4-Day Cataract Canyon Expedition 100 miles on the Colorado River through the heart of Canyonlands National Park, over some of the largest whitewater rapids in North America, and a Scenic Air Tour return over Canyonlands National Park to all the adventure possibilities in Moab, Utah, makes Cataract Canyon the perfect alternative (or prequel...or sequel) to a Grand Canyon 3 Day trip!
A rafting vacation in Grand Canyon often entails many questions. What type of boats are used? How does camping on the river work? What is the food like? What do I need to bring and what is supplied by Western River Expeditions? You'll find answers to all these questions and many more in the categories below.
Physical & Dietary Requirements
What are the physical requirements for this trip?
Please consider carefully any medical or health condition that would endanger yourself, or others on the trip, or diminish the enjoyment of an adventure vacation such as this. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remote distances from a hospital, and physical challenges of a rafting adventure. It is critical that you are in reasonable health and physical fitness at the time of departure so that our staff can focus their attention equally on all trip participants. If you are taking any medications, we should be made aware of these and what these medications are treating. If you have any questions or concerns please talk with us and we can help you consider your options.
Fit into our Type 5 Life Jacket (maximum chest size is 52”and minimum weight is 50 pounds) required by the National Park Service.
Each guest wears a lifejacket and they are very effective at keeping you above water, but if you are unable to swim, it can still be a threatening situation because the waters are turbulent. The lifejackets we supply are certified by the United States Coast Guard and are approved for use by our managing agencies (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management & Utah State Parks & Recreation). They are classified as “Type V Whitewater” jackets, and they come in two basic sizes “Youth” and “Adult Universal.”
Youth lifejackets fit those weighing between 50 and 90 pounds (23-41kg). An Adult Universal Jacket is rated “for persons weighing more than 90 pounds (41kg).” They are highly adjustable and fit a range of chest sizes from 30 - 52 inches (76-132 cm). Body shape can also affect the proper fit of the jacket. If you are unsure, call and speak with us. If unsure, we’ll mail you one of our jackets and you can try it on.
Securely grip ropes provided for handholds while running the rapids.
Gripping the ropes on the raft is the only way to ensure you stay on board. Factors such as where you sit in the raft in relation to where the waves crash can be a factor, but whitewater rafting can give an unpredictable ride.
Falling off a boat into the river, or having your boat capsize is one of the inherent risks associated with whitewater rafting. If this happens, you will need the ability to self-rescue by swimming to the boat or to shore. If you end up on shore, you will need to traverse a rocky shoreline to rejoin the boat which cannot maneuver upstream.
For those participants who have heart conditions or who are very overweight, falling into the river also presents the possibility of a “cold-water immersion heart attack.” This is caused when the person swimming cannot calm his/her breathing within a reasonable amount of time (generally 60 seconds).
Traverse and navigate uneven terrain over sand and rocks on hikes and in camp.
Getting on and off the boats can be very challenging. We park the boats against a variety of terrain such as rocks, steep sandy beaches, and flat locations. Climbing onto a larger, motorized raft (J-Rig) requires a 2-3 foot high ascent. The boat is sometimes moving up and down and side to side when tied up in faster current. Boats may also be slippery and they have uneven surfaces. The front of the raft is turned up allowing it to climb waves. Because we have to park the rafts with the front against the shore, it makes a taller barrier to climb over when boarding or deboarding the raft.
As we travel down river, we make occasional stops to lead “side hikes” which can be either very short and relatively easy, or much longer, covering significant distances and elevation. We hike over uneven, rocky, and often steep surfaces. These beautiful hikes lead to sparkling streams, pristine pools, green fern glens and ancient American Indian ruins. Though all the hikes are not mandatory, when the rafts are tied up in swift current, all guests must get off the rafts and move up the shore a distance. Guests cannot be left on the rafts due to safety concerns. Reasonable mobility is important. If you have questions about your limitations, please call.
In camp, you will need to have the same mobility over uneven terrain, and be able to carry your personal bags to your campsite while doing so. Also, keep in mind that paths from your campsite to the toilet facilities would not be classified as “easy” to navigate at night.
We camp and eat lunch on sandy beaches and on areas where the ground is mostly dirt and rocks. You must also be capable of safely walking across slippery, rocky, and sandy areas as you climb on and off the boat and walk along the beach to your personally selected campsite each night.
Carry your own dry bag which will include your 20-pound duffle bag along with the sleeping bag and ground cover we provide.
Guests are required to carry their own waterproof bags with personal gear and the additional 15 pounds of camping gear (cots & tents) to their individual campsite. This can be very difficult for some guests due to the uneven terrain, deep sand, and steep beaches.
A river trip is a participatory experience and requires each guest to be reasonably self-sufficient. Our guides will look after the safety and welfare of all the participants on the trip, but you are also responsible for your own safety! Our guides will provide you with the information and tools you need to participate; however, they already fill nearly every minute of their day performing their duties on behalf of the group. They will not be able to devote a lot of extra time to any one individual on the trip.
The nature of an outdoor adventure includes exposure to weather conditions such as heat, sun, wind or rain - sometimes in the extreme. With proper preparation procedures such as applying sunscreen, wearing the right clothing, etc., many of these factors of weather (even in the extreme) can be mitigated, and do not have to be a negative factor. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remoteness, and physical requirements of a rafting adventure.
REMOTE LOCATIONS:Our trips are operated in the “backcountry.” At any given time, you will be a minimum of several hours away from medical help. Our guides are all trained in wilderness first aid and some have even higher levels of emergency response training (e.g., EMT), however, sometimes injuries or the aggravation of pre-existing medical conditions are severe enough to require evacuation from the trip. We carry satellite phones but they are not 100 percent reliable in all locations. Most evacuations require transportation via helicopter which presents many challenges such as appropriate landing zones, inclement weather, darkness, or delays.
Dietary Requirements & Menu Substitutions
If you or any of the participants in your party have special dietary requirements, severe or life-threatening allergies of any kind, a multi-day rafting trip may not be a suitable trip for you. Due to space limitations and the nature of our buffet-style meal service, we are unable to accommodate dietary requests such as Kosher and Vegan. If you are unable to find options on our standard meal service (see below) that meet your dietary needs, you may supplement the existing meals where necessary with some of your own food, as long as it does not require cooking on our limited stove and cookware surfaces.
