Grand Canyon Rafting Companies

Old Jul 18th, 2012, 04:00 AM
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Grand Canyon Rafting Companies

Who are the best for a 6-7 day either hybrid or paddle tour.

Thanks!

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Old Jul 18th, 2012, 06:31 AM
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I've done several hybrid trips (couple of paddle rafts, the rest oared rafts) with AZRA and enjoyed them. Highly recommended. If you want to be sure you're in a paddle raft each day (not a bad idea on a shorter trip like this) it's better to take the all-paddle option. http://www.azraft.com/

The AZRA paddle rafts were, IIRC, 18 ft ... there's another company that has smaller paddle rafts (I think 16 ft) that will be more exciting in the rapids, if that's what you're after. I can't remember the company's name but I think poster StantonHyde knows them and hopefully will post it on your thread.
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 07:13 AM
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I did an all-paddle trip with Canyon Explorations/Expeditions (CanX), a company that uses the smaller 14 foot paddle boats, and had a fantastic time. I thought they did a great job.
www.canyonexplorations.com

AZRA uses “expedition style” paddle rafts that carry gear; the CanX paddle boats do not carry gear. I believe Outdoors Unlimited also uses the smaller paddle rafts with no gear. In addition to the difference in stability/excitement, you as a guest might have to do a bit more paddling in the heavier “expedition style” raft because the guide needs more help to steer the boat. It might also be harder to paddle against the wind.

The CanX all-paddle trips have 18 guests and 7 guides (3 paddle rafts and 4 oar rafts carrying supplies). I’m not sure whether the guide-to-guest ratio is different with the other companies. Because the AZRA paddle rafts carry gear, their all paddle trips consist of 3 paddle rafts and only 2 support rafts. Outdoors Unlimited books 24 guests for their all-paddle trips (the maximum allowed by the National Park Service).
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Old Jul 19th, 2012, 10:12 PM
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A raft trip thru the Grand Canyon is an amazing and life changing experience. I have gone with AZRA on an all paddle trip and then on the Stories and Dory trip. AZRA guides have many years of experience, very knowledgeable,excellent cooks, and lots of fun. The Stories and Dory trip was just amazing. We had Brad Dimock, author of several Grand Canyon books,as our storyteller -- told canyon stories thru out the day and every evening. He also built and rowed a replica of a boat that was used 75 years ago by Buzz Holmstrom.This was a hybrid trip so we had 3 oared rafts,1 paddle raft and a dory. Everyday we had the option to ride any one of these boats for a unique experience. I highly recommend any of the AZRA trips, especially the Story and Dory trip.
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 06:50 AM
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I've done both the Upper and Lower Canyon all-paddle trips AZRA and I can't speak highly enough of them. Rather than being an "adventure" company, their guides are all extremely knowledgeable - not just raft-guides, but educators, happy to share as much or as little as you would like to know about the Canyon's geology, history, etc.

A trip down the Canyon isn't just about paddling, it's about the hikes and side trips you make.... sleeping under the stars ... making dinner (the meals are fantastic, by the way)... sharing stories. I can't speak highly enough about them. They are great at letting you know exactly what you need to bring, organizing everything so that you show up, and are lucky enough to be a part of something that is, as the writer above said, "an amazing and life changing experience."

This is a good company, well run, with an eye to safety and respect. I did the Upper Canyon trip for my 40th, the Lower Canyon for my 50th, and can't wait to do the WHOLE trip for my 60th. All-paddle is the way to go.
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 07:38 AM
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For AGF and Patti_Loach, this is their very first Fodor's post and they are both posting glowing tributes to a single trip operator. That is ususally very suspicious for touting behavior and if, so, is a deceptive and dishonest practice. I would be extremely suspicious of that company.

Likewise, hfechick also just signed on, to suddenly post three times about the same company, on old posts. Again, very suspicious for tout behavior.

I would be careful about trusting my life and my vacation to companies that tout for business on anonymous travel boards.

Buyer be very beware.
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Old Jul 21st, 2012, 02:01 PM
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AGF,
How many guides and participants were there on the Stories and Dory trip? Was there "competition" for a seat on dory each day? Sounds like a great trip.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2012, 03:48 PM
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Whoo......let's not get mean and throw out accusations. Anyone who commented about AzRafting and is associated with the company, please raise your hand.

Can someone comment how to find safety records?

I am an individual, retired, very very well travelled, and often comment but rarely about specific companies. My husband and my daughter who has breast cancer and is 38 want to take a trip together. I sure hope these responses are not commercials and are thoughtful and considerate. Please be honest and thoughtful!

Hey Fodors......what do you do to stop the commercialization of the talk forum!!??

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Old Jul 23rd, 2012, 06:24 AM
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I am really looking for help here. I can't fine any place like agoda or trip advisor which reviews these rafting companies.

Are they really pretty much all the same?

Canyon Expeditions had one bad review I caught in June 2011 but one person can be for many reasons.

Any other thoughts??

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Old Jul 23rd, 2012, 09:39 PM
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Sigh. You can easily look at all my old posts by clicking on my username. I have difficulty seeing why anyone would think that a company would sign on here to “tout” a boat flipping, but hey, make your own judgment.

