Cataract Canyon

The Colorado River is known for having some of the biggest and most fearsome rapids in the country.  While the Grand Canyon is usually known as being the largest and most difficult, I’ve found that many consider Cataract Canyon to have a just as tricky rapids.

On this rafting  trip down Cataract Canyon, the four of us (Peter, Rob, Hazen and Jaime) decided to take on the rapids.  I was along to film and be filmed, but have very little whitewater experience under my belt.  The waves were looking very gentle until we hit one small set of rapids just before The Big Drops.  That is where we flipped our raft.  Here is the short video we took. I hope it portrays a bit of how scary it actually was.

For those of you who wonder what actually happened, we hit the button hole and rolled. After we got back on the raft Peter took the throw-line and dove overboard, hoping to tie the raft up before it floated into the big drops. It got pulled away from Peter, which sent us on our way, upside-down and alone.

Luckily for us, Hazen has a lot of experience in rapids.  We tried as hard as we could to eddie out on the edge of the river but had no luck for at least a mile.  Finally, we got to the side and after about an hour, were able to flip it back over.  This made us very worried however, to do the big drops.  We ended up walking Big Drop 2 and 2.5 and slept on a very rocky and wet shoreline that night.

The next day we flipped the raft again on Big drop 3, of which the camera was packed away tightly.

I would definitely raft Cataract Canyon again, but I’d make sure I did everything I could to keep the raft upright this time.



Written by Rob Nelson

Rob is an ecologist from the University of Hawaii. He is the co-creator and director of Untamed Science. His goal is to create videos and content that are entertaining, accurate, and educational. When he's not making science content, he races whitewater kayaks and works on Stone Age Man.

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