Substitutions for guests with SEVERE ALLERGIES We take allergies very seriously at Western River Expeditions. It is important that you describe to us the exact details of any allergies you may have, including symptoms and severity. If you have an allergy which may cause difficulty breathing, anaphylaxis or other severe and life-threatening reactions; please read the following points carefully. We want to make sure you are familiar with what we can and can't do for you in a wilderness setting. If you have a severe allergy you will be required to bring at least two Epi-pens on your trip. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office at 1-866-904-1160.
All reasonable efforts will be made to avoid cross contamination. We cannot guarantee that any of our products are free from allergens (including dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and other allergens) as we use shared equipment to store, prepare and serve them. For this reason, allergies to commonly used products such as onions, bell peppers, black pepper, garlic, or corn may not be possible to accommodate as most of these are present in the pre-made products we purchase. Please inform us as to the exact severity of these allergies, and whether it is anaphylactic or gastrointestinal.
Peanut butter will be served on a separate table with disposable utensils. Guests with severe allergies may go through the line first, before cross contamination may occur. When preparing something like a salad with nuts, part of the salad will be set aside and covered for you before the nuts are added.
It is our policy not to remove an ingredient from a trip when a guest has an allergy to the ingredient.
You are welcome in the kitchen during meal preparation to read food labels and check if you are allergic to any meal items.
Substitutions for VEGETARIAN GUESTS Western River Expeditions can provide vegetarian alternatives for many items. Please see the list below and compare it with the standard meals for your trip. If you feel that this will not be sufficient, you are welcome to bring additional options. Your guides will store any food that you bring but will not be able to prepare it for you due to limitations of the kitchen facilities such as number of pots and burners.
Black bean veggie burger patties- Replace dinner protein (steak)
Vegetarian pasta sauce- Replaces the meat sauce
Tuna salad can be prepared without meat. Peanut butter is always available at lunch and hummus is also provided for vegetarian guests. Whenever possible meat will be served separately from other items to maximize options for vegetarian guests. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office at 1-866-904-1160.
Substitutions for GLUTEN FREE GUESTS Western River Expeditions will provide gluten free alternatives for many items. Please see the list below and compare it with the standard meals for your trip. If you feel that this will not be sufficient, you are welcome to bring additional options. Your guides will store any food that you bring but will not be able to prepare it for you due to limitations of the kitchen facilities such as number of pots and burners. The backcountry often does not provide ideal conditions to avoid cross contamination. All reasonable efforts will be made to keep foods separate but if your sensitivity is severe, we may not be able to accommodate you. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office at 1-866-904-1160.
Gluten free bread- Replaces lunch bread, garlic bread, toast and english muffins
Gluten free pasta- Replaces pasta dinner
Gluten free pancakes- Replaces blueberry pancakes
Corn tortillas- Replace flour tortillas used for lunch wraps
Specific DAIRY information Many of our meals have alternative options for avoiding dairy. Depending on your sensitivity, make sure to consult with your guides, and to review the labels of the brands that are on your trip. Because of the remote location of our warehouse, we source products from different vendors each week. The only time we serve milk is the continental breakfast one morning. We can provide Rice Milk for this meal. We generally avoid cooking with butter, and your guides will be happy to accommodate this if you check with them the first day of the trip. Items to watch and avoid are:
Most of the cake and muffin mixes contain dairy or whey.
Some of our breads contain whey, but many do not.
Several desserts are cakelike products which contain dairy.
Some of our snacks.
If you are highly sensitive, we strongly advise that you bring supplemental snacks, desserts, and other foods to make sure you have adequate products to eat. We always have fresh fruits and vegetables available, but with the additional energy expended during an active trip like this, it is important to have an ample supply of alternative products you are comfortable ingesting, primarily snacks and desserts. We will have ample storage, dry or refrigerated available. We hope that this will help you plan accordingly and that you have a great trip with us!
Bacon, eggs to order, hash browns, freshly baked muffins, fresh fruit and OJ
Blueberry pancakes with assorted syrups, scrambled eggs, sausage links, fresh fruit and OJ
Coffee, hot tea, cocoa and cider are available every morning
Lunch meats (turkey, ham, pastrami and roast beef), assorted breads, assorted cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, olives and red onion.
Tuna salad with tuna, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, dried cranberries and sweet relish. Assorted cheeses, pickles red onion and olives.
All lunches include peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, chips, cookies and a variety of condiments.
Pasta, sauce including tomatoes, ground beef, sausage, bell pepper, onion, garlic, mushrooms and seasonings. Italian salad and garlic bread.
New York strip steak, green beans almondine, rice pilaf, macaroni salad and dinner rolls.
Chicken wings, vegetables and dipping sauces
New York style cheesecake with fruit topping.
Fresh baked Dutch oven frosted cakes
Snacks may include: trail mix, granola bars, Chex mix, Ritz bits, Rice Crispy treats, candy bars and honey roasted peanuts. Fresh fruit is also available on request.
Personal benefits of full (honest) health disclosure
We don’t want to be overly discouraging, but it is important for your safety and comfort that we be forthcoming about the specific challenges presented on a river trip. It is also vitally important that you disclose any and all physical, emotional, and mental conditions, limitations, or challenges you or your children may have. Likewise, it is important to be completely honest about the age and weight of children. Undisclosed medical or physical conditions might affect the safety and well-being of you and/or other participants on the trip. It is critical that you share this information with us in advance.We cannot absolutely guarantee your safety, or the suitability of a trip like this for you. For a participant who is not capable of meeting these criteria, a river trip, particularly a multi-day trip, can be unpleasant, dangerous, or even fatal. For those who meet these criteria, these trips are often the best experiences of their lives. The difference is in determining your suitability for a trip, then selecting the right trip for you, and arriving physically and mentally prepared to actively and joyfully participate in the experience. We encourage you to carefully evaluate your overall physical, mental, and emotional condition in relation to these environmental challenges. If you have concerns or questions about your physical condition, we recommend you also consult your physician. If you have questions about the specific parameters of a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, please contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669. We would be happy to provide any other information you need to make this decision, or to discuss any of this information in detail.
