along. “The river giveth, and the river taketh away”, Kathy mourned. The box was, however, found and returned to us by the fisheries personnel that we kept bumping into.

Below Awatubi Left Camp

Below Awatubi Left Camp

Fetid-marigold

Fetid-marigold

The Malgosa Crest, from camp

The Malgosa Crest, upstream view from Below Awatubi Left Camp

Our first stop of the day was at the Little Colorado River, Mile 61.7. It had been raining so much that we were doubtful that the Little Colorado would be running its usual color. But, as we walked a few yards upstream from the boats, there it was – the turquoise Little Colorado.

The brown water of the Colorado meets the turquoise water of the Litttle Colorado

The brown water of the Colorado meets the turquoise water of the Litttle Colorado

The Little Colorado River (aka the LCR)

The Little Colorado River (aka the LCR)

Travertine dams, upstream of the main pool

Travertine dams, upstream of the main pool

NOTE: This spot – the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers – is the target of a development scheme that hopes to build a tram from the nearby rim to the river. To this very magical and most unique spot! This must not be allowed! Please send a note to Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior, demanding that this proposal be denied.

The confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, where the base of the proposed tram will be sited. Photo taken in 2008.

The confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, where the base of the proposed tram will be sited. Photo taken in 2008.

Placement of the proposed tramway. Photo by Britt Runyon, 2012

Placement of the proposed tramway. The Colorado River (green) enters from the left. The Little Colorado (brown) enters from the right. The Little Colorado then turns the Colorado brown. Photo by Britt Runyon, 2012

A gorge of the Tapeats Sandstone begins below the LCR, and ends near Carbon Creek, where we had lunch. Then we entered what I call the Dox Valley. This is an unusually open valley, by virtue of the fact that the Dox is a very soft rock. The Dox is the first member of the Grand Canyon Supergroup of tilted rocks, which group is seen only where faults have down-dropped segments of it. This preserved those rocks from erosion, which removed the Supergroup elsewhere.

At the opening of the Dox Valley, where the Grand Canyon Supergroup first appears, Mile 66.5

At the opening of the Dox Valley, Mile 66.5. Note that the layers of the Dox are tilted.

The next rapid of note was Tanner Rapid, which has one big wave that can knock you around.

The nasty hole in Basalt Rapid, Mile 69.9

The nasty hole in Basalt Rapid, Mile 69.9

The cliff seen in the video is the Dox sandstone.

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Fluted Dox Sandstone, river right at Mile 74

We ran 75 Mile Rapid without scouting.  There, the river runs into the next layer up of the Grand Canyon Supergroup, the cliff-forming Shinumo Quartzite.

75 Mile Rapid, beside a cliff of the tilted Shinumo Quartzite seen rising rapidly above

75 Mile Rapid runs beside a cliff of the tilted Shinumo Quartzite. This layer-cake formation is seen rising rapidly above. Photo taken in 2007.

Just downstream from 75 Mile Rapid is Papago Canyon, Mile 76.5, where we made our camp #7.

Papago Camp. Photo taken in 2012

Papago Camp. Photo taken in 2012

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Morning light on the South Rim, from Papago Camp

Morning light on the South Rim, from Papago Camp

Morning light on the South Rim, from Papago Camp. The cliff on the right is the Shinumo Quartzite. The red slopes seen on the shaded slope to the left are the soft Hakatai Shale, the next layer of the Grand Canyon Supergroup to appear.

Part #1 ends here. Part #2 starts with Hance Rapid and our entry into the exciting Upper Granite Gorge! Here’s the link to Part #2:

https://believesteve.org/2016/10/24/the-colorado-river-in-the-grand-canyon-fall-2016-2/

If you want the whole story, buy my iBook (only $5.99):

Here is the link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
This entry was posted in Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Personal history, Photography, River-running (USA&Mexico) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Fall 2016 – #1

  1. Pingback: The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Fall 2016 – #2 | BelieveSteve (StevenRichardMiller)

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