I’m a little more city girl than country, but I might have to switch that up after this unique trip down the Colorado River with OARS whitewater rafting company. If you have a desire to do something adventurous on your own or with your family, explore an untouched part of our nation, and be well taken care of, not in a luxurious way, but comfortably with loving and experienced hands…this is your trip.

Written by: LaDawn Stone – article continues below

City Girl Meets Country Living

I flew into Vegas and recognized my group because no one else shows up in Vegas with just a small duffle bag. Our 16-passenger plane flew us over the Hoover Dam and the red plateaus of the western Grand Canyon before landing gently enough on the Whitmore Airport runway which is about as long as its name.

Bar 10 Ranch hands were ready to fill our day with a genuine Cowboy experience. Their warm welcome was as authentic as their Dutch oven roast beef (the beef was even raised at Bar 10), country potatoes and homemade rolls for dinner. And in between we rode horses to the original homestead on the ranch, shot skeet, and I recommend the ATV ride to the breathtaking edge of the Canyon.

After dinner our young ranch hands performed a Country Western show with the right mix of humor, line dancing and patriotism…and if this wasn’t immersion enough, we each “tipped our 10 gallon hats over our eyes” inside an actual covered wagon for the night. I do believe I need a pair of boots in my closet now…that was super fun!

Helicopter landing on the Colorado River

In the morning a helicopter dropped us on the shore of the Colorado River deep in the Grand Canyon. My previous rafting experiences have been on yellow rubber rafts, so my first surprise was that we were headed down the river in a dory—a charming, freshly painted, wood, flat-bottom boat. Super cute! But my vision was the cartoon character going over a waterfall in a barrel, but found out quickly, that being in a dory was really a big bonus. Not only did I have a backrest for the hours on the river, but I also didn’t need to bump knees with others as the boat only held 4 passengers.

Our Dories

And these quaint boats maneuver with more precision and ride like a graceful bucking bronco over the rapids. And the reason for that may be because the guests don’t help row the dories! Streamed together with learning the dories’ proud past, the lost natural wonder each dory was named after, early expedition lore, and Grand Canyon history ancient and present, I felt transported back through time as I had the gift of serene moments to ponder the life on this river and grandeur of its walls.

Serene moments on the river

Camp life was the next surprise. Credit to our boatman…they run camp…well…like a boat on smooth water! It was impressive to see them spring into action once the dories rested on our beach for the afternoon. Within minutes, a kitchen, bathroom, filtered water, camp chairs, and sleeping comforts were set up and distributed. Then appetizers, 5-star food, and games like washers and bocce filled our tummies and the evening with laughter and an effortless way to get to know the other 15 guests and 8 boatmen (4 women and 4 men) on our trip. Even though tents were an option, we all chose to sleep under the gaze of a million stars. And after the sunrise, fresh coffee and a delicious breakfast were served, and we loaded up and jumped on our dories again.

Camp life

The third surprise was how rejuvenating this trip was despite how inhospitable the elements at first seemed to be. It was hot. But, we all managed well with our hats and long sleeves, relished in occasional cloud cover, a cliff jump into the chilly river, a quick plunge off the boat, even a playful boat vs. boat water fight, and short breaks to hike a misty limestone waterfall, or view ancient American Indian pictographs in the shade of the canyon walls.

As several motorized passenger rafts noisily disturbed the tranquil rhythm of our boatman’s oars skimming through the surface of the water, I realized how much I began to crave the silence of the canyon. The awe inspiring grandeur and unplugged silence of THIS world, broken by a hawk’s cry or the cicadas buzzing along the shore, brought renewed meaning to the idea of being present and living in the moment. This world is majestic, breathtaking, pristine, unforgiving yet inviting, unique and interesting. Our guides showed an eco-friendly reverence for this place that added depth to my admiration for them and the majesty of the Grand Canyon.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to OARS and the amazing Delli and her crew!

About OARS – content from their site:

As the first exclusively non-motorized outfitter authorized by the National Park Service to run rafting trips in the Grand Canyon, OARS helped pioneer whitewater rafting in the Western U.S. And since they first got started in 1969, they have guided more than 500,000 guests on rivers all over the world. Now, with more than 75 unique rafting itineraries, they offer travelers more whitewater rafting trips than any other outfitter on the planet. But it’s not just about how long they’ve been in business, or the number of trips we offer. It’s really about the experience.

Every OARS trip combines amazing rivers, friendly guides, incredible scenery, quality gear, comfortable camping and unexpectedly delicious food, but the OARS experience is the unique and captivating sum of all those parts. It’s much more than a river trip, it truly is an experience.

The OARS Experience is about losing track of what time it is, or even what day of the week it is. It’s about leaving emails and text messages and Facebook at home. It’s about drifting off to sleep on a beach under a canopy of stars, and then waking up the next morning to watch the sun rise over the canyon rim. The OARS experience is what happens when you leave behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life and let yourself sink into the simple rhythm and joy of life on the river.