What's the best way to get physically fit for a rafting trip?
Physical fitness on a rafting trip is probably the very best way to get the most out of your adventure. Hiking to hidden attractions away from the river's edge, shooting rapids with anticipation rather than anxiety, and possibly even swimming in the river are among the more active things where being more fit will enhance your whitewater rafting vacation. Hiking to hidden attractions away from the river's edge, shooting rapids with anticipation rather than anxiety, and possibly even swimming in the river are among the more active things you'll be doing on a whitewater rafting vacation. Feeling confident with your abilities is always a great feeling, but the rewards you'll get from physically preparing your body for a rafting trip will pay off in numerous ways, possibly adding years to your life. Now THAT'S living! So, how does one best prepare physically for a rafting adventure? Great question. We've made a list of simple exercises that can be combined together and are specifically applicable to a rafting adventure:
Strength: Gripping ropes (or paddles) is one universal constant for any rafting trip. Start squeezing stress balls or spring-loaded grip strengtheners. Keep these small items handy (pun-intended) while stopped at a red light, working at the desk, or while walking and talking. Legs are another key area to focus on - especially if you want to explore the side trips away from the river's edge. Start with walks around your neighborhood while gripping hand weights to strengthen grip simultaneously. You might as well do some curls with those hands weights while you're at it! Some hikes require some (or a lot of) stair-stepping activity. To really get your legs ready, consider squats, burpees, jump-rope or jumping jacks. All the little muscles in your feet that give you balance will come in very handy (or is that footy)? while walking on uneven terrain.
Lungs & Heart: Breathing heavy is a sure sign your heart rate is up. You probably know lots of ways to get your heart rate up, but one of the best ways to work your entire body (muscles AND heart and lungs) is an exercise with a stupid name, called "Burpees." (No, that's not what you get from consuming a 7-11 Slurpee too fast). You can do burpees at any pace you are ready for, but do it long enough to get breathing hard, then catch your breath and repeat for, say 5 minutes a day. Add in walking your dog, using hand-grip weights or anything else that also strengthens your grip to be more time efficient as you prepare.
Flexibility: Sitting in a raft is different from how we normally sit in a chair. Walking on uneven terrain is different than on a paved path. Flexibility may be more important than strength in helping prevent injuries. Consider that when you absolutely don't want to exercise, but you do have a minute to stretch. Always be stretching.
Balance & Mental Awareness: Of course knowing your own limits is vital for keeping yourself safer - and that responsibility can't be placed on anyone but you! While exercising and preparing for your rafting trip, pay attention to two things: (1) Your own sense of physical balance, and (2) how much harder you can push yourself that you initially may have thought. These two things will keep you safer, while also moving beyond self-imposed limitations and comfort zones. That's the definition of a great adventure!
Drink lotsa water: Get used to drinking a lot of water as you exercise more. In the hot sun, even simply sitting on a raft, you will sweat and burn more calories than you may have thought. Hydration is not an area to "push through" and "be tough" about! Drink water! Reward that hard working body!
Swimming skills are a plus! Swimming is a great way to prepare for a rafting trip too. You may (voluntarily or involuntarily) be doing some swimming on your rafting trip. Don't let that scare you. You've got a lifejacket (PFD) on at all times and may only need to do some strokes and kicks to get yourself back to the boat, or to shore.
Myth #9 on our 11 Myths of Whitewater Rafting page dispels the notion that you must be athletic to enjoy a rafting trip. Take a look there if you want to learn more about what to expect on rafting vacations.
If you have concerns or questions about your physical condition, we recommend you also consult your physician. If you have questions about the specific parameters of a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, please contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669. We would be happy to provide any other information you need to make this decision, or to discuss any of this information in detail.
If I'm pregnant, can I still go rafting?
If you are pregnant, you will not be permitted to go rafting. Our trips take place in remote wilderness settings where access to advanced medical care can be hours away (possibly overnight), and conditions such as extreme heat and vigorous activity can exacerbate discomfort and any known or unknown conditions.
Please remember that you will not always be pregnant, but the river will always be here. We do not believe it is worth the risk, no matter how early you are in your pregnancy. We think moms are special and hope you understand.
If you think there is a chance that you may be pregnant after making your deposit you should take out cancellation insurance that would have coverage to cancel for any reason or plan to have someone take your place. We offer the name change option for you or anyone in your party for $50 per person.
Can I bring a CPAP machine on the river?
If you use a CPAP machine, please ensure that you can complete the trip if your CPAP machine fails or your batteries don’t last. Medical evacuation is only available for severe injury or an imminently life threatening condition. You must be able to safely complete the trip without a working device! Please contact our office to advise us if you will be bringing a cpap machine on your trip. 1-801-942-6669
Thank you for carefully considering additional challenges that traveling with a CPAP requires on a multi-day backcountry camping and rafting expedition. It is important to us that you choose wisely, and come well prepared to self-sufficiently manage this need while camping in the backcountry.
Reservations & Cancellations
What deposit is required?
An initial of $300 non-refundable deposit per person is required to secure your space. Deposits may be made by check or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express).
Can I hold space without a deposit?
At the present time we are not holding space without a deposit.
When is final payment due?
Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable. Payment may be paid by check (preferably) or credit card.
How can I make payments?
You may make partial payments by credit card or mailing in a check providing the full balance is paid 90 days prior to your trip. We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by the due date.
For payments over $10,000 and for large international payments, a check or wire transfer is preferred.
What is the cancellation and refund policy?
A $300 non-refundable, per person deposit is due at time of reservation. Final payment is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is also non-refundable.
We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by due date.
Our cancellation policy applies in every instance and there will be no exceptions for any reason. Western River Expeditions will not issue any refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early whether voluntary or caused by other circumstances. Western River Expeditions is not responsible for any expenses incurred due to travel delays, flight cancellations, or illness. Western River Expeditions assumes no financial responsibility for personal injury, emergency evacuation, or personal equipment lost or damaged in any way.
In the event that we are forced to cancel any portion of the direct services provided by Western River Expeditions or contractors due to unsafe water levels, wildfire, flooding or other unforeseen circumstances, Western River Expeditions will refund the portion of the unavailable services. However, in these cases, refunds will not be given for flights or other travel expenses related to the trip.
