Planning Your Grand Canyon Rafting Tour Choosing the Right Raft

Grand canyon adventure tours

Nearly five million people will visit the Grand Canyon each year. For some, the trip is a quick drive-by with a quick pit stop to stand at the rail to gaze down at the magnificence of what is widely considered the world’s most spectacular canyon. Others may decide to take a closer look with a walk to the bottom or guided hike. The most adventurous, however, opt for a Grand Canyon river rafting tour.

If you’re among the 28% of Americans who either do or intend to participate in river rafting, there’s few better places to experience it than along the Colorado River as it cuts through the Grand Canyon. Rafting Grand Canyon tours offer arguably the most intimate view of the canyon. They’re certainly incomparable to any other experience you’ll receive off the water. The real question, then, isn’t if you’ll take a rafting tour, but how you’ll take a rafting tour.

There are essentially two choices when it comes to rafting Grand Canyon tours: to have a motor or not to have a motor. Each raft option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Motorized rafts

Motorized rafts are a popular choice for rafting Grand Canyon tours, as they can carry a large number of people over a far greater distance than a non-motorized raft. If you’re on a tight schedule or just want to see as much as possible of the Grand Canyon while on your rafting adventure, a motorized raft is the way to go.

Motorized rafts are also the way to go if you don’t feel like paddling your way down the river, or are worried about safety. Many will tell you motorized rafts feel safer than their non-motorized counterparts. If your group includes travelers less inclined to jolting about in a non-motorized raft, you might prefer to schedule a motorized Grand Canyon rafting trip.

The benefits of the motorized tours can also be their downsides, however. Motorized rafting Grand Canyon tours may cover a lot of ground, but they do so at a far higher rate of speed. You could liken a motorized rafting tour to a tour by car, whereas a non-motorized rafting tour would be more comparable to travel by bicycle.

Non-motorized rafts

For a slower but certainly not more leisurely Grand Canyon river rafting tour, choose a non-motorized raft. With a non-motorized raft, you’re rowed or paddled down the river either by your own rowing power or that of a boatman. Either way, you’re certain to get a much more up close and personal experience of the Colorado River.

Dories are a unique option for a non-motorized trip. Less conventional than your traditional oar or paddle raft, these wooden boats resemble large canoes, not unlike the sort of vessels the Paleo-Indians would have likely sailed in when they first inhabited the Grand Canyon 12,000 years ago. Thanks to their wood build, they often provide a more elegant and comfortable ride to the softer, inflatable rafts. Rather than lurching over rough waves, you’ll have the opportunity to recline during slower sections of the river, and behold the amazing scenery.

The beauty of non-motorized rafting Grand Canyon tours is their slower pace. Without a motor propelling you by, you’ll have a much better opportunity to see the unique geological layers of the Grand Canyon. You’re also more likely to encounter some of the Grand Canyons myriad wildlife. The Grand Canyon provides home and habitat to 250 species of birds, 70 species of mammals, 25 different types of reptiles, and 5 unique amphibians. See how many you can spot on your Colorado River rafting adventure.

As with the motorized rafts, non-motorized rafts aren’t without their drawbacks, however. With your slower pace comes the consequence that you won’t be able to cover as much ground in a given day. Not necessarily a drawback if you have a longer trip planned, but something to keep in mind.

If you’re concerned about safety, there’s no need to be. While motorized rafts may feel safer, there’s no evidence that this is true. With all rafting Grand Canyon tours, injuries are rare. In any raft you’ll be wearing a life vest and under the experienced supervision of a trained guide and boatman.

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