Updated on September 10, 1999.
Our friends Harry and Bev Webster won a rafting trip on the Colorado River at the 1999 Spring Escapade in Chico, California. Unfortunately, they could not take the trip so they gave the prize to Alice and me. We give our many, many thanks to Harry and Bev for a beautiful gift and this wonderful trip.
We were up early and down at the Adrift Adventures parking lot by 8:05am, ready to go. Alice was prepared with her new hat and a layer of long sleeves just in case. The temperature was a little cool in the morning but it warmed before the day was over.
The crew assigned us life jackets and ammunition cases, the latter to hold those valuables we wanted to keep dry, like cameras and glasses.
Our transportation to the point where we entered the water was an old school bus pulling our inflatable boats. The tubes on each side were about two feet in diameter. That was where we sat.
There were two boats on this trip: our group was going in for all day, and the other group was in only for the morning.
The sky was partly cloudy, which was both good and bad. It kept the temperature down, but later in the day it darkened our pictures. Of course, by then I was pretty tired of taking pictures.
After loading the bus and counting that we were all there, the crew headed out to the launch point. It was supposed to be a 40 minute drive, but our bus driver was not to be detered, and we made it in 31. We drove up-river and along the way saw a beautiful arch on the other side of the river. It may look small but it must have been over one hundred feet across.
Once we reached the river, the passengers stayed out of the way while the crew launched the boats. They pointed out that this was the last chance for civilized toilet facilities. After that, as Kristin, the guide from the other boat, said, "the solution to pollution is dilution," meaning, jump in the river and use that.
Then we boarded our boats and headed down-river.
The guide on our boat was Taylor. He had taken time off from school to try being a river guide and ski bum. He was very good at the river guide and was able to answer most of our questions. We found out later that he had another function, to get us all as wet as possible.
Much of the drift is peaceful and quiet. It is a fine time to look at the spectacular scenery on both sides of the river. In the distance we could see mesas and monoliths, some towering almost a thousand feet into the air. Taylor said that many of the Marlboro Man commercials were filmed in this area. John Wayne also visited a lot and rode the river a number of times.
The topmost formation on the walls of the canyon is the Wingate. It is a thick layer of red sandstone that resulted from sand-dunes of the late Triassic period, laid down more than 200 million years ago when this part of the land was a desert along the equator like the Sahara is now.
There are some really weird formations along the way formed from erosion by water and wind. This piece of sandstone looks like an old locomotive if you stare at it long enough. It looked to be about twenty feet high. Taylor said it was a favorite of John Wayne.
An important part of any river rafting trip is the rapids. Here is the start of a set that was lots of fun, but as we found out, it was not the worst. The water in the river was quite low, and recent rains upriver had brought lots of silt into the water, so it was a light creamy brown in color. Yet it was not really dirty or muddy.
There were more and more interesting cliffs and formations along the way. Some of them were very close to the water, others were higher up the slope. The brush along the water is Tameresk, a plant brought over from Africa by the Army Corp of Engineers to try to control erosion. Taylor says it is taking over the river banks now and pushing out the native species. A large bush evaporates about 40 gallons of water a day, so it is a real problem with no solution.
We saw various animals along the way. We came upon a group of herons. The best photo was of those in the tree, but there were several down along the beach as well. As you can see, the clouds were beginning to gather bit by bit.
There was also a cliff where rafters sometimes saw mountain goats. There were some white spots very high up, but no one ever identified a spot as a goat.
The other boat stayed close with us, and we often talked to one another. The morning shift had several kids along, and they spent part of their time in the water swimming along side the boat. The water temperature was 71 degrees according to Taylor.
The passengers in our boat were four from the US and six from Germany. It was a lot of fun trying to communicate with each other and we became great friends by the end of the trip.
At one point we saw several mule deer walking along the river bank. They did not seem to mind us, but they did move into the underbrush as we got closer. There were also quite a few ranches alongside the river, though you generally did not see much evidence of them. Some of the homes were almost palatial. There was one place where Taylor said someone was putting in condominiums, and we could hear the bulldozers working in the distance. It will be sad if too much civilization invades this area.
One of the worries Alice and I had in taking the trip was whether a couple of old foggies like us would handle the trip well. We didn't need to worry. This trip was very calm and delightful, not at all stressful. Taylor did point out that the river was down about four feet in the last few weeks and that when it was higher the rapids were a little more of a challenge. In June they often dumped people out of the boat, but it was a fairly simple affair to retrieve them from the water afterwards. If you are old retirees like us, I suggest you wait until later in the season.
The vegetation varied along the way, and at some places there were small creeks that came into the river. There you would find larger trees growing. At one of these places the morning boat ended their journey. The people on that boat got off and the afternoon customers got on. They joined us downriver for lunch.
We stopped along a beach for lunch. It was pleasant sitting under the old cottonwood trees, and the sandwiches provided by the Adrift Adventures crew were quite satisfactory.
Taylor missed the beach where he wanted to dock for lunch and came to shore about thirty feet below his landing. He hung up on a rock and Luke, one of the Germans, was pitched backwards into the water. It didn't hurt him, but it sure surprised him. Then another passenger decided to step off the boat and help in the landing. What she thought was two feet of water was six feet deep, so she got good and wet as well. That was the beginning of the fun.
We continued down the river for another seven miles for a total of fourteen. The weather became more cloudy and the pictures were more dull. However, the action on the water became anything but dull.
There were several more rapids for us to run, and Taylor had lots of fun finding the roughest part of the rapids to traverse. His greatest delight was to find some place where he could dump water into the boat.
We sat on the edge of the boat with our feet on the inside. The edge of the boat was a two foot diameter rubber tube, so it was somewhat soft and pliable. The water was cold on the butt when it washed up from behind.
Then as we were going through one of the calmer sections, he edged over towards the other boat and then started splashing them with the oars. He had warned us to put our cameras away, so I don't have pictures of this part of the trip. The warning was timely, because by the time it was over, both Alice and I were soaking wet.
There were buckets in both boats, and the passengers started loading them with water and throwing the water at the other boat. There was also a two-man ducky along with us, and they entered the battle as well. It was all great fun, and everyone laughed and got wet. We warred with the other boat and the ducky for a couple of miles down the river.
Finally we reached our pickup point and everyone came into shore. The bus was waiting for us and we were happy to see it.
One of our new found friends from the boat took a picture of us to prove that we had survived. We may not look wet, but we were. Luckily the temperature was about right so it wasn't too cold.
Once the boats were loaded back on the trailer, we all piled back in the bus for the trip back to town. Everyone seemed very satisfied with their experience.
I went to the office when we returned and thanked them again for providing the prize to Escapees. It was a real winner in my estimation.
If you get down to Moab, give the rafting trip a go. I recommend Adrift Adventures at 378 North Main Street. It is lots of fun, and the people are very nice and helpful. If you are lucky, you might even get Taylor for a guide.