double clickCrystal Rapid - A Massive Grand Canyon Rapid
Grand Canyon
6 or 7 Day Rafting Vacation

Mile 98 - Crystal Rapid

Before 1966, all that existed at the mouth of Crystal Creek was a minor riffle. However, during December of 1966 a monumental flash flood of rain and melted snow tore through the canyon spilling enormous amounts of sediment, rock, boulders, and other debris into the river. The flood, which wiped out 1,000 year old archaeological sites, left a monstrous rapid in its wake.

Original Runners »

The first river runners to run Crystal in the spring of 1967 had a formidable obstacle to navigate, just as the rapid today still demands no less concern. Since the flood, Crystal now contains several huge holes, many capable of capsizing boats large and small. Below the holes, a gigantic rock studded island breaks the river channel in two distinct sections. Because of the powerful holes in the upper part of the rapid, and the rocky island in the lower; Crystal must be run to the left or to the right. Both sides of the rapid involve unique sets of challenges. These challenges, along with the consequences of error, often make Crystal the most difficult to run in all of Grand Canyon.

1983 - New High Water »

In 1983, Crystal became even larger than it’s normal size. Because the rapid came into existence under tightly regulated post-dam flows, it had never been subjected to flows like the unexpected high water of ‘83. Due to a number of factors, some within the realm of human control and others not, the canyon was flushed with over 90,000 cubic feet per second of water during the beginning of June. The reservoir behind the dam was over-filling and the integrity of the dam itself was suddenly in grave danger. Dam Operators were faced with the task of letting out as much volume as they could before water began to spill over the top of the dam. River runners would have to face the challenges of running the canyon at flows higher than anyone had seen since the late 1950s.

Dangerous High Water »

A beast began to form at mile 98 as the river rose and rose. Rapids are commonly fiercest shortly after forming. Floods and high water eventually erode the rocks in rapids, opening up channels, essentially making them more navigable. In the case of Crystal, before the post-dam flood of ‘83, the rapid had not yet been subjected to high water of this magnitude. As the water rose an enormous frothing hole developed in the middle of the rapid. Almost all of the current pushed with great force into the monstrosity. Because of the power of the flooding river, the hole was equally essential to miss as it was difficult to avoid. By the time the park service closed the rapid to commercial passengers, four large motorized rafts and several smaller boats had capsized.

Today's Crystal »

Most river runners will never get to see Crystal at its peak like in 1983, especially since over the decades the river has continued to move rocks around and broaden channels. Nonetheless, Crystal continues to be a significant Grand Canyon rapid, one that demands respect and appreciation from all river runners.

Lower Gorge Grand Canyon

Lower Grand Canyon Mile by Mile »

The lower Grand Canyon, as traveled by Western's 3 or 4 day expedition begins at Whitmore Wash (mile 188) and finishes at Lake Mead (mile 277).

See Lower Grand Canyon