Ice Bath and I got up early with intentions to hike to the Bar 10 Ranch. There’s a trail to the rim from camp and then a dirt road leading to the ranch. However, we didn’t know just how far it was (different books said 5 or 9 miles from the rim), and we didn’t know if it was even open in the winter. But we were hoping if it was open, there’d be ice cream at the trading post. We ate some cold cereal, packed lunch, and got started. We had to go back upstream to catch the bottom of the Whitmore Trail, passing some pictographs along the way. Then we traversed a lava field and arrived at the rim in Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. We picked up the dirt road from there, and set a turnaround time of noon, which would be four hours from camp.
I figured it would be a pretty hike even without the ranch and I was right. There were a ton of jackrabbits out and a small herd of mule deer. We started seeing a few cows so I figured we were getting close, but there was no ranch in sight by noon. I stopped to eat lunch while Ice Bath kept going. It was hot and exposed and I had already drank more than half of my water so I didn’t want to go past the turnaround time. I waited until I could no longer see her, just in case the ranch was over the next rise, then I turned around to go back. Before long, Cristine caught up to me, having left camp after us, and turned around to go back too.
By the time we got back to camp, I was hot enough to get in the river to wash off. And then the river was cold enough that I got right back out again. I drank three more liters of water after the hike so I was definitely dehydrated from the heat. We had curry for dinner and muffins for dessert.
We had an egg scramble for breakfast and then got on the water. No drysuits today, as there was little chance of splashing and high likelihood of sun. I rowed Whitmore Rapid (3) and there were no more named rapids for the day. Some of the riffles seemed bigger than Whitmore though. We pulled over to see a lava cave and had a canyon wren singing to us while we were inside.
Later, I rowed Joe’s boat into camp at 202 Mile. There was a huge eddy but I stayed too far out in the water to avoid a rock and then had trouble breaking free of the current, finally getting into the eddy at the last minute. I had to row back upstream to land.
My sleeping pad has still been deflating every night so I got some Aquaseal from Patrick to make a more permanent fix than the tape. The edges kept wanting to curl up so I sat there listening to music and poking them down with a twig for a while. I did a little laundry right before the sun left camp and played mandolin some before dinner. Chicken marsala, rice, and garlic bread for dinner, and rice pudding for dessert. 14 miles today.
My sleeping pad held air! It might finally be really fixed. I got up early to walk up the canyon a bit and see some pictographs at the mouth. They were pretty faded but still cool to see. We had cheesy potatoes, eggs to order, and bagels for breakfast, then got on the water. It was another splash gear day instead of drysuits.
There were several miles of flat water before we stopped at Spring Canyon to fill up water and go for a hike. The hike started straight up the stream through dense brush, usually just ankle deep but sometimes half way up my calves. The water was surprisingly warm and we saw several canyon treefrogs along the way. A trail broke out of the stream into wider canyon, only to narrow soon after into granite walls.
When we got back to the boats, it was hot enough that I left my splash gear off. When Brian rowed through Kolb Rapid (6), I actually sat up on the cooler instead of crouching in the front of the boat, and I still got soaked by waves three separate times. I was cooled off, but still warm sitting in the sun. I rowed 209 Mile (3) and Little Bastard (3). We entered the Lower Granite Gorge and then it was time for the 5 Brian had picked out for me: 217 Mile Rapid. It had big waves but was fairly straightforward. I just had to keep the waves from turning the boat. It was fun!
We went through Trail Canyon Riffle (2) and pulled over at 220 Mile camp and had crab fettuccine pesto and quinoa salad for dinner, with brownies for dessert. 17.5 miles today.
I woke up early and went for a quick walk after breakfast of eggs and bagels. The area around the mouth of 220 Mile Canyon was like a botanical garden. There were many different types of plants and lots of them were starting to bud out or already blooming.
We started out with Granite Spring Rapid (2) and 224 Mile (3). I was feeling a little chilled with just my splash pants on so I pulled my jacket on too, just in time for a big wave to hit me. It was cloudy most of the day so I was fairly cool when wet. We passed Diamond Creek, a popular take out point, but we still had a few more days to go.