Some of the most difficult situations occur when a guest needs to cancel a few days before a trip because of an injury, a family illness, or some other catastrophic event. In these situations, we generally do not have time to refill the space. Yet, we have already spent considerable time, money, and energy preparing for your trip: scheduling vehicles, flights, drivers, guides and equipment, purchasing food, etc. Because of our short season and very limited number of available seats, we cannot afford the financial loss that cancellations cause. Therefore, consider the investment you are making in your vacation and whether or not you could afford the loss if you did have to cancel.
What about tips and gratuities?
Cash is best for gratuities. (Your guides will make every effort to see that your trip is enjoyable and successful. Gratuities for guides are appropriate, greatly appreciated, and at your discretion, a gesture of thanks for their professionalism and service. A suggested guideline is 10 percent of the trip cost. The common practice is to give the gratuity to the trip leader on the last night. It will later be divided equally with the rest of the crew).
Are departures guaranteed?
If for any reason a trip had to be cancelled by our company we would provide a full refund. This refund does not include any external travel expenses (flights, hotels, etc).
The demand on our Grand Canyon rafting expeditions is high and the trips book far in advance. It is extremely unlikely that your trip would ever be cancelled due to insufficient availability.
What if the date I want is sold out?
Please contact our office if the date you desire is sold out. We will be happy to place you on our waiting list. We also offer rafting trips in many other popular areas of interest that rival those in the Grand Canyon.
How far in advance should I make my reservation?
As our dates are released a year or more in advance. It is recommended that you make your reservations early in order to get the trip date that you prefer. You are able to change the date of your trip up to 90 days prior to your trip departing.
Groups & Charters
What is the maximum number of guests on this trip?
In the Grand Canyon we run single (18 guests total) and double boat (28 guests total) launches. On our single launch all 18 guests will be on the same raft. If you are on a double boat launch there will be 14 guests on each raft. All of our launches will have two guides per raft.
How many guests per raft?
In the Grand Canyon we run single (18 guests total) and double boat (28 guests total) launches. On our single launch all 18 guests will be on the same raft. If you are on a double boat launch there will be 14 guests on each raft. All of our launches will have two guides per raft. Our rafts are large and provide plenty of room for all of our guests. You may even get up and walk around during the calm sections of the river.
Can I charter my own private trip?
A charter group can be organized for either a single boat (18 guests) or double boat (28 guests) launch. You would need to fill the entire launch.
What about group discounts?
For your efforts in organizing and filling up an entire launch you will receive a full base-rate fare free. If you are able to fill 14 seats as a group on a double boat launch you will qualify for 1/2 base- rate fare discount.
What is the easiest way to get my friends booked on the same trip?
Arranging a group trip with Western is an easy task. First you will want to make your own reservation. The members of your group may then call our office to join your group. If group members are paying separately each can have their own reservation while still being tied together as a group. Placing a courtesy hold on a specific trip date will enable your friends to call in and release seats from the hold as they place their individual reservations within your group.
What if I’m traveling solo?
A rafting adventure through the Grand Canyon is a perfect fit for the solo traveler. There are many advantages including greater flexibility in choosing your trip date. Traveling solo can set free your natural curiosity as you embark on an expedition that is truly yours alone to experience.
What is the age limit for this trip and is it flexible?
We will take guests as young as age 9. Due to safety concerns for all of our guests this policy is firm and has been set with much thought and discussion over our 50 plus years of experience. When deciding if this trip is best suited for your child evaluate their maturity in terms of following instructions and listening to adults and consider their physical abilities to grip the ropes on the raft tightly when going through the rapids. The youth life vests fit children from 50-90 lbs. If your child is right at 50 lbs please contact our office.
We do not have a maximum age for our guests. However, if you are over 70 years of age the decision to take this rafting trip should be carefully considered. You will be exposed at times to extreme environmental conditions. Good health and physical stamina are required. Please consider your health and the remote nature of the Grand Canyon when deciding if this is the right trip for you.
What if my kids are picky eaters?
The policy we have developed in order to maximize the common welfare of all guests on a trip, and to allow our guides to focus their time and attention on critical aspects of a trip is that: “Guests may bring supplemental items if they do not require special preparation by our guides, or use of our cooking facilities.” We keep an ample supply of snacks, fresh fruits, vegetables, and side items to choose from, and encourage guests with special dietary requests to bring items that do not need special preparation. We have both cold and dry storage available on our boats for any supplemental products you may bring.
Below are the meal items we provide during the duration of your trip with us:
Bacon, eggs to order, blueberry pancakes with assorted syrups, sausage patties,hash browns, fresh baked muffins, melon, grapefruit, OJ.
Cold cut sandwich options served with a wide variety of mostly whole grain breads, assorted condiments and vegetables or the optional PB & J. A delicious Tuna Salad Medley Wrap is also served as a lunch.
Pasta, salad with a homemade vinaigrette dressing and warm Garlic bread. Shrimp cocktail, Steak , harvest blend rice, and dinner rolls.
Is this the best trip for younger children?
When deciding on the suitability of this trip for your child consider the maturity and physical ability of your child. At times this rafting trip consists of hours at a time drifting in very calm sections of water, this is especially true of the last morning of your trip. There are times your child will need to be able to securely grip our ropes as our guides maneuver through Class III (moderately difficult) rapids. The rafts that we use in the Grand Canyon are approximately 3 feet off the river. This is not the type of raft that will allow children to splash and play in the water as we are rafting. The hikes will require you to be vigilant as to your child’s whereabouts to keep them from possible areas of danger. While this trip is well suited for many families with children as young as 9, and many of these families have called it the trip of a lifetime, it is up to you to decide if it is best suited for your child. As a comparison, our Green River 5- Day Rafting Trip is very well suited for young families in that the water is warm, the rafts are low enough to the water for children to splash and play in the river and there are ample opportunities for children to enjoy the big sandy beaches. We also offer special menu items just for children.
Preparing & Packing
What should I bring?
Print or download a comprehensive packing list, specific to this trip. This has been developed with careful consideration over many years of experience. We recommend you follow this list as it is best to be sufficiently prepared (especially for changes in the weather and temperature) to enjoy your trip to the fullest extent.