To find safety records, you could try the National Park Service. All the river concessioners are required to report incidents to the Park Service. The regulations that river concessioners are required to follow are linked from the following page, under “River Concessioners”: http://www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/businesswithpark.htm

There are some overall river-related statistics mentioned in this article: http://www.hitthetrail.com/river-trip-safety

To answer your question, yes, within a certain trip type, trips will have a lot of similarities regardless of the company. River trips through the Grand Canyon are highly regulated, as you can see in the NPS documents. There are no reserved campsites, everyone hikes on established trails, etc. You’ll see the same attractions and hikes featured repeatedly in videos, websites, and books; you won’t be able to experience all of them, but you’d be doing more or less the same kinds of things regardless of the company. I do think the guide-to-guest ratio is key, which is why I emphasized it in my earlier posts.

The Colorado River through Grand Canyon is considered THE classic river trip in North America and spots almost always sell out, so the companies would not want to do anything to jeopardize their permits. For guides, this is a very attractive place to work. In addition to innate desirability, this is a “career river,” where I’d imagine the guides can get paid better than they would on most other rivers. In other words, you’re very likely to be in good hands no matter which outfitter you choose.

If you opt for an all-paddle trip, be prepared to paddle every day. There are big rapids in Grand Canyon, but there is also a LOT of flat water. As Bill_H mentioned, I believe there are only 4 companies that regularly offer all-paddle trips. I mentioned 3 of them in my earlier post; so far as I know, the 4th is CRATE (Colorado River and Trail Expeditions), which is different from the other 3 in that CRATE uses motorized support rafts on their all-paddle trips.

My earlier post may contain some inaccuracies regarding Outdoors Unlimited. In looking more carefully at their website, they only claim that their Avon paddle boats are smaller than their oar boats and that they do not carry gear. There are 14, 15, 16, and 18 ft Avon paddle boats on the NPS approved boat list, so the Outdoors Unlimited paddle boat might be larger than the ones used by CanX.

When researching and preparing for my trip, I found Bill_H’s old posts here very helpful.
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Old Jul 24th, 2012, 05:01 AM
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Thank you!!

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Old Jul 24th, 2012, 11:16 PM
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Btw, with only 6-7 days, I'm assuming you'll be doing an upper half trip and hiking out. You'll definitely want to consider the logistics of the hike. I never considered a half canyon trip, so I don't know how the companies differ in this respect.
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Old Jul 25th, 2012, 05:26 AM
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Thank you, yes it is a tough hike up the Bright Angel trail. Both my husband and my daughter are top notch hikers, and we live in AZ half the year, so we know the terrain. The trip is first of May so before the real heat sets in.

Thank you!
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Old Jul 26th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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Thanks everyone. Since we live in AZ half the year, we have stayed at both the North and South Rim and at El Tovar. For those of you who want to do some unique, hike The Wave! Have to sign up the first of every month, they only allow a certain number of permits.

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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 10:23 PM
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OU (Outdoors Unlimited) has really mastered the Grand Canyon. Our 12-day float down the 240+ miles of the GC was astounding, breath taking, and ultra-extraordinary. To me the GC was a 240 mile long Yosemite Valley—soaring walls on both sides of ever-changing dimensions, beauty and geology. No cells phones or computers (no coverage or electricity)—so a defacto retreat from the world of screens, alerts, and messages. OU hosts this adventure with pretty flawless execution. Our guides (Mark, Phil, Chad, and Mandella) as well as our boatmen (Will and Kevin), were experts on the rafts (river skills, people skills, geology, history) as well as off the rafts (cooking, camping, logistics, waterfall hikes, canyon hikes, rim hikes, and paddle board coaches). I suppose if you are a person that prefers motocross, and snowmobiles, and 4-wheel driving to mountain biking and back country skiing and backpacking, then you would be better served by a motor-raft than a float trip. However, if you want to experience the texture of the river, the sounds of nature, and the spectacle of sights that the GC offers, the pace and peacefulness of floating are the way to go. And, as an extra bonus and contrast, running the rapids in paddle or oar boats let’s you experience the full power and excitement of the Colorado in a much more intimate fashion.

In camp, we had many amenities that made the trip feel luxurious after a day of hiking, swimming, rafting and paddle boarding: comfortable camp chairs, astounding outdoor bathrooms, cold beer and soft drinks, thick sleeping pads, h’ors dourvres, river baths, and post-card perfect views. Our food—or should I say cuisine—was A+: Thick filets, carnitas, seared ahi, rib eyes, salmon filets, chicken fajitas with fresh salads or veggies and followed by dutch oven desserts (pineapple upside down was the favorite). Breakfasts always offered a hot meat, a hot entree, plus yogurt, granola, fresh fruit (sliced artistically) plus very good, freshly roasted, well prepared coffee (and I am a coffee snob)—half and half included! For lunch we almost always pulled ashore and rolled out the full monty of some delicious sandwich salad (tuna, hummus, crab, taco) plus a full on deli and a generous selection of cookies, dried fruit, nut butters. OU has perfected their game and they recycle the same menu on each trip so that their skill and experience with each has reached an apex that leaves little room for improvement.

I am most grateful for the solitude and time I got to spend with my bride and son and brothers and extended family. Something about being in the womb of nature with no other distractions let us be together in a way that is hard to achieve anywhere else. We made great friends with our other adventures, I think because we were all somewhat like minded and swept up in our experience on the river. I have been fortunate to visit many beautiful places, but this trip truly rises to the top in so many ways that I can only say: It is a place and an experience without comparison.
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