History about the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is considered one of the seven Wonders of the World. Spanning over 277 miles from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead, the Canyon reaches up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. Needless to say, the view of varying red rocks, steep walls, and occasional glimpses of the Colorado River is breathtaking. The Grand Canyon is home to many unique and native plants, including a flower that blooms once every twenty years, and animals, such as deer, coyotes, lizards, and birds, that are dependent on its sustainability for their survival. This ever-changing attraction is indeed one of the world’s treasures, and many parts of it are at-risk from development, damming, and drought. The region is worth visiting and protecting for future generations.
When most people see the Grand Canyon, it’s through a lens in images, posters, and books. A smaller crowd may have the opportunity to see the Canyon from above, peering into its
depths from the rim. An even smaller group hikes into the Grand Canyon to see the view from the ground to the top. The smallest crowd of Grand Canyon visitors includes those who enjoy the rare opportunity to spend several days in the canyon, floating the waters, camping on its shores, and exploring its miraculous labyrinth of treasures. May is one of the most popular
seasons for visiting the Canyon, the weather’s not too hot and the water’s not too cold. May of 2014, I found myself, along with my husband and family, among a group floating the waters and camping on the shores. Traveling from Lee’s Ferry to Phantom Ranch, we explored a piece of the world few people every have the opportunity to see, though everyone deserves to be enthralled by the Canyon’s splendor.
In this post, I will discuss a few of the hidden gems we discovered while floating the Grand Canyon – the Colorado River, Canyoneers, the California Condor, Redwall Cavern, the Little Colorado, Phantom Ranch, and the Bright Angel Trail.
The Colorado River
The Colorado River, the force that carved this world wonder, reaches some of its most tumultuous states within the walls of the Canyon. People have been rafting the Grand Canyon, some successfully others not, for more than a century. With a scale of 1-10 for rapid difficulty, the Colorado River rapids rank up to class IV on the international scale – not for amateurs. To float the Canyon privately, you must retain a permit and have at least one rafter with experience floating the Grand Canyon. Even still, the risk of flipping, rolling, and losing your goods is imminent. Therefore, most people who float the Colorado do so under the safety of a guided trip. My dad had the Grand Canyon on his bucket list, so we floated the river with a group called the Canyoneers.
The Canyoneers is the oldest river running outfitter in the Grand Canyon. The company offers two trips – one with a traditional oar boat, and one using a massive, motorized raft. If your time is short, choose the latter option. These boats are astounding and can carry 22 people and their gear comfortably with room to move around. They are hinged in the middle, allowing them to ride easily over rapids with the help of the motor. Guides are gourmet cooks, safe, and offer extensive knowledge about the Canyon. I would recommend this group for anyone who has the Canyon on their list.
The California Condor
The first day, putting out of Lee’s Ferry, we saw a region of the canyon few ever witness, the walls rise abruptly from the water, and the rapids are relatively calm – though very cold. This area is a great place to settle in, relax, and enjoy the scenery. We saw a variety of native plants and animals including the much sought after California Condor.
The California Condor is the largest bird in North America, spanning nine and a half feet. A type of vulture, these birds proffer a bald head, varying from white to purple, and black feathers with white tips under the wings. Once one of our most prevalent species, the Condors are now fighting extinction.
At mile 33 of the river, you turn a corner and suddenly see what looks like a yawning mouth of rock on the left shore. This is a famous amphitheater known as Redwall Cavern. John Wesley Powell, a famous historical canyoneer, estimated the cavern could hold up to 50,000 people. Today’s estimates aren’t quite so exaggerated, but it is a great space to stretch out, run in the sand, and toss a Frisbee. In the entrance, if you look closely enough, you may even have the opportunity to see the fossils of ancient water creatures.
The Little Colorado
The Little Colorado was one of the most striking areas of the Grand Canyon. At this point, a smaller canyon joins the larger, and the confluence is a breathtaking slice of heaven. The Little Colorado’s riverbed is pressed, white limestone, giving the water a Caribbean-like sheen next to the darker waters of the Colorado. What’s even more amazing is the water is much warmer than the larger river. The rocks have been smoothed over time, to offer a natural water slide for rafters in need of a leisurely break from “raft butt.” We turned our lifejackets into seats to protect from potential rocks, and spent an hour repeatedly walking to the upper river and floating to the lower.
The Little Colorado is a natural pleasure, and is owned by the Navajo tribe. There are concerns this area may eventually be opened up to a road, which could cause major destruction in the area including garbage and pollution. Grand Canyon enthusiasts are currently fighting this potential development.
We only had the opportunity to float the top half of the Canyon on this trip, so for our final day on the Canyon, we relaxed at Phantom Ranch. The Ranch is a step back in time, with bath houses, bunk community cabins, and a mess hall, it fits the tone of the Canyon. Visitors can spend the
day wading in the small streams that flow nearby, enjoying the flowers of the Prickly Pear, visiting the River, or hiking the Bridge to Bridge Trail. Phantom Ranch is accessible to those who have not floated the Canyon. You can visit by hiking
down on the Bright Angel Trail or riding a mule which packs all goods down to the Canyon and all trash back to the rim. You can visit for a day, stay for the evening, and hike out the next day. Just make sure you make your reservations early – the ranch is often booked out six months in advance during the high season.
Bright Angel Trail
The end of our trip consisted of a 9.5 mile hike from Canyon floor to rim on the Bright Angel Trail. This is one of the most awe-inspiring hikes I’ve ever taken. The evolution of scenery from the base of the Grand Canyon to the rim is amazing. The hike covers a 5000 foot elevation gain. This means the temperature changed from 80 degrees and sun at the base to 45 degrees and snow at the rim. The hike was not challenging overall, there were switchbacks throughout and the trail is
well-groomed. My parents are not frequent hikers and they were able to complete the hike relatively easily. There are places to refill water, but it is necessary to carry a water bottle or two and food for the hike. The hike can take as little as 2.5 hours or a whole day, but if you’re able to, take time to enjoy it!
Grand Canyon – Add it to your List
If you’ve never thought about visiting the Grand Canyon, you should definitely add it to your bucket list. The Grand Canyon is one of the World’s 7 Wonders for a reason. We need to visit, enjoy, protect, and preserve. The Grand Canyon is full of hidden gems, get out and discover some of your own!