Grand Canyon, 1997
Marble Canyon

Float away from Lee's Ferry, fifteen river miles downstream from Glen Canyon Dam, go through the Paria Riffle, and you're immediately in Marble Canyon. It's like going down through the Paleozoic era part of geologic time for about the next 80 miles.

Arizona Raft Adventures was also getting boats ready. Their guides were very helpful, both at the launch and on down the river whenever we saw them. They gave us advice about several things, from how to run specific rapids to getting drinking water. One of their guides even helped us push off the beach and therefore made it possible for us to run the river! If I take another commercial trip, it might very well be with AZRA.

 

Backed up to the beach at Lee's Ferry, and ready to go the next morning...
Our boat is the yellow cataraft, heavily loaded.

After a few miles, deep in Marble Canyon now, you pass underneath Navajo Bridge. A new bridge was recently built, but the old one remains as a footbridge.

The first rapid is Badger Creek, which is thrilling mostly because it's first. Easy, but if you don't take the proper route, it will be thrilling for other reasons.

To me, a fine thing about rafting is floating down one side of the river, against a vertical limestone wall. Deeper into Marble Canyon, where the river is cutting through the Redwall and Muav Limestones, this is very much the case.

Top: near South Canyon
Bottom: near Nautiloid Canyon

We spent our third night on the beach below President Harding Rapid at mile 44, where there was beautiful light on the cliffs in the evening.

Spectacular limestone canyons give way, and the Tapeats Sandstone appears. It represents the beach sands from the sea that advanced across the mostly-level Precambrian surface roughly 600 million years ago, give or take a few days! The Tapeats will be high overhead in the inner gorge, but will return to river level later in the trip.

We passed the mouth of the Little Colorado River, which comes down past Cameron, Arizona. Upstream, there are dry falls northeast of Flagstaff, and the river originates in the Mogollon Rim country of eastern Arizona and a bit of New Mexico. The "LC" was dry above a large spring that's up a few miles or it would have been muddy. The spring puts out a large volume of clear water.

Here, a lady on a motorboat offered us some pork chops! We had no ice, but a plan developed. She gave us four frozen chops. That commercial trip must have brought too many. We cooked all four that evening near Lava Canyon, lustfully ate two of them, and put the others in a sealable plastic bag inside another such bag. We put this in the drag bag so the river would keep them cool, and ate them for breakfast. Were they ever good!

A little ways below the LC, there are the Hopi Salt Mines. Young Indians would walk down there to retrieve salt. A special place to the Hopi, it's closed to visitation.

Between Nevills and Hance Rapids, around river mile 76, the Colorado makes a big right turn westward. It no longer flows generally south as it has been, but west, through the most-visited part of the Grand Canyon. We camped on the bar below Nevills Rapid around which the river turns.

Onward into the inner gorge and beyond

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