Paddle the Parks: Grand Canyon National Park

Paddle America's 2 billion-year-old river canyon in Arizona

Canyon Life: A Grand trip means three weeks outdoors, in sunshine and storm. Photo: James Q. Martin
Canyon Life: A Grand trip means three weeks outdoors, in sunshine and storm. Photo: James Q. Martin

River Ritual

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
By Jeff Moag

The Grand Canyon is masterpiece of nature 277 miles long, more than 6,000 feet deep and some 2 billion years in the making. Within its embrace another world waits, full of red rock, hidden grottoes and massive, though ultimately forgiving, whitewater. At the canyon’s heart lies the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, a place sacred to Navajo, Hopi and Zuni, as well as my own tribe of river people. Like all things sacred, a sense of ritual surrounds it.

That starts with the permit, which for private boaters is hard enough to come by that it’s impossible to take the Canyon for granted. It’s as if Christmas came only once or twice in a lifetime and lasted for three straight weeks, each day longer, slower and more satisfying than the last. River runners experience the Grand as a group, 16 friends traveling together through the center of the earth, always at the pace of the river. That, after all, is the ritual: The sweet, gradual surrender to river time.

Click the links below to read about paddling adventures in a few of our favorite parks around the country:

Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks

Follow in the footsteps—paddle strokes—of great American explorers in Washington and Oregon


Big Bend National Park

Float through an isolated wilderness on the edge of Texas and Mexico


The Missouri National Recreational River

A journey through time in South Dakota and Nebraska


Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Paddle over the horizon line of waterfalls in Tennessee and North Carolina


Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Paddle through a seascape of water and ice in southeast Alaska


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Explore Lake Superior’s panoramic coastline in Michigan


Ozark Scenic Riverways

A secret worth sharing in Missouri


Channel Islands National Park

Experience isolation 40 miles south of Santa Cruz, California


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The complete list of our favorite national parks for paddling


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