Rafting the Grand Canyon

May 30th

For those that wanted to get up early, a group left at 5 a.m. to hike up to the granaries. I wanted to go on the hike, but I needed the sleep more so didn't set my watch. I woke at 6 a.m. and could see them about 2/3 of the way up. I should have just left then because we stayed at camp for quite a while.

The ravens had been vicious during the night. They ripped apart two different trash bags, one with trash, which was sitting on the kitchen table, and one, which was stashed in one of rafts. Then this morning Maddy told me that a Raven also got into her camera bag and was ripping at the plastic bags holding her film.

Breakfast was Huavos Rancheros. Joel and I helped Ben prepare it. The eggs were kept in a plastic jar and frozen. Unfortunately they were still frozen when we were trying to cook them, but Joel found a method of smushing them to make them cook into a semblance of scrambled eggs.

Little Colorado River
We went through Kwagunt Rapid (mile 56, rating 6) soon after we broke camp. The rapid was a lot of fun, once you got past the hole at the top it was all just big wave action. Fortunately we were wearing our warm gear, polypropylene underwear and rain suits so even when we got splashed in the face, we kept warm. Rapids like this one were a lot of fun, since there wasn't a lot of danger of flipping the raft.

I should mention that the self-bailing boats are a modern miracle. Last time we went down the river, we rode a manual bailing boat. In a rapid like Kwagunt, we would have been on the floor in a pool of water bailing as fast as we could to keep the raft light and maneuverable. The self-bailing rafts have an inflated floor, which is only lashed to the sides, letting water drain out quickly. The downside, of course, is that there is always an inch of water between the bottom and the sides.

We spent the rest of the morning rowing down to the confluence with the Little Colorado (mile 61). It was beautifully clear, an unearthly chalky blue. The color is so perfectly blue that it seems almost artificial. There were many groups already there when we landed, probably about six in all. Needless to say there were a lot of people along the banks of the river, breaking the solitude and tranquility, which normally accompanies us as we journey down the canyon.

We walked up the river to the rapids. On the way I saw a large fish leap all the way out of the water, not once, but twice. Despite the crowd the river was a lot of fun. The main activity was to jump into the Little Colorado River and ride downriver over little tiny waterfalls and between stones. It was like a natural water slide and water ride combined.

The technique was to take our life jacket and wear it with our legs through the armholes so that the main part of the life jacket is actually cradling our ass. This allowed us to easily go over partially submerged rocks or fully submerged rocks without bumping ourselves since the life jacket absorbed all the force. It also seemed to position the body more conveniently for sitting V-shaped in the water as we rode down the little waterfalls.

The first time through, I got water up my nose at the swiftest part of the rapids. The next time I held it and it was much better. What a blast. The only downside was that the sun had gone down behind some clouds while we were in the water, and although the Little Colorado River was warmer than the main river, it wasn't bathtub temperature by any means. And we got a little cold.

We had to wait for the kayakers to get there before lunch. They hiked up to the granaries after breakfast. When they had come back we floated down the river almost all the way to the boats. Joel and I got to the boats before the others, so we started getting lunch out. Paul also helped since he had been reading on his raft.

By the time we finished setting it up the others had arrived, all but Charles and Dave Y. Dave Y. had fallen asleep a mile upstream. They finally made it back as the rest of us were finishing. Lunch was smoked turkey legs. Kind of a strange lunch, but yummy.

Sacred Hopi Salt Mines
We negotiated with the rest of the groups there for campsites below the Little Colorado. Some of our group wanted to hike from Carbon Creek down into Lava Creek, so we needed to either camp at one or the other. We ended up with Lava (mile 65). It was considered a "not so nice" camp, very small. Personally I thought it was nice. We just had to squish a bit. The kitchen area was gorgeous, underneath an enormous mesquite tree.

On the way down to the camp we saw many interesting geological features. The first was the sacred Hopi Salt Mines. These were seeps in the Tapeats sandstone that mostly had evaporated before the water reached the surface. The water however brings the salts from within the rocks to the surface. We passed several miles of these salt stains.

First viewing of the Great Unconformity
The salt ends at the Great Unconformity. Underneath the Tapeats sandstone, which is 570 million years old is Dox sandstone, which was laid down at about 800 million years ago. The missing 230 million years was eroded away when the area was mountainous. When we first saw the Dox on river left, it did not line up with the Tapeats. It came up at an angle.

Lava creek is also interesting. The area looks blackened, I'm assuming from lava. The area is also at the intersection of a couple of faults. In several places you can see the uplifting of the rocks. On one fault that can be seen across the river there is a small mine, with a small gray talus slope below it.

Joel - "The characteristic alternation of the cliffs and sloped sections of the wall is obvious in all pictures of the Grand Canyon, including our own. What is less obvious, is that that same pattern is reflected at river level as well. As the river cuts through layer after layer moving downriver, the sides of the river also alternate between cliffs and slope. Marble Canyon, as we passed through the redwall, was the most obvious large section of cliffs that we passed so far. But where we camped last night, at Nankoweap, was a sloped section where the sides of the river sloped upwards to the walls of the canyon. Now, and just below the confluence of the Little Colorado River, we have once again traveled in a section of the river where the sides are cliffs."

View at the top of Lava Creek
I decided to forgo the hike and laze around the raft with the sunshade. Dave S, Alex and I gabbed about rapids and rivers. Alex usually goes off on hikes but he twisted his (already broken) ankle floating down the Little Colorado.

Old Fossils (including Fossilized algae)
Joel on the hike up Lava Creek - "Earlier in the day, about five people went for a hike up the earlier canyon called Carbon Creek (mile 65), across the desert and then back down Lava Canyon where we are camping. That hike was about three to five miles long. I went on a similar hike with a couple of people up Lava Canyon across the desert to Carbon Creek and to look at some sites and then back to camp here at the base of Lava Canyon. The hike was geologically very interesting, we saw a lot of features including areas, which were uplifted and bent during previous seismic activity. We also observed a hummingbird nest with a baby in it, and the mother buzzing around trying to keep us away. At the end of the hike, we saw a large stone which was actually fossilized algae from prehistoric times."

When Joel got back we had a dinner of grilled salmon and some fresh trout.

The bats came out early tonight, and there were tons of small insects for them up above the mesquite trees. A cool wind started blowing after the sun set. Today was a gorgeous day, a few clouds but mostly sun.

Views from camp in the evening, at night, and in the morning

Recent Fauna:

Upstream   Downstream
Photo Index | May 30th Photos

Grand Canyon | The People | Getting Ready | Leaving

May 26 May 27 May 28 May 29 May 30 May 31 June 1 June 2 June 3
June 4 June 5 June 6 June 7 June 8 June 9 June 10 June 11 June 12

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Contents copyright © 1999 by Daphne and Joel Gould. All rights reserved.
Please contact Daphne Gould for comments or problems.