Western has been working for some years, in cojunction with the National Park Service, local universities and other outfitters, to come up with a more "green" way of propelling the large pontoon rafts down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. Western is pleased to announce that the assignment is complete on this, the first day of April, 2011.
"There are still some problems with the new propulsion system," says Brian Merrill – CEO of Western River, "but we are confident that safety and emissions will not be concerns with the new technology."
The new "Deflation-Release Propulsion System" — or "Nozzle" as it has been nick-named, is simply a high-pressure nozzle at the back end of a large inflated pontoon raft that releases measured bursts of air from the pontoons (acting as storage tanks). For quick maneuvers it releases short bursts of air with restricted air flow, or a steady flow of air is released for more paced acceleration.
"Using the Nozzle Motor is just like letting the air out of a balloon." Says Tad Paul, a guide with Western River. "It’s definitely a trick to make sure you don’t let too much air out when running the rapids. When the air runs out of the pontoons, the boat gets really soft and mushy. It can be like trying to push a wet rag through the water."
We’re excited about this, and will probably run several trips with "The Nozzle" this year. The government is behind us, and the only complaint we’ve heard from the environmental groups is the fact that when the Nozzle is in operation, it has an unfortunately similar sound to that of flatulence…. that is a concern, but groups have mentioned, with relief, that the pontoons are not being filled with methane.