Three-Day Grand Canyon Sprint

Can a team paddle 226 miles of the Colorado River in 72 hours?

Grand Canyon Trip

Photos and words by Tyler Williams 

The sheer length of a Grand Canyon trip down the Colorado River transforms river runners. From Lee’s Ferry to the first road access at Diamond Creek, the distance is 226 miles. Normally, that translates to 16 days of hiking and boating and plain ‘ol silly fun. Take less time than that, and you’re missing the point. The Canyon is a place to be explored, lost within, savored.

So when the phone rang offering a spot on a three-day kayak trip through the Canyon, my initial reaction was respectful decline. Then something happened in the next minutes, as the logistics were explained, as the mathematical possibilities unfolded, as I reflected on my own ticking clock of this lifetime, and I said “okay.” The lesson here? Sometimes you just shouldn’t answer the phone.

There will be five of us launching on the back of a short-lived 37,000 cfs high-flow release, intended to re-distribute river sediment from this summer’s colossal flash floods. Our plan is to paddle steadily from morning to night, with stretch breaks every two hours. That is roughly eight hours of paddling per day. If we can make 10 miles per hour, we’re golden. As trip leader Justin Salamon told me over the phone, “It all works out on paper.” We got a good laugh out of that.

Between the five of us, we’ve accrued more than 400 Canyon trips, so there should be no mistaking our progress, or lack of it. Justin, river manager at Canyon Explorations, completed a 6-day kayak trip through the Canyon in 2011. Also on that mission was Dave Dill, who like Justin is a product of Colorado’s Arkansas River. Mongolian river explorer Pat Phillips and I have been training daily on a nearby lake. Still, we’ll all be chasing Harlan Taney, who made a bid to break the 36-hour speed record one year ago, before being forced to abort with an injured elbow. If anyone knows what we’re in for, it’s Harlan.

During his attempt, Taney paddled the first seventy miles solo, in the dark. The blazing fast but unstable EPIC kayak he used will be under him again this time. I’ll be in my trusty Prijon Yukon-Expedition, probably the perfect boat for a 3-day Canyon trip. The rest of the team plans to run Liquidlogic Remixes.

Conceptualizing our pace shatters any ideas I have about pacing through the Canyon. South Canyon, a typical second night’s camp, will be our first lunch stop. Phantom Ranch comes on the morning of day two, Deer Creek Falls should pass by that afternoon, and Lava might offer a mid-morning scout break on our third day. It isn’t the way I’d recommend seeing the Canyon. Nonetheless, I have a feeling it will transform us just the same.

More stories on the Grand Canyon Trip

Disappointment at the Grand Canyon
A Conversation From the Barricades

Go to funhogpress.wordpress.com to learn more.

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Add a Comment

  • Casle

    I did a 150 mile 3 day down the Willamette River. Very different, but awesome nonetheless. My Prijon Catalina was perfect for this trip.

  • Norm Miller

    If Verlen Kruger and Steve Landick can paddle UP the Colorado that same section in 18-days you should be able to go down it in Three! Hell racers do the Yukon River Quest—440 miles in 38 hours!!!

  • http://www.brooke-bevan.blogspot.com/ mountainlove270@yahoo.com

    What an incredible undertaking! The publicity suggests there is a question. Like many things, if the skills are there, rock them steady. I loved Chrissie’s Iron-man autobiography. She is so talented, blossoming late in life after grad school & thriving a multi-time champion. Oh, just the idea of applying the good skills brings back all the constant upkeep that seems so well-worth it, only to get through to athletic accomplishment and endeavors! Go long-distance. You got this. Good crew of friends and talented world travelers. You know what you can do. Together, with the synergy of supportive experienced paddlers, you can do this.

  • 303 815 7697

    Take me with you. Seriously.

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