All of your river trip items should be packed in a soft sided duffel bag (12” x 13” x 24”). Once you are at the river this duffel bag will be placed in a large gear bag, which will also contain your sleeping bag, sheet and ground tarp, and will be stored on the raft during the day. You will have access to this in camp at night and in the morning. We will also supply a small dry use day bag (7” x 13”) in which to store any items you will need frequent access to during the day, such items may include medications, rain gear, camera, and sunscreen.
Do I need a wetsuit?
We do recommend bringing a 2 piece rain suit as it is best to be prepared for all types of weather in the canyon. If you already have a splash jacket you are welcome to use this in place of the rain jacket. A wet suit is not recommended. These are difficult to take on and off whereas a rain suit can be worn over your clothes and, when no longer needed, can quickly be put away once again.
Can I bring my own lifejacket or PFD?
Guests are not allowed to bring their own lifejacket or PFD. Western River Expeditions is subject to regulations promulgated by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and State Parks. All three of these agencies require that guests of commercial outfitters wear Type V Whitewater lifejackets. Personal life jackets are usually meant for lake sports and even Type III jackets, meant for kayaking or canoeing, are not acceptable for use by our guests.
Fortunately, the newer generations of Type V life jackets are very comfortable. They also have a lot more floatation than the typical personal jacket.
What about fishing on the river?
Fishing is allowed in the Grand Canyon, however, we typically do not recommend it. All fishing is catch and release. There is not a lot of time for fishing during the day, but early mornings and late afternoons in camp provide opportunities for wetting a hook.
A 5-day license can be purchased for about $32. Send your request to: AZ Game and Fish, 2221 W. Greenway Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85023. Western does not provide fishing gear. Your pole must be collapsible and in a case.
How should I be dressed the morning of my rafting trip?
You should be dressed and ready to go to the river as you board the bus on your first day. Ladies, if you are planning to raft in a bathing suit, you may want to wear layers (quick dry shirt and shorts) these can be placed in your day bag once you get to the river.
What about sun protection?
A good waterproof sunblock and sunscreen lip balm to protect you from the dry desert heat is essential. This should be frequently applied. Your rafting trip will be almost entirely in full sun with very little shade. A sturdy water bottle is also vital to beat combat the heat. We provide a continual supply of cold, filtered water and lemonade for you to refill your bottle throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water will keep you from becoming dehydrated.
A sarong is very useful to cover your legs and can also be wetted in the river to help you stay cool. A head buff or bandana which has been soaked in the river may be worn around your head or neck to cool you down. Light fabrics and those treated with SPF are also recommended. A pair of socks may protect your feet from becoming sunburned. Apply and reapply ample amounts of sunscreen. After sun lotion is recommended. Wearing a hat with a brim or protection for your face, neck and ears is also an essential item. Many of these may have a strap to conveniently attach to your clothing. You will want to wear sunglasses (with a safety strap) and may want to bring an extra pair just in case!
Can I bring a camera on the river? What about charging it?
Cameras can be charged if guests bring a portable charging device. Alternately, cameras can be charged if guests bring a portable charging device. We recommend bringing extra batteries or a battery pack, rather than relying on a solar charger. If a cell phone is used for picture taking, it should be in airplane mode to conserve battery life, and be in a waterproof case.
This video features some excellent camera tips:
Guidelines for camera use on the river:
You are free to film and shoot photos during our trips, however, we ask that you consult with your guide before doing so. We have some guidelines you will be asked to follow. These include:
Shooting from an appropriate location - Wearing a camera in certain locations could endanger yourself or others around you. If your guide feels that your use of a camera may put you or another guest in danger, you may be asked to put the camera away or move to a safer location for filming.
No pole mounts or extension devices on rafts - Cameras cannot be mounted to poles or other extension devices while on rafts as this may endanger you or other guests.
Shut down cameras in emergency situations - For the privacy of those involved and your own personal safety, you will be expected to shut your camera down if first aid is being rendered or in an emergency situation. We need all guests to remain alert and undistracted from filming or taking pictures in such situations.
Anticipate battery or card change necessities - If you see your card getting full or battery getting low, change them ahead of time during an appropriate moment. Rafts or vehicles cannot be stopped to change batteries or memory cards.
Cameras may be damaged or lost - We cannot guarantee the safety of your camera. It may become wet, sandy, lost in the river, dropped on a hike, etc.
Respect the privacy of others - If someone does not want to be filmed or photographed, please respect their privacy.
If you’re wondering what type of camera is most suitable for the river, here are a few thoughts.
Waterproof/Shockproof Digital Cameras - These cameras are perfect for everyday use and have become very affordable with most at $100 to $300. They’re rugged and waterproof, but also elegant and trim like any other digital camera.
GoPro and Similar Cameras - Together with their durable waterproof cases, these cameras can take some nice shots while on and off the water. Generally, the wide angle zoom cannot be adjusted so this should be taken into consideration. We ask that you plan to mount these cameras only with the head strap or helmet mount options (bring your own helmet). You will not be allowed to mount the cameras anywhere on the rafts during travel on the river.
Larger SLR Cameras - It is possible to bring a larger SLR camera, but be sure to have something sturdy to protect it. We recommend a hard-shell Pelican Case if you’re planning to bring a more expensive camera. Space is limited on the boats, so we try to keep additional camera equipment minimal.
Aquapac - This is a good solution if you aren’t in the market for a brand new camera, but just want to protect the one you have. It is a flexible waterproof housing to fit a number of camera types -- including video cameras. You do need to make sure the plastic housing stays clean as you’re shooting through it, but a lot of our guests find this to be a nice solution.
Batteries and Cards - While your are in remote areas during your trip, there will not be any location to charge your batteries or devices. Consider bringing extra batteries and memory cards and don't forget to charge your extra batteries before you get to the river.
Small Float - You might consider attaching your camera to a small float that may save your camera if you happen to drop it in the river. GoPro sells a small, attachable float that fits on the back of the camera housing that many of our guests find useful.
How do I protect my belongings from getting wet?
To assist in keeping your belongings free of sand and water you may pack them in sealed plastic storage bags (a ziplock or similar air tight bag).
