The Best Southwestern Adventures: Canoe

Colorado River, Arizona

Aug 15, 2012
Outside Magazine
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Just upstream from the Grand Canyon, there’s a 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River that has all the beauty of the big ditch but none of the tricky rapids and no waiting list for permits. Which means even a freshman paddler can navigate it. Start in Page, Arizona, where outfitter Kayak Powell rents canoes and will strap one to your roof—with padding (rentals, $55 for the first day, $40 for each additional day). Then drive about 45 miles to Lees Ferry, entryway to Grand Canyon National Park ($25 per vehicle). From there, outfitter Colorado River Discovery will shuttle you and your canoes upstream via motorboat to the put-in just below Glen Canyon Dam ($23 per person, plus $45 for the boat and gear). Spend the next two days floating downstream back to Lees Ferry, pitching a tent at one of six first-come, first-served National Park Service campsites along the way. Ferry Swale, four miles downstream from the dam, has a particularly nice beach. There’s plenty to keep you busy: fish for rainbow trout—the water is cold and clear on the upper river, thanks to the dam—spot Puebloan petroglyphs, or hike up narrow side canyons. Another perfectly reasonable plan is to drift and contemplate the utter improbability of the scenery: clear desert skies, 1,500-foot sandstone cliffs, and water so still it’s hard to tell where the rock ends and the reflection begins.