Rafting the Grand Canyon

May 31th

I had set up the tripod last night in hopes of a good photo of the moonlight against the cliffs, but I fell asleep too early. I didn't wake up until there was too much light from the sun in the morning.

Breakfast was Oreo cereal, fruit and corn pan bread. Not bad but not enough. I like the hearty meals like yesterday.

Boats in Tanner Rapid
Dave Y. lent me his geology book today. He didn't have the first book in the series. The one he gave me was the second, geology from Phantom Ranch on down. I asked him what the beautiful green rock up on the cliff was and he told me it was Bright Angel Shale. Some of the washes we passed had the shale running through it. The layer cake colors of the shale are very beautiful, red, yellow and green.

Below Lava Canyon where we had camped, the area around the river changed dramatically. Instead of being canyon like it opened up significantly with low rolling hills close to the river and the limestone walls classic of the Grand Canyon much further away in all directions.

Pottery shards at the first Anasazi site
As we traveled downriver, was obvious that this was an area very close to a geological vault. There was record of high lateral pressure in evidence in the stratified rock formations along the side of the river. As we moved along we could see areas where the rock buckled up or buckled down by anywhere from couple of feet to dozens of feet. This was in contrast to earlier on the river, where most of the rock was unbuckled and the horizontal stratification remained level.

Ruins at the second Anasazi site
Today we went to three Anasazi Sites. The first was on river right, just above Tanner Rapid. We hiked up the wall of the canyon to a small plateau where there were some ancient Anasazi ruins. The view from the small plateau was spectacular, and as we made the ascent, we had a chance to observe one of the commercial raft trips go through the rapid below us. Although the rafts were very small at that distance, it was very interesting to watch all five rafts go through the water at a time disappearing and reappearing as they went through the large waves.

The ruins consisted of a small square room, with its walls only about a foot high, made of flat pieces of rock. The more interesting aspect to the ruins, was the various pottery shards which people had dug out of the soil and collected on rocks nearby.

The second site was just above the Unkar Delta area on river left. The hike up to the ruins was hot and straight up. There was one fairly well preserved ruin that sat on the top of the hill. It had the most beautiful 360 degree view, and the best view I've seen yet of the Great Unconformity.

Great Unconformity as seen at the second Anasazi site

The third spot was the Unkar Delta (mile 73). There was a half-mile loop hike with numerous ruins. Though maybe ruins is the wrong word. The dwellings each had one layer of rock running along the edges. In spots there were many multi-room buildings. There was also at least one dwelling which still had two wooden posts stuck in the ground giving an indication that not all the dwellings used stone walls. There were also several different kinds of artifacts including many pottery shards. Some shards were textured, some smooth, some even had paintings on them. One of the most interesting artifacts was the stone used to grind their corn. It was about 4" wide and maybe a foot long.

Pottery shards and tools at the Unkar Delta
Coming back from the hike I tripped going down into the wash and banged up my toe. I limped back to the boat and took some Advil then soaked it in the river water. The toe swelled up a bit and hurt. This means I will not be able to hike for a couple of days and I will be stuck wearing my running shoes for support. Since I need the most support while in the raft I will be getting the shoes soaked tomorrow. Mom is going to lend me her sneakers for when we are in camp so I have dry shoes to wear.

Right below the Unkar Delta landing was Unkar Rapid. Alex was going to run down the middle but the wind was too strong so he ended up rowing to the right. The wind down to camp was miserable, constantly trying to blow us back upstream. After running Nevilles Rapid, which was a string of fun waves, we pulled into camp. The camp (mile 76), right after Nevilles Rapid on the right, is a stretch of beach by the river with lots of sand and some vegetation to hold it together.

Catclaw in bloom at Unkar Delta
The wind plagued us while we unpacked the boat and tried to make dinner. Dinner was relatively late tonight as we waited for the wind to calm a bit, which it never did. Dave Y. made elk steaks (which he had hunted for last October), which were awesome. The rest of the meal was stellar too, with hash browns and greenbeans. We should let the guys cook every night.

The most interesting part about the meal was Earl's clothing ritual. It seems that Earl does not like to take smelly clothes out of the canyon, stored in his luggage. Instead he seems to wear an outfit for about a week. Then he burns it. Yes, after we finished using the coals to cook the carrot cake desert, Earl put on his T-shirt and his jeans and watched them go up in flames.


A windy day is a great time to discuss the sand. With the wind so strong it whips up the sand and blasts it into your skin. Sometimes the sand stings badly. When the bad gusts come up I always close my eyes to keep out the sand occasionally covering them with my bandana or hat. I am mostly successful. After a few days on the river I learn to live with the sand. I crawl into the tent and everything is coated with a fine layer. After a while I ignore the fine layer and only wipe away the larger patches. The crunch of sand under my teeth becomes normal as I eat, and sand creeps into my toothbrush after meals. The sand that bothers me the most is the sand that gets into my hair. It is even worse than sandpapering my legs when I put on lotion. After getting in the tent tonight I found it hard to sleep with the sand sifting down on me through the mesh of my tent.

Upstream   Downstream
Photo Index | May 31th 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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