Western River will provide two dry bags for your use to help you protect your belongings:
Day Bag- this water- resistant bag (approximately 7” x 13”) can be used for the items (raingear, camera, medications, sun block, etc) you need to access during the daytime hours that will be spent on the raft.
Gear Bag- water-resistant large bag you will receive upon your arrival at the river. This will hold your duffle bag, sleeping bag, sheet, and tarp.
What gear is provided with the trip?
As noted above, we will provide you with US Coast Guard approved life vests. Western River Expeditions also provides cots, tents, sleeping bags, sheets, camp chairs and waterproof gear bags and day bags for all guests. You’ll have no need to worry about bringing any of your own camping equipment with the exception of a small travel pillow.
What do I do with extra luggage?
Your meeting and ending location for this trip is at the Las Vegas Marriott. They will store extra luggage for you for a charge of $6 per bag/per day. For non guests they charge $15 per bag/per day. It is recommended that you do not leave any electronics or heat sensitive items in your car due to the extreme heat.
Where can I leave my car?
The Las Vegas Marriott (on 325 Convention Center DR) will provide complimentary parking if you are staying with them (for standard vehicles) while you are on the river. If you are not staying with them as our guest there will be a charge of $12 per car, per day.
On the River
What is a typical day on the river? How much time is spent on the raft?
A typical day will include rafting for a few hours at a time, stopping for scenic side-canyon hikes, bathroom breaks, lunch and possible short swimming opportunities. Visiting with new-found friends and learning river lore and geology from our well-trained guides adds to the enjoyment of each day. After a full day of learning and fun we arrive in camp. Guests are given time to find their favorite campsite on the designated beach and then return to the rafts for the famous “fire line” - this is our method to load and unload rafts. Your help in passing the gear off the boat is greatly appreciated; however, if you have physical restrictions or limitations that would prohibit you from participating you are not required to help.
The first evening in camp, the guides will give a demonstration on how to easily assemble the cots and tents and will be available to help you if you need additional assistance. Western River provides cots, tents, sleeping bags, sheets, camp chair and waterproof gear bags for all guests. You’ll have no need to worry about bringing any of your own camping equipment with the exception of a small travel pillow.
While you relax at the river’s edge, your guides will prepare dinner. Every night is different, but the menu may include items such as steak with sautéed onions, pasta or fresh fish. At night, whether you choose to sleep in your tent or under the vast canopy of stars, the fresh night air and the rhythm of the river will lull you to sleep.
Each morning, your guides will prepare a delicious breakfast. You’ll have a chance to enjoy eating before returning to your campsite to take down your tent and cot and pack up your belongings in your dry bag. After bringing your bag down to the boats, guests participate in in the fire line once again and you are off on another exciting day of adventure!
What about rapids and water levels?
Water levels in the Grand Canyon are controlled by the Glen Canyon Dam. Throughout the rafting season you can expect to see up to Class III rapids due to the consistent flow that is being released. This also keeps the water temperature around a chilly 52 degrees as the water is being pulled from the bottom of the dam.
What type of raft can I expect?
The only raft we will use in the Grand Canyon is Western's J-Rig Raft.Named after Western’s founder, Jack Curry, the “J-Rig” is a patented craft offering the most flexible and comfortable ride on the river. If you’re a thrill seeker, you can sit up front where the waves hit hardest, or ride aft for more protection. There are plenty of calm sections along the river where you can move freely around the boat and trade seating positions throughout the trip.
What is the water temperature on the river?
The water temperature around a chilly 52 degrees as the water is being pulled from the bottom of the dam.
What about swimming?
At a fairly consistent 52 degree water temperature, this are is not ideal for extended periods of swimming. It does provide invigorating opportunities for bathing that will wake you right up! Circumstances allowing, you may have an option to refresh yourself under a series of waterfalls in the Travertine Grotto.
What bathroom facilities are available during my trip?
Because our trips operate in remote, backcountry settings, there are no permanent bathroom facilities. We use portable toilets that we haul with us. We’ve prepared a video describing toilet facilities on the river. Click on the link, watch the video and then call us if you have more questions.
The portable toilets described in the video are available shortly after we set up camp each afternoon until we leave camp the next morning. During the day, the guides will make frequent stops at which you can go to the bathroom if needed. During the day, urination is done into the main river channel, but if you need to do more than this, just ask your guide and he/she will introduce you to our daytime toilet system.
What do I do about feminine hygiene during the trip?
If you expect to be menstruating during your trip, we recommend the use of tampons rather than pads. During the day, you will constantly be getting wet, so pads are not ideal. If you choose to use pads, we recommend wearing a good pair of waterproof rain pants.
A good strategy is to bring several sandwich-sized zip-lock bags pre-packed with individual tampons. The same bag can then be used for disposal after use. Toilet facilities will always be available while in camp and the guides will stop as often as is necessary during the day to accommodate your needs. We will always provide a means for discreet disposal of feminine hygiene items. It is best that you bring your own supplies, but we also carry a supply of feminine hygiene products.
Additional tips that have come from previous guests:
Bring a sarong that can be used for additional privacy. It also helps when changing clothes.
Wear a two-piece swimsuit such as a tankini with swimsuit bottoms covered by shorts. This is most comfortable for wearing lifejackets, sitting on boats and going to the bathroom.
Bring hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and non-applicator tampons.
Can I be contacted while on the river?
While the remote nature of this canyon definitely adds to it’s pristine beauty, it is not conducive to outside communication. You will be able to completely disconnect from the world and will be out of contact for the duration of your trip. If you are worried about an emergency arising at home while you are on the river you will want to have a plan in place with friends or family of what to do if they are not able to contact you. Please give our office number (1-800-453-7450) to any family or friends who will need to get word to you if there is an emergency. Once you are off the river we will get the message to you.
Can I contact others while on the river?
You may rent a satellite phone, however, they are expensive, coverage can be very limited and you may have poor reception. The remote nature of this area is one of it’s most attractive features and we recommend that you enjoy the opportunity to disconnect and immerse yourself in the beauty of your surroundings.
What if I need to take medications?
Please check with your physician prior to your trip if you have any medical or health condition or if you are taking any medications, and then notify our office of how we can better assist you with these conditions.
