Monday, February 13, 2012

Black Canyon Colorado River Expedition

Rafting the Colorado River is something I have wanted to do for a long time, and recently I was able to do just that----with the caveat that it was a smooth water ride on a large, motor-assisted raft. These rafts were constructed with safety in mind, and they have multiple air chambers (my husband and I found out that multiple air chambers are very helpful in a raft, whenever one punctures one of the rubber pontoons with a deer antler! But that is a whole other story!)

The Black Canyon River Adventure begins on the grounds of the Hacienda Hotel in Boulder City, Nevada (only twenty minutes away from downtown Las Vegas). There, guests get into the ruggedly-built Chevy van, for entrance into a locked and restricted area that has a dirt road that winds its way down the steep canyon walls to the river's edge.

I took this photo from inside the van, when we were about halfway between the top of the canyon and the river bottom.

Once we reached the staging area, there was a short walk down to the river where our raft, and its operator/guide, was waiting on us. The black walls of the canyon are responsible for its name, and consist of black volcanic rocks that are found throughout the area. Their shininess is called "desert varnish".

The raft is designed with a metal "gang plank" for easy access on and off the boat, from the rocky shoreline.

Our guide gave us a demonstration of the the use of the life vests, and guests could choose to wear them throughout the trip, or not. The raft is outfitted with all of the Coast Guard - required and recommended - safety equipment.

Our guide was very knowledgeable of the history, geology, and wildlife of the area and shared his knowledge with us as we glided along the river.

The concrete pier on the right was used for geological and water measurements of the river.

More recently the overhanging shelf of the concrete pillar has served as a "waterfront condominium" for groups of migratory swallows. The remains of some of their homes are shown in this photo.

There are a variety of waterfowl to be seen on the tour, including the American coots shown here, as well as blue herons and egrets.

This is not an area that tourists can just wander into. We were only able to get in because Black Canyon River Adventures is a government-approved outfitter, and has a key to the entry gate.

The tour that our group took is called the "Hoover Dam Postcard Tour", and all of us were snapping as many photographs as possible on such a beautiful, sunny day!

Lots of people have had their photo taken at the top of Hoover Dam, but getting your photo made with the dam from this angle is a little less common.

I had seen a program on the Travel Channel telling about the building of the Hoover Dam, but it is not until you are actually standing at the base of the dam and look up, that you see what a truly massive project this was for our country to undertake during The Great Depression of the 1930's.

Our guide pointed out a somewhat dilapidated cat walk built along the edge of the bluff. He said back in the "old days", employees of the U.S. Geological Survey Service had to frequently and regularly climb along that cat walk to get the scientific data they needed for the operation of the Hoover Dam. Now those same measurements are all taken remotely, and read by someone sitting in an air-conditioned office in town!

Once our raft tour was over, we got back into our van, and took one last look at Hoover Dam and By-Pass bridge from this "fish-eye" view that we had!

Even though the road leading down into the canyon is restricted to only authorized vehicles, it still requires frequent and regular maintenance because of its location. High above our van, climbers on ropes were clearing out loose rocks from the canyon walls, to reduce the chance of a falling rock from high atop the canyon, landing on a vehicle, on the road below.

As our guide pointed his raft downstream to Willow Beach, Arizona, I was giving thanks for this opportunity to explore the famous Colorado River, that provides the life-sustaining water for much of the Southwest. There were constant reminders of the fact the water table has diminished and this is a grave concern to many westerners. I will try to do my part to be a good steward of Colorado River water, as well as the water spoken of by Jesus when he said "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:38 NIV) If you would like to try this raft trip, just click on and get your very own postcard shots! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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