Grand Canyon Kayaking
River kayaking on any part of the Colorado, including the section that runs through the Grand Canyon in Arizona, is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re up for this ‘bucket list’ challenge, here are four things for you to consider.
1. COMMERCIAL or SELF-GUIDED
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to go with one of the commercial kayaking companies in Arizona OR if you want a self-guided adventure. Search anything from “Grand Canyon Kayaking Day Trip” to “Extended Kayaking Adventure in the Grand Canyon” for information about licensed businesses.
If you are more adventuresome and want to plan your own trip, the place to start is the National Park Service’s Helpful Links for Non-commercial River Trips – Grand Canyon which can be found here.
On this site, you will find everything you need to know about how and when to apply for permits. In case you don’t know, you can’t just take a kayak or raft down to the river and hop in. Permits are issued by weighted lottery done each February. If you miss out on that, you need to apply again the following year.
An interesting and often overlooked condition for kayaking and camping in the Grand Canyon is that everything you take into the area must be brought out at the end of the trip – including human waste.
2. TIME OF THE YEAR
If your choice of vacation time is not limited, you can choose the kind of kayaking trip you want by keeping the following factors in mind:
- ‘High water’ does not necessarily provide the most exhilarating ride.
- April and October have high temperatures that average 82ºF – 85ºF. The highs in May and September run between 92ºF and 95ºF. June is the hottest month at 103ºF – 105ºF.
- Water temperatures, cooler than the ambient temperature, is always a cold 52ºF.
- Check Phantom Ranch for weather information here
3. PERSONAL GEAR
Regardless of whether you go commercial or non-commercial, you will need to pack clothes that dry easily and that can provide warmth when necessary. In addition to ‘regular’ clothes, kayakers in the Grand Canyon need to include rain gear (especially important during the monsoon months of July and August), hiking boots for trips into the canyon, sun protection and water shoes.
Personally, I hate it when I ask how much something costs and the response is, “it depends”. Unfortunately, that is the answer to this question. The expense of kayaking in Arizona is dependent on how much gear you already own, how long your trip will be and what “frills” you want to add.
A quick online search suggests that a ‘basic’ commercial five-day trip can run $1800 - $2000 USD, while a 15-day package may run $4000 USD. Whether your trip is commercial or self-guided, you also need to factor in the cost of getting from your residence to the launch point.
Want to kayak the Grand Canyon? PLAN AHEAD!