Remember to bring all necessary medications with you. We also urge you to bring extra medication in case of emergency situations. You will be able to keep medications with you during the day using our waterproof day bags. We also have dry and cold storage available for you.
What if there is a medical situation on the river?
All of our river guides are certified with a minimum of advanced first aid and many hold more advanced certifications such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). We carry multiple, well stocked first aid kits on every trip and the guides will provide any “first aid” level care that is needed or you have the option of using our first aid supplies to treat yourself.
If the injury or illness requires medical attention beyond what is possible on the river, we evacuate the affected guest. The most common means of evacuation is via helicopter. However, on some river stretches, evacuation may occur using a high-speed boat or even a vehicle. We carry satellite phones that allow us to communicate with emergency medical professionals.
Because we are in remote, wilderness settings, it may take a while for more advanced medical help to arrive. Please note that the satellite phones are only used during emergency situations. Because they have limited battery life, we do not leave them on at all times and it is not possible to call the satellite phone to deliver a message from off the river. There is no cell phone reception in the remote canyons in which most of our trips are conducted.
The Great Outdoors
What can I expect at camp?
Awaken to the smell of coffee as your guides prepare a delicious breakfast for you to enjoy along the banks of the Colorado River! After a filling and delicious breakfast you will be ready to return to your campsite where you will need to take down your tent and cot and pack up your belongings in your gear bag for the day. After bringing your bag down to the boats, guests participate in the “fire line” - the way we load and unload rafts. Your help in passing the gear to the boat is greatly appreciated; however, if you have physical restrictions or limitations that would prohibit you from participating you are not required to help. Once the rafts have been loaded you are off on another “Grand” expedition, a day filled with discovery and adventure.
You will arrive back in camp in the early evening hours. The first evening in camp, the guides will give a demonstration on how to easily assemble the cots and tents and will be available to help you if you need additional assistance. As stated in our packing list, Western River provides cots, tents, sleeping bags, sheets, camp chair and water-proof gear bags for all guests. You’ll have no need to worry about bringing any of your own camping equipment.
While you relax at the river’s edge with your fellow guests, your guides will prepare a scrumptious dinner. Every night is different, but the menu may include pasta, salads, rice and steak.
Whether you choose to sleep in your tent or under the vast canopy of stars in the brilliant night sky, you will enjoy the fresh night air and the rhythm of the river as you drift off to sleep.
What are the sleeping arrangements during the trip?
Western River provides cots, tents, sleeping bags, sheets, camp chair and water-proof gear bags for all guests. You’ll have no need to worry about bringing any of your own camping equipment. Our tents can sleep two guests comfortably though many of our guests prefer to sleep out under the brilliant star filled sky.
How do I bathe while on the river?
Bathing in the Colorado River is a most refreshing experience! Placing your cot near the edge of the river with the items needed items for you bath will make this a simple process. These include a biodegradable soap (soaps like Dr Bronner’s Peppermint are refreshing and can be used to wash your clothes in the river and keep them smelling nice and fresh) shampoo, a bath sponge, a quick drying towel (microfiber works well) a change of clothes and lotion.
First scout out a shallow spot along the bank of the river. Test the area with your foot to make sure the water is shallow and to ensure that you are away from the current.
Scrub your body (and bathing suit) with the bath sponge and shampoo your hair. The next step is to dash into the chilly river and take an invigorating quick dip to rinse. This is also a good opportunity to wash your dirty clothes. Once clean there are plenty of branches from which to drape your clothes or you may bring a rope and clothespins to assist in the drying process.
It is important to remember lotion. Apply an after sun lotion once you have bathed to aid in moisturizing your skin and helping it to heal from sun exposure.
You will want to use the clean filtered water we provide for brushing your teeth. Do not drink the river water.
Bathing at the end of your rafting day is a revitalizing experience which will aid in a restful slumber!
What about bugs?
Biting insects are of little or no concern in Grand Canyon. We occasionally see horse flies, but we generally do not see mosquitoes or gnats. Other, non-biting, flying insects are present and mostly are an issue when they are attracted to your flashlight or headlamp. The way to solve this is to bring a headlamp that has the option of using a red light.
Many people worry about snakes and scorpions. Both are an important part of the desert ecosystem, but neither likes to be around humans very much. With proper precautions that will be explained by your guides, you can generally avoid them altogether.
While it is rare that we see snakes or scorpions, when we do, your guides are expert at moving them away from camp so they will not present a safety concern. We are respectful of these native creatures and we do our best not to harm them, but we also take all precautions to make sure they don’t bother our guests.
What do I do with jewelry while on the river?
It is best to leave your jewelry behind. Rafting is an active vacation and jewelry often gets in the way. Earrings and necklaces can get caught on lifejackets. Rings can also cause injuries when you are holding on tightly to ropes.
Food & Beverage
What meals are provided with the trip?
Day One: Breakfast provided by the Las Vegas Marriott, lunch and dinner will be prepared by our guides
Day Two: Breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by our guides
Day Three: Breakfast prepared by our guides, lunch box provided by Capriotti’s
What is the food like?
Come hungry! Our guests are surprised by the quality and variety of food that we are able to provide in such a remote environment.. Look forward to the smell of pancakes, bacon and sausage at breakfast. Delicious lunch buffets include deli style lunch meats and a wide selection of breads. We offer a variety of fruits throughout the day. Dinners are delicious and filling and include items such as meat, salad, pasta, and bread.
What beverages are supplied and what can I bring?
Western provides an unlimited supply of water and lemonade. Bring along your own water bottle (24 oz or more) for filling and refilling. We encourage you to drink plenty of liquids throughout the day to avoid dehydration in the canyon.
Western does not provide beer, liquor, or soda pop. Guests arriving on the charter flight from Las Vegas must purchase beverages before leaving Las Vegas. These items are not available for purchase at Bar 10 Ranch. TSA regulations require that liquor be under 140 proof and stored in the original container (we ask that you transfer bottled alcohol to unbreakable flasks prior to departing for the river). It is included in the 25 lb (20 lb duffle bag + 5 lbs of beverages) limit per person or there will be a $15 charge.
