Why a Motorized Raft?
A motorized raft is usually around 35 feet long, holding up to 14 passengers and 2 guides. As the name suggests, motorized rafts are powered by an ultra-quiet 4-stroke motor. The addition of low-emission motors allows motorized rafts to travel along the Colorado River at up to 8 miles per hour (mph).
There are many benefits to choosing a motorized raft for a Grand Canyon rafting expedition. Not only are motorized rafts quicker than traditional oar-powered rafts, but they’re also more spacious and comfortable for multi-passenger trips. Motorized rafts offer secure seating and luggage areas, making them a great option for guests seeking the security of a larger raft type. When you’re in calm water, you’ll also be able to stand up and move around your motorized raft. Want to stay dry while traversing the canyon’s raging rapids? Your best bet is to sit towards the back of the raft where you’ll be shielded from the majority of the river’s spray.
Motorized rafts are also a great option for families with children. In most cases, the minimum age requirement for motorized raft tours is 8 years old. However, before booking a motorized Grand Canyon trip, be sure to do your own research as minimum age requirements for motorized rafts may vary between outfitters.
Oar-powered rafts are the second most popular raft option for Grand Canyon trips, with 12 out of 15 outfitters supporting oar-powered tours. Unlike paddle rafts, you will not be expected to steer or propel an oar-powered raft. Instead, you and your raft mates will remain seated while your river guide, stationed at the center of your 18-foot long raft, directs your craft with two large oars. Passengers may be permitted to take turns steering the raft through calmer areas of the Colorado River. Due to their smaller size, oar-powered rafts move approximately 4 mph slower than motorized rafts.
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Traveling via paddle raft is one of the most physically demanding ways to traverse the Grand Canyon river. This is because a paddle raft’s propulsion comes from you, your raft mates and your river guide. At the beginning of your paddle raft tour, you’ll be given a small paddle and your raft guide will show you and your raft mates how to use it to steer, accelerate, and decelerate your raft.
A paddle raft is much smaller than a motorized or oar-powered raft, so expect to only share your journey with a group of 4-8 people. Popular amongst people with prior rafting experience, paddle rafts are ideal for adventurers looking for a more physically challenging and hands-on adventure.
As a slightly less popular trip option, not all outfitters offer paddle raft tours in the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, while tour availability will depend on seasonal constraints and route selection, 4 out of the national park’s 15 outfitters still support paddle rafting trips.
Upper, Lower or Full Grand Canyon — What Are Your Options for a Motorized Raft Trip?
Aside from seasonal constraints, deciding on one motorized rafting route over another is usually determined by two key factors: your time availability and your sightseeing preferences. Grand Canyon outfitters currently offer motorized tours for the full Grand Canyon, the Upper Grand Canyon, and the Lower Grand Canyon.
The Full Grand Canyon
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Want to cover as much of the Grand Canyon as possible? A full canyon motorized rafting trip is the most time-effective way to travel the length and breadth of the Grand Canyon. With 6-day, 7-day, or 8-day options, all full Grand Canyon trips begin at Lees Ferry (river mile 0) in Marble Canyon. From there, you’ll hop into your motorized raft and begin making your way down the Colorado River. With 47 rapids in the Grand Canyon (rated 5 or above), you’ll have no shortage of exhilarating white water experiences. When you’re not crashing your way through white water, you’ll have free time to look for canyon wildlife, check out ancient geological formations, and respectfully inspect Native American cultural sites.
At the end of each day, you’ll have plenty of time to lazily set up camp alongside your raft mates. You can choose to camp in a tent, or, if you’d rather get in touch with nature, under the stars. While you’re exploring side canyons or setting up camp, your river guides will take care of all the food preparation and cooking, ensuring that you have access to a delicious range of meals and snacks throughout your trip.
At the conclusion of a full canyon trip, there are three different exit points you can choose from. If you want to incorporate an exciting helicopter ride into your trip, you can choose to exit at Whitmore Wash (river mile 188) where you will be airlifted out of the canyon to Bar 10 Ranch. From there, a charter plane can return you to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Alternatively, you and your raft mates can exit at either Diamond Creek (river mile 225) or Lake Mead (river mile 280) — both of these options have vehicle accessible exits. Remember, no matter which exit point you choose, full Grand Canyon tours have no hike-out requirements. SEARCH FULL CANYON TRIPS
Known for harboring some of the Grand Canyon’s most impressive geological sites, the Upper Canyon has plenty to offer to people looking for a short yet action-packed trip. After setting off from Lees Ferry, your motorized raft will launch into the water directly under the jaw-dropping Vermilion Cliffs. Compared to other sections of the Colorado River, the Upper Canyon features a higher number of scenic vantage points, meaning you’ll have plenty of opportunities to snap picture-perfect photos.
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Over the course of an Upper Canyon trip, you’ll traverse a variety of thrilling rapids, including the Hance Rapids, the Grapevine Rapids, and the Soap Creek Rapids. After your final day of rafting, your motorized raft will pull in at the base of the Bright Angel Trail. Be sure to pack your hiking boots as you’ll conquer a 9.5-mile ascent to the top of the South Rim. From here, you’ll be transported to Las Vegas or back to your original starting location at Lees Ferry. SEARCH UPPER CANYON TRIPS
If you want to experience the Grand Canyon’s fiercest river rapids, we highly recommend a motorized trip in the Lower Canyon. Depending on your selected put-in point, Lower Canyon trips begin with a 7.5-mile to 9.5-mile trek down the Bright Angel Trail. Once you reach the canyon floor, you’ll embark on your river trip from one of three starting points: Pipe Creek Beach, Bright Angel Beach, or Boat Beach. After embarking at your designated put-in point, your river guides will acquaint you with your motorized raft and quickly get you on your way.
If you’re looking for the Grand Canyon’s most exciting rapids, most river guides will point you towards the Lower Canyon. Taking a Lower Canyon motorized raft trip will give you the opportunity to experience these thrilling rapids without having to divert your attention to paddling duties. Within the first few miles of your journey, you’ll face both the Horn Creek Rapids and Hermit Rapids — an exciting preview of the 39 rapids to come!
Outfitters typically offer 4-7 day tours for the Lower Canyon. Like a full Grand Canyon tour, Lower Canyon expeditions can terminate at either Whitmore Wash, Diamond Creek or Lake Mead. If you’re not a fan of hiking, you’ll be happy to know that none of these take-out points require an exit hike. SEARCH LOWER CANYON TRIPS