double clickQ&A with Western River Guides about Cataract Canyon

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Q&A with Western River Guides about Cataract Canyon

We did a little Q&A with our guides about Cataract Canyon. Here is a compilation of what they said:

What makes Cataract Canyon a great rafting trip for guests?

Shadrach: Oh, Cataract Canyon is one of those trips that has everything. You start out with some mellow water, you are hanging out, having a good time, getting to know everybody, and then the rapids come...When they start, they start! And they don't let up for twelve miles. You've got back-to-back whitewater.

Kelly: Cataract Canyon is big white water. It's very, very exciting. It's like nothing else you will probably experience anywhere.


Is the whitewater really that big in Cataract Canyon?

Shadrach: In the beginning, in the spring, it's the biggest whitewater in North America. Huge crashing waves. I've had people who've been on the Grand Canyon, who've come on Cataract Canyon and who've said, "Whoa, that's the biggest I've ever seen, man." I had a guy who said that was like Crystal in the eighties going through some of those Big Drops. It can go, Real Big.


How does Western adjust the rafts throughout the season in Cataract Canyon?

Grace: Generally, earlier in the season, we will use Western's patented J-rig. It's a big boat, thirty-seven feet long and about eighteen feet wide, with a thirty-horse power motor on the back. In the higher water, during spring runoff from May through June Western uses the J-Rig raft. J-rigs are the best. They are awesome for driving big water and being comfortable. The J-rig is way better than any other boat - especially for big water. I find a lot of times when we are next to an S-rig, they look at our boats like, 'Oh, they get to sit up there?' and they all talk amongst themselves about the seating on our boat. It's just so much more comfortable and almost everyone gets to be sitting forward looking down the canyon, not sideways. If you want a wild crazy ride you can sit down front. If you want to take it easy a little bit, you can sit back on the princess pad and relax and work on your tan. I really like that there are a bunch of different options and it's the most comfortable boat in the canyon.

Kelly: Once the water drops out we will start doing paddle boats at lower water. Paddle boating Cataract Canyon is one of my favorite places to paddleboat. A lot of excitement there.

Haley: I love Cataract Canyon when you are coming into the rapids and you are sitting as a team in a paddle boat, six to ten people - everyone's working together. Everyone knows what's ahead and it's so fun to watch the excitement when we make it through a big rapid and it's always fun to see people's sense of accomplishment after that's done. It's fun to see that they trust each other and that they work together as a team.

Jeff: Paddleboating in Cataract Canyon is where the guest has more of an opportunity to be truly a part of the experience, and you feel every single wave and its so fun. Every single wave and you feel like you are going on a rollercoaster ride. I mean it's a bit of a physical experience but it's definitely something that I've experienced all types of people be able to do from eighty-year-olds to ten-year-olds. I've seen them all do it. That is very fun because you are in the rapids and you are creating the power to get there. As far as the rowboats are concerned, the guide does all the work but you get to hang on and you get to be right there on the front of the rowboat and you get to meet those waves head on and that is a very fun, involved experience, one that I would completely suggest especially for families going in the later part of the season.


What is your favorite hike in Cataract Canyon?

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Megan: At one point on the trip, we pull over the rafts and we do what is called the loop hike. It's a big hike, it's a big climb, but when you reach the top it's an amazing feeling because you see both sides of the canyon, the north side, and the south side and you see the river as it curves around this big loop. It's an amazing view from all points. Once you have reached the top you feel like you have accomplished something, and you see the beauty everywhere around you oh, it's amazing.


What makes Cataract Canyon unique among river trips?

Jeff: What makes Cataract Canyon different than any other trip is that it is a big experience. Not just referring to the big boats that we will bring or the big motors we will have it's a big time experience because it's a multi-day trip. It makes an experience where you honestly feel like John Wesley Powell or that you are one of those early explorers. You are here with your family and your crew and we're going to experience this together.

Another thing that is just completely unique to Cataract Canyon is the bonding that I feel, the bonding that happens between the passengers because we do have an opportunity to have flat water and have rapids, so we experience everything together and we have an opportunity to get to know each other and really create relationships that go far beyond the four days that we are here together. Being here in this kind of environment brings out who you really are.

It helped me to see myself in a completely honest way. Having the outdoors as a part of my entire life, I've always done things in the outdoors, but specifically doing this, I have the opportunity to bring other people here to show them what means so much to me. What's been really special is for me to see the transformative ability that the outdoors has on people and how that's changed my life. I've seen these places, I've experienced them, they changed me first, and now bringing people here to see them change just kind of confirms to me how special a Western River Expedition is.

Shadrach: You can choose what kind of adventure you want, as crazy or as mellow. Here you get the mellow river, you get the excitement and you get the hangout at the end and then you end up on Lake Powell. It's really got everything you want and I think that's why people love it.

Cataract Canyon Paddlers Smile Rapids 24 Copy
Kam Wixom
Kam began guiding in the Grand Canyon in 1991, met & guided with his wife in 2000, and is the proud daddy of 5 kids. He now works as the Marketing Director for Western River Expeditions.