What about dietary restrictions or food allergies?
On multi-day river trips, our food service is limited by several factors:
We use a portable, camp-stove style, kitchen with a limited cooking surface and a limited supply of propane.
Our cold and dry food storage capacity is also limited because it all has to fit on the boats along with the camp gear and the guests.
Because we operate in remote, rural locations, many items are simply not available.
Our guides, who are also the cooks, are so busy with all of the tasks involved with running a river trip, that they do not have excess time to prepare special food requests. They strive to maximize the time spent hiking, rafting and enjoying the canyon with less time spent preparing food.
Within these limitations, we’ve crafted a menu that is designed to be prepared quickly and efficiently and to appeal to a large variety of tastes. All of our meals are served “buffet or family style” with any custom, per person preparation being limited to things like “how would you like your steak cooked” or “do you prefer your eggs scrambled or over-easy?”
While we try to accommodate some special dietary needs, we are not always able. If you have a specific food allergy or sensitivity, please let us know. If you have dietary restrictions based on a lifestyle choice or religious practice, please let us know. If your food allergy is severe, we need to have a more in-depth conversation about what can and cannot be done.
Please understand that we may not be able to completely meet your needs. However, we have found that most people find what they need from within our established menu.
The policy we have developed to maximize the common welfare of all guests on a river trip, and to allow our guides to focus their time and attention on critical aspects of a trip is that:
Guests may bring supplemental items if they do not require special preparation by our guides, or use of our cooking facilities. We will always have an ample supply of snacks, fresh fruits, vegetables, and side items to choose from. While our storage space is limited, we have both cold and dry storage available on our boats for any supplemental products you may bring.
We cannot absolutely guarantee your safety if your food allergy is severe enough to cause anaphylaxis. You must bring an adequate supply of your own Epipens to meet your needs. Please understand that one injection of an epipen will only last 10-20 minutes and that an evacuation from the river may take hours.
Please let us know of any special dietary needs well in advance. Special food requests made within two weeks of the trip launch date may not be able to be accommodated.
Can I bring my own food and snacks?
We bring a variety of snacks on every trip. As a general rule, snacks will be served mid-morning and mid-afternoon while traveling down river. If you would like to bring some of your own snacks, small, pre-packaged items are best. We can provide cold or dry storage. If you have special dietary needs, bringing some of your own snacks that work well for you is a great idea.
What about liquor and controlled substances?
Hard alcohol is allowed at your own discretion. Storage will be provided on the boats. Be aware that FAA guidelines require liquor to be in unopened (sealed) containers during flight, even if packed in your bags.
Note: Hydration (ie. drinking enough water to offset diuretics such as alcohol or even caffeinated beverages) is especially vital to your health and safety on the river in the hot desert sun. Also, be aware that intoxication on a rafting trip, along the river and in camp can be particularly dangerous, so we advise prudence!
Controlled substances, such as Marijuana, are illegal to possess in Grand Canyon National Park.
Travel & Logistics
When is the best time to travel?
Our rafting begins in April and ends at the end of September. The water remains close to 52 degrees throughout the season. Due to this area being dam controlled you will also see consistent rapids (up to a Class III) all season.
Air temperature is the major difference when choosing the ideal month. You will find milder temperatures in April, May and September. The cacti are in bloom in April and May. The big horn sheep and other wildlife are more abundant in late August and September. Keep in mind you will be on a rafting adventure through one of the greatest natural wonders of the world which makes anytime a great time to experience a rafting adventure through the Grand Canyon!
What weather should I expect?
Be prepared for the heat and the possibility of cooler weather and rain showers. In April and May it is possible to see both snow and temperatures over 100 degrees on the same trip. During late May-September, it is normal to see average daytime temperatures over 110 degrees, with little shade.
Due to the unpredictable nature of the weather we suggest that you follow our suggested packing list as it is best to be prepared for any weather conditions you may encounter on your trip. This is applicable to all trips throughout the season. The following chart shows averages for the months of March through October. Temperatures and precipitation will vary. A rain storm or a cool front can happen anytime.
You can find current weather forecasts at Refer to the 7- Day Phantom Ranch Forecast as this is the closest forecast that relates to your trip:
The portion of the canyon in which you are rafting may be over 100 miles from the point at which this weather is being forecast. It may be warmer on your trip than the 7- Day Phantom Ranch forecast.
How do I get there?
Your trip meets at 6:10 a.m. at the Las Vegas Marriott on 325 Convention Center DR., Las Vegas, Nevada. Taxi service is available from the Las Vegas McCarran Airport. The Las Vegas Marriott is also conveniently located near the Las Vegas Monorail Station that goes to the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. Guests staying at this property enjoy free parking and baggage storage is available for $6 per bag per day. Luggage storage for guests not staying at The Las Vegas Marriott is $15 per bag, per day.
What transportation is provided with the trip?
The transportation included in your trip price is as follows:
Shuttle service to Boulder Terminal
Charter Flight from the Boulder Terminal to the Bar 10 Ranch
Helicopter Flight from Bar 10 Ranch to the Colorado River
Jet Boat across Lake Mead to Pearce Ferry
Shuttle service from take out at Pearce Ferry to Las Vegas Marriott
Am I able to drive out and meet you at the Bar 10 Ranch instead of taking the flight?
Due to the extremely remote location of the Bar 10 Ranch flying is the best mode of transportation. Accessing the ranch with a vehicle is very difficult. There is no pavement and the rocky dirt roads require the use of all terrain vehicles. You may not leave a vehicle at the ranch as there is no way to return to it. You will be 100 miles downstream when you complete your rafting adventure with us.
What accommodations are recommended before and after the trip?
Pre and post trip accommodations are your responsibility. We do have a negotiated rate with the Las Vegas Marriott and we highly recommend this property. It is not on the strip and well managed. They take excellent care of our guests and have a wonderful reputation.
It is recommended that you arrive in Las Vegas early on the day prior to your trip so as to avoid any possible flight delays. We also recommend that you plan a night’s stay the day you return from the river. Indulge in a hot shower and enjoy a long night’s rest prior to returning home.
What do I do with car keys?
Car keys can be packed in your duffel bag. It is recommended that you place these in a zippered pocket in your bag.