Tuesday, July 02, 2013

30 Year Anniversary of The "Way Too High" Trip in Grand Canyon

Today, July 2, is the 30 year anniversary of a river trip I took on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon that has become known as the "Way Too High" trip. Avid boaters will recall that an immense snow pack in the Rocky Mountains in 1983 (remember those?) came down into Lake Powell "Way Too Fast" necessitating a "Way Too Much" water release from the reservoir, allowing 15 crazy rafters in Flagstaff to commence on the "Way Too High" trip. The river ran close to 100,000 cubic feet per second. To see a link to John Parsons blog about the background of all of this, see here.

To give you an idea of how much water that is, the "flood" that was let down the river last November to restore beaches in Grand Canyon had 42,500 cubic feet per second. The 1983 trip was accomplished in two full and two half days. I usually just tell people it was a three day trip. To go 225 miles in the Grand Canyon. In rowing boats. Camps were made at 24.5 Mile Camp, Ninety-Four Mile Camp, and National Canyon. It was an epic trip in an epic time. 30 years ago today.

 Here is the put-in at Lees Ferry about 2:30 PM on July 2, 1983

The large white ripple upstream is Ten Mile Rock, usually sticking out of the river 12 feet. The reason I took this photo from the downstream position is that the river was moving so fast, that by the time I had my camera, we were past it.

In Marble Canyon after one hour.

Boulder Narrows at 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs)

Close-up of the big rock in Boulder Narrows

This is what the big rock looks like at normal water levels these days.

Notice the kayakers paddling beneath Vasey's Paradise here on the morning of July 3, 1983.

Note the tiny black dots - people - frolicking on the sand in Redwall Cavern here at a normal water level.

Here is Redwall Cavern on July 3, 1983

Notice the kayaker paddling in the back of Redwall Cavern. Big water. Big, big water.

Hance Rapid scouting view from river left.

The beach at Bright Angel Creek (Phantom Ranch). Note the kayaks pulled up on shore.

The mouth of Bright Angel Creek flooded by the Colorado River.

Hermit Rapid view, July 4, 1983.

Crystal Rapid was the big concern. A hydraulic jump had flipped three huge 33-foot boats a few days before in this hole. You cannot see the bottom of this hole in the photograph. Our rafts were 16 feet long.

Scouting Crystal Rapid on the morning of July 4, 1983.

More scouting.

We'd better just run over the tamarisk trees.

Yep - that's what we did!

Our dory hit a rock or log in Walthenburg Rapid and here Larry Stevens fixes the hole as we stopped near the Garnet camps.

Deer Creek Falls on the Colorado River July 4, 1983. Note the large rafts on the left.

Here is Deer Creek Falls at a more normal flow. It does not normally drop straight into the Colorado River.

One of the most amazing pictures I was able to take on the trip - this is Pancho's Kitchen Camp. Yep - that little slice of shade at river level is the roof of Pancho's Kitchen.

Here is a group setting up camp within the alcove at Pancho's Kitchen at a more normal river level. The roof is not even visible here at the top of the photo.

Enterting the Icebox section of the river in mid afternoon.

A kayaker buzzes past the entrance to Olo Canyon on July 4, 1983. This is normally a 25-foot high fall to the creek bottom.

Here is the a view of that drop in August, 1983. Here the river has dropped to only 45,000 cfs and the rafter can still boat into Olo Canyon. At normal levels today, the river is 100 yards away from here. Even this picture will amaze modern boaters.

The Icebox, late afternoon July 4, 1983.

Our last camp was made inside the mouth of National Canyon. I snapped this picture before the sun went down on July 4, 1983.

Lava Falls on the morning of July 5, 1983. Note that the big hole at the top is completely gone at this water level. It was just a fun v-wave ride - no problem.

Water pours over the Black Rock at the base of the Falls. 

Take-out at Diamond Creek on July 5, 1983 at about 1 PM. My biggest regret was not taking a group picture! My second biggest regret was not getting a photo of the huge rafts that were in ruins below Crystal Rapid. Other than that no regrets!

Young Wayne on a Colorado River trip in 1981. Thanks for reading!


  1. What a great series of photos. Don't you sometimes wonder how we all survived some of the adventures from younger days?

  2. Tremendous Wayne! Thanks!

  3. Amazing photos! So cool that you made that trip.


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