Looking up at the South Rim from Phantom Ranch bunkhouse
Awoke to a beautiful partly cloudy morning.
After a breakfast of reheated spaghetti from the night before (breakfast didn’t make it down to the ranch) our trip leader Dave spent time going over safety before we could embark on rafting the Colorado River. Other than hold on tight and always wear your PFD (life jacket) while on the boat we were told that most accidents happen on shore at camp or while hiking. Advice was to move at half speed.
This was the 2nd Annual NPS All Employee River Trip consisting of staff from many different divisions at Grand Canyon National Park. This was not a paid vacation but a working river trip. I’ll fill you in on projects that are taking place along the river as we get there.
Kaibab Suspension Bridge RM88
Our journey began about (~) river mile (RM) 88.1. River miles are based on the 2002 U.S. Geological Survey conducted by the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center. Starting point is the gauging station cable at Lee’s Ferry.
Bright Angel Suspension Bridge ~RM88.4
Compared to the normal 8000 cubic feet per second (cfs) for mid-August, massive snow pack and melt from the Rocky Mountains allowed the release of 26000 cfs through Glen Canyon Dam.
Looking up river at Horn Creek Rapid rated 7-9 ~RM90.8
A big water day with six rapids rated over 5 during the first 12 miles, before lunch. Rapid ratings are given on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 the most difficult. Ratings are based on river flows of between 5000 and 25000 cfs.
Our journey included two motorized rafts. The smaller 22 foot “snout” usually took on four passengers, a swamper (helper), the boatwoman and all our personal gear in large dry-bags. The larger 37 foot “S-rig” carried 12 passengers, a swamper, boatman and lots of gear including tents, cots, sleeping pads, kitchen and food, plus the toilet facilities (of course packed separately).
Looking up river Hermit Rapid rated 7-8 ~RM95.5
Before the completion of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, large floods on the river would disperse the smaller boulders from debris flows downstream, lessening the severity of rapids.
A 1966 debris flow tumbled boulders from Crystal Creek causing Crystal to become a major rapid. In 1983 the National Park Service asked passengers to walk around the dangerously swollen Crystal Rapid. It was one of the most exciting rapids so far.
“Clouds are playing in the canyon today. Sometimes they roll down in great masses, filling the gorge with gloom; sometimes they hang aloft from wall to wall and cover the canyon with a roof of impending storm…” –John Wesley Powell
Lunch at Lower Tuna camp ~RM100.1
Sandbars along the river make ideal campsites, and lunch stops. In an effort to reduce problems with scavengers tarps are laid out under the kitchen setup and then small scraps are dumped into the river where they will be quickly washed away. We enjoyed a variety of lunchmeats and cheeses along with lettuce, tomato and avocado, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, served with fruit.
Our adventure continued through the Gems after lunch.
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