Amazing Trip, Scenery, Guides, Fellow Rafters, and Experience Overall!
This trip started as an idea last Christmas when my parents and I were sitting around the kitchen table, having consumed at least a few adult beverages, and my dad said he'd always wanted to go rafting down the Colorado River. I did a quick google search and (luckily) Western River Expeditions came out on top. I clicked on their website and even in my slightly less than optimal state, was able to easily book a partially non-refundable trip for the following September within about 10 minutes of the idea being born. I'll admit, when I woke up the next day I panicked a little, having done zero research on Western River Expeditions before we booked a pricey trip with them. However, once I started poking around online, my mind was put at ease from all the other amazing reviews. And oftentimes from that point until our trip, we received emails updating us about the trip and reminding us of various details. So the communication from the start was fantastic.
The packing list was pretty much spot-on. It was not cold really at all (got slightly cooler at night, but even then, having a few long sleeve shirts and some warm socks and a hat sufficed) and it didn't rain a drop so the rain gear was unnecessary but I'd take it again just in case. If you're a female and you've ever been camping or had other reason to use one of those Lady Janes (allows females to pee standing up without having to completely drop trou), I'd bring one of those because you'll be peeing in the river from start to finish and that's easier than having to undress your lower half each time. We brought gloves but I didn't find we needed them, either for cold or for chaffing on the ropes. For a longer trip when you're hanging onto ropes for more days, they'd probably come in handy.
Getting picked up the first morning was all very smooth and the trip to get down to the canyon includes a bus ride, a Cessna Caravan or DeHaviland Twin Otter or similar flight to a small strip in the canyon, followed by one of the coolest helicopter flights you might ever experience to actually get down into the canyon. Again, all very smooth and professionally (and safely) done. From there, you meet your guides (we had Evan, Stephanie, Johnnie, and Parker) who will most likely be fantastic. They give you a short tutorial on the basics of keeping your stuff packed and/or available as needed and then later go into how to safely be on the boat. You'll never feel like you're short of information, or at least we didn't think so. They cover everything, including the things everyone wonders but no one wants to ask, like how to answer the calls of nature throughout the trip.
No need to bring any food because they will feed you like kings. From the first lunch through the last boxed lunch you'll get on the bus ride back to Vegas, you will eat better than you probably have in some restaurants. They are all trained in proper food handling and will explain to you how and when to wash your own hands and use hand sanitizer to ensure no one gets sick like you read about on the cruise ships. They also give you snacks throughout the day, so trust me, don't bother bringing food.
The views are amazing so a camera is a must - a waterproof one if you have it because even though mine was in one of those plastic waterproof necklace type things, there were a couple of times (like on a side hike to an awesome waterfall) where if it hadn't been waterproof, it might have gotten wet and therefore damaged. We didn't bring our cell phones because we knew we wouldn't have service anyway, and honestly it was great to unplug for a few days.
They emphasize in all the literature that sleeping outside under the stars is an awesome opportunity. We can attest to that. Obviously it's dependent on the weather of course, but for the time of year we went, the temps at night were very comfortable and a tent likely would've made it too hot. Plus it makes it more of a pain in the morning to break down an additional thing, but they have them available if you do want a tent. Sleeping under the stars was just amazing though, so highly recommend it!
You'll get a ride in a jet boat at the end on the third day when you get the flattest of all the water. There are definitely some decent rapids on day 2 though, so enjoy those! The jet boat ride was just the icing on the cake of an awesome trip. And then the "mad max" bus that Evan warned us would take us the first 10 miles from the boat drop off to the nearest town really wasn't bad at all. And then you get transferred to a luxury coach with a great boxed lunch from Capriotti's, which is one of my favorite delis in Vegas.
The whole trip was just amazing. I can't gush enough about it all. Every little detail was taken care of. The guides told stories of urban lore, explained the history and geography of the canyon, talked about the impacts of humans on it in the last century, and just made the trip even more enjoyable throughout. They were extremely knowledgeable, professional and their number one concern was everyone's safety, which they obviously took very seriously.
At the end of the day, even though when we booked it we thought it was kind of pricey, we actually ended up feeling like it was a steal because of everything you get. Western River Expeditions clearly has this down after 50+ years in the business. I have never rafted with any other company, so I can't attest to how they stack up but I'd be surprised if they didn't rank number 1 or close to it. I would definitely book another trip with them in the future!