Ranking the Legends – the Top 8 Rapids of the Colorado River

Where’s the wild water on the mighty Colorado River?

The legendary Colorado River is just another float trip until it crashes into Westwater Canyon just over the Utah/Colorado border and upstream from Moab, UT, says whitewater rafting pioneer Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/). After this introductory splash, named by National Geographic as “The West’s best short whitewater run,” the Colorado River gains momentum and a well-earned reputation for some real kick-in-the-butt, whitewater rapids that live deep down in the Canyonlands of Utah (Cataract Canyon) and farther down in the Grand Canyon of Arizona.

While every commercial boatman has his or her own favorite, the team at Western River Expeditions got together and agreed upon their top eight most beloved rapids along the course of the Colorado River. While there’s still time to enjoy a trip this season, reservations are already open for 2016, a year that may experience the best spring runoff on record thanks to the predicted effects of an unusually strong El Niño, adds Brandon Lake, CMO of Western River Expeditions.

8. House Rock Rapid, mile 17, Grand Canyon (rated 8/10 on the Grand Canyon’s 1-10 scale): House Rock is a fun left side run along a sheer canyon wall, with a great hole at the bottom. Rafters can grab as much or as little of the hole as they want. This rapid is a good indicator of what is to come in the way of hits further down river.

7. Skull Rapid, Westwater Canyon (rated Class IV+): Tight canyon walls and a big rock in the middle create a big hole and wave, both obstacles difficult to avoid. Rock of Shock is a canyon wall that splits the current immediately below the initial hole. Billow to the left and you’re done. Billow to right and you enter the “Room of Doom” carved out of the right side wall by the vortex created by the split current from the Rock of Shock.

6. Hance Rapid, mile 76.5, Grand Canyon (rated 10/10): Just before the Colorado River descends into the ‘inner gorge’ of the Grand Canyon, it is strained through a wide rock garden known as Hance Rapid. Smaller boats can sneak a line through the left side between medium sized pour-overs and car sized boulders. The typical run enters from the right then quickly darts toward the ‘Duck Pond’ in the center to avoid the main pull of current that cascades over a mess of house-sized boulders just right of center. Below the duck pond is a wedge run between two pour-overs. Anything outside of that pinball line in the center of the froth leads to holding on tight while possibly banging through sideways or even backwards. From a passenger’s perspective it’s a fun ride like most other rapids, but the guide really sweats it out in Hance!

5. Big Drop 3, Cataract Canyon (rated Class IV): After Big Drop 2 comes Big Drop 3. In high water, Big Drop 2 and 3 basically merge into just one enormous drop. Left of center in Big Drop 3 is a place to avoid called Satan’s Gut. Often the National Park Service will have in high water levels a rescue boat hanging around the Big Drops — for good reason.

4. Big Drop 2, Cataract Canyon (rated Class IV): In the spring, with flows of over 50,000 cubic feet per second, it is perhaps the largest of the largest whitewater in North America — even surpassing that of the Grand Canyon. When a high water year does happen once a decade or so, it is not an overstatement to say the waves in Big Drop 2 and 3 are nearly three stories high. In regular to low water flows the rapids of Cataract Canyon calm down but are exciting none-the-less with difficult rock mazes, punctuated with hard-hitting whitewater. When John Wesley Powell and his men first encountered these gnarly rapids back in late summer of 1869, they lacked the skill and equipment to joyfully navigate them. They lined their boats around all of them, and spoke only of the toil and labor. But today it’s more fun to run them! As rafters set up for Big Drop 2 the river drops out of view. Little Niagara appears on river right; this is a pour over to avoid without dodging too far to the left. The risk is being swallowed by Satan’s Gut where Big Drop 2 flows immediately into Big Drop 3.

3. Hermit Rapid, mile 95, Grand Canyon (rated 8/10): What Hermit Rapid lacks in appellation, it makes up for in pure ride. Roughly eight massive roller-coaster-like waves line up with a ‘sky-is-falling’ crescendo on the last one. Adventurers emerge (soaked) with an adrenaline surge they’ve likely never experienced before. Some smaller boats are compelled to avoid the largest of these rolling compression waves but a good oarsman or kayaker who can match the momentum of the wave may get a smaller craft through without getting flipped. Western’s J-Rig rafts were designed with large water rapids in mind, and the J-Rig really shines in Hermit. The way it flexes over the waves with its two-part frame system enhances the ride like no other raft.

2. Lava Falls Rapid, mile 179, Grand Canyon (rated 10/10): Lava Falls has a big reputation. Before Crystal came along this was the premier drama-maker. This rapid, sometimes called “Vulcan”, is what is left from dinosaur days of a 500-foot-high lava dam across the river. Today the 15-foot-high and 30-foot-wide ledge hole is enough to strip boats of all their inhabitants, gear, frames, straps and inflation. Although some YouTube fame-seekers have tried (and failed) to prove otherwise, there is no middle run through Lava Falls. It is a big run on the right side of the ledge hole through the boat-swallowing V-wave and then through unpredictably rolling seas that build and crash against the house-sized chunk of lava at the bottom right known as “Big Bertha.” There’s a lot of water, a lot of drop and a very dangerous ledge hole at the top. Knowing where to be and where not to be, and knowing where you are in relation to either of those is the key to any rapid. This one can be very deceiving from above. Whether upside-down or right-side up, don’t underestimate “Son of Lava” just downstream of the tail waves. The left-side run is a narrow Vulcan “trick” with some unpleasant consequences if you don’t get the line just right.

1. Crystal Rapid, mile 99, Grand Canyon (rated a 10/10): All Grand Canyon rafting trips are informally measured in two parts, above Crystal and below Crystal. Many “ABC Parties” (Alive Below Crystal) have been celebrated on any one of the beaches below this rapid. Rated a pure 10 (comparable to a class V+ in the international scale) it begins with a long glossy v-shaped tongue that pours directly into one of the biggest waves in the Grand Canyon.

In the catastrophic flood year of 1983 this hole was said to be roughly three stories high from trough to crest. Though considerably smaller today, it is still a factor. The sinewy lateral wave on river right is tough to break through, and many boats prefer to take their chances squaring up to the big wave anyway. Beyond that, much of the current careens for the Slate Creek wall that interrupts the current from the left side, throwing a lateral wave that pitches rafters either squarely into the “Maytag Hole” (so named because it likes to tumble small boats, non-stop, like a washing machine) or spitting them out directly atop Crystal’s acre-sized rock garden. The garden is marked by a large boulder named “Big Red” (a.k.a Shelob) that lies in wait like a giant red-bellied black widow spider for any neophytes unlucky enough to get trapped in her web.

For a copy of Western River Expeditions’ 2015-2016 catalog, questions, availability and reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 (Local: 801.942.6669), or visit: http://www.westernriver.com/.

About Western River Expeditions
Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).

Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah rafting, and Idaho rafting trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. It has been named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company is the proud recipient of the “Best of State” award through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program for nine consecutive years.


This Saturday, MOSI offers discounted admission to the community with its $5 Day

MOSI hosts $5 Days each year to allow community members of all incomes access to MOSI exhibit galleries, including the Drone Zone, which features waterproof drones, called Spheros, and conquer missions by maneuvering an Ollie through a controlled obstacle course. In Idea