Next we hit Diamond Creek Rapid (4), which has a box truck in the water under it, causing a big hole, that washed down Diamond Creek in a flash flood.
After Travertine Rapid (2), we pulled over to Travertine Canyon, to walk up to a waterfall coming out in a cave. It was slick rock and definitely bouldering to get around some parts and into the cave. It took me a bit because I didn’t trust my river boots not to slip. It was one of my favorite stops for sure.
Back on the river, we passed Travertine Falls, and then hit a string of rapids every mile or so: 231 Mile (5), Killer Fang Falls (6), 234 Mile (5), Bridge Canyon (4), and Gneiss Canyon (5). Killer Fang had some nasty looking rocks right at the end of the wave train, but they were easily avoided. Gneiss had previously been buried by silt but has come back to being a rapid again. 237 Mile Rapid and Separation Rapid show signs of coming back too. There were many gnarly rapids down here before Lake Mead was created, which slowed the Colorado current enough to deposit silt and bury them. Rapids are now done for the trip and as long as there’s no wind, we can easily float to Pearce Ferry at 4-5 MPH. The silence of the calm water is weird and we can hear everything from all the boats on the water.
We stopped at 243 Mile camp for the night and it was in full, hot sun for about half an hour before getting shade. Dinner was roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and peas and carrots, with cornbread and honey butter for dessert. Lake Mead is very low these days, which means the river down here is low and camps will start getting scarce and crappy. We were lucky with this one. 23 miles today.
We had quick breakfast sandwiches and were on the river early this morning. Because we are on totally flat water now, we gravity rigged the boat (didn’t tie anything down) and set up the paco pads for laying across the hatches. After we floated away from shore, Joe took maybe a couple strokes on the oars in the next few hours. We let the current take us along, listening to music and reading. We even strapped some of the boats together for a while to more easily chat.
It was getting really hot in the sun so I jumped in the water in my all black clothes to cool off. It was a little colder than anticipated but felt good once I was back in the boat. I wanted to wash my hair, but didn’t want to get back in the water, so I hung my head over the side to do it.
Helicopters started flying over us, Hualapai tours from Las Vegas. Some of them dipped low to check out our boats. I counted at least a dozen, but apparently it’s usually about five times worse.
Because the lake is so low, most of the river bank now is steep, vertical really, silt walls. We pulled over to camp at a lower point at mile 265. The camp has enough flat space, it’s just terraced, so we had to carry everything uphill. Chicken pot pie for dinner. Light pollution from Vegas is starting so the stars aren’t quite as bright. 22 miles today.
I woke up early, and just as I was falling back to sleep, the helicopters started flying by. We had a late breakfast of egg scramble and Dutch baby, then floated again for most of the day. We stopped at Columbine Falls for a break and walked up the trail to check it out. At normal lake levels, the falls drop right into the lake.
After a few more miles, we passed Grand Wash Cliffs, and the end of the Grand Canyon. We are officially on Lake Mead now. It’s weird to not be surrounded by giant walls.
We pulled over to a large beach camp at mile 279 and and had chicken, quinoa, coleslaw, and garlic bread for dinner. 14 miles today.
We were up early and out after a breakfast of cold cereal. It was only a mile to Pearce Ferry and we quickly got the boat unloaded, up onto the trailer, and reloaded.
Ice Bath and Cristine and I walked the half mile or so downriver to see Pearce Ferry Rapid. It’s currently unrunnable. Otherwise, boats could continue farther into Lake Mead. It was crazy to see it and think about which line might not flip the boats.
Back at the ramp, we said goodbyes and hit the road. I am so grateful that I had the chance to come on this trip. I can’t even imagine what other rivers would be like. I seem to have started on the premiere river trip, in this country at least, if not on a wider scale. There are so many crazy canyon stories and characters that I need to look up later. This place attracts the dreamers and the doers and the ones who dare. The desert is not generally my favorite place, but you have to admire something that inspires so much in people.
Check out this map of where we camped every night: