In the previous blog, I described how we saw people floating down the Colorado River in inflatable rafts while we were driving along the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway (UT-128). We stopped to watch rafts lazily drift around a bend before being swept down a bumpy cascade of white water. The exhilarating screams heard from the people in the raft communicated they were having a thrilling adventure. I turned toward grammi and said “that looks like fun”. “Well then”, she replied, “we might have to give it a try”.
Grammi did all the work, researching the options and making phone calls to the different outdoor adventure companies located in Moab. There were trips from mild to wild. There were ½ day morning trips, ½ day afternoon trips, midday trips that includes lunch, full day trips, and even overnight camping trips.
Grammi booked a ½ day morning trip with Adrift Adventures located right on Main Street in Moab. She said they had the best price for the type of adventure we were seeking, which was a milder rather than wilder ride. Due to a current drought, we were told this would be mostly a float trip with some class 1 and 2 rapids because of low water levels…Perfect.
We arrived at 8:00 a.m. to be fitted for a life jacket and sign the obligatory waiver. Then we boarded a white school bus with the company name printed on the side in big black letters. Attached to the rear bumper was a trailer carrying two blue inflatable rafts, also with the company name printed on the side. Spread out on the bus was the driver, two guides, and nine eager rafters including ourselves. Face masks were required while on the bus but not while outside or on the boats.
As the bus pulled away, Ethan, one of the guides, told everyone to sit back and enjoy the 45 minute ride to the drop-off location. He said he would point out interesting locations along the way. As we passed Red Cliffs Lodge, the same lodge we checked out the other day, Ethan said the 100 year old lodge is the location of the Moab Film and Western Heritage Museum. Many films were shot at the lodge.
Once we arrived at our drop-off location, Ethan gathered everyone around for a safety talk. Then he pointed to the building behind us. “That building behind you is the last restroom you will see until we get to the pick-up location. I strongly suggest you make use off it. If by chance you have the urge while on the river, I will give you a bucket with a lid. That bucket shall remain in your possession for the remainder of the trip and is yours to keep and take home.” I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as a line formed at the restroom. I think everyone got the message.
Ethan was loquacious. He was witty, displayed a sense of humor, seemed knowledgable, and kept us entertained. I was glad to be on the same boat with him. Because this was mostly a float trip down the Colorado River, we weren’t given oars. The raft was configured like a rowboat with two long oars attached by oarlocks. Ethan was at the helm. We only had to get comfortable and enjoy the ride.
After passing a couple of minor rapids, we came to a quiet spot in the river. Ethan said this was a good place to jump in for a swim, “make sure to tighten the straps on your life jacket because they will loosen up when they get wet”. Grammi wasted little time handing me her glasses and phone. She was the first over the side. It was a short time later when I thought “why should she have all the fun” and I jumped in too. Our lifejackets helped keep us afloat. The water was refreshingly cool but not cold. It took a little work to stay near the raft as the water was moving quicker than was apparent.
Soon we were quickly approaching more rapids. Ethan said we could float through them if we’d like, then he begun shouting instructions as we neared, “Feet up and point them down stream. Don’t get too close to the wall on the right”. Grammi hit the perfect line and shot through the rapids without a care. I on the other hand, learned why you shouldn’t get too close to the wall. First my butt hit a rock. I bounced over it only to find another, this time causing me to spin around. Now I’m too close to the wall and my feet are pointed in the wrong direction. What else can I screw up? Well, as I tried to turn myself around, my life jacket slid up around my neck. Okay, I had to ask, right? Then my knee hit another rock. Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark. When I caught up to grammi, she asked with a grin, “How’d you like it”? “I bet I had more fun than you did” was my reply.
With everyone back on the raft, we continued our downstream journey. In front of us was the other boat in our group. It was stuck on a rock. The guide, bouncing and rocking back and forth, struggled to free it. Ethan called out “We’ll give you a bump”. What? We’re going to ram into that other raft? What if we get struck? Or worse, what if we tip over? I thought this to be a very bad idea. “Hold on tight” was the command as Ethan lined up on the other raft. We crashed head first into them, bouncing back, then spinning around backwards givings us full view of the results. The other raft was still stuck. In fact, I think our effort served to push them further onto the rock making matters worse.
Ethan quickly rowed toward shore as he verbally contemplated his next move. “Maybe I can row up close and toss them a rope. Hmm…if I have to, I think I can swim up there and push them off”. It was interesting to observe his thought process and his commitment to his partner and the others passengers. It was clear he wasn’t leaving until they were free. Then, before Ethan had a chance to do anything more, we all watched as the guide in the other raft had everyone climb to the back end of the vessel. As the nose of the raft lifted up toward the sky, he gave a push with one of the oars. Like a ballerina’s pirouette, the raft spun around and came free. It was a beautifully executed move and we all cheered loudly.
We spotted a large bird flying high overhead. California condors are known to be in the area. But the white head and black body told us this was a bald eagle. We saw a coyote walking along the river bank with its head lowered. We all watched as this coyote stealthy eased closer and closer toward a great blue heron wading near the shore. The blue heron was not caught off guard this time as it flew to the other bank when the coyote came too close. The intensely cold gaze at the bird’s flight signaled his frustration before he disappeared over the ridge.
Turning a bend in the river we saw the Rectory, a well known mesa. Our river guide, Ethan, started telling us an unverified story about how Jon Bon Jovi was denied permission to film a music video on top of the mesa. But not to be denied, the music video, Blaze of Glory, was filmed there without a permit and Bon Jovi happily paid the government fine. Proving once again there are no rules for the rich.
Right before coming to the pull-out location we bounced down the choppiest, most fun class 2 rapids of our journey eliciting someone’s to scream out loud. The driver of the white school bus was standing on shore to help everyone off the boat. Another group of rafters were standing nearby ready to climb into the rafts. They were the group for the afternoon ½ day trip heading further downstream.
This is not the thrilling death defying white water rafting adventure associated with other parts of the Colorado River. For the most part, it’s not even a bumpy ride. You probably won’t even get wet if you don’t want to. But for Grammi and I, it was just the kind of adventure we were hoping for. It was a relaxing, scenic trip down river with just enough excitement to keep things interesting. We swam in the Colorado River, we saw wildlife, and we were amused and enlightened by a young energetic river guide. If this sounds like the kind of adventure you would like, then I recommend Ethan at Adrift Adventures.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.
2 thoughts on “Rafting Trip on the Upper Colorado River”
These pictures are amazing! So glad you guys had a great time.
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You are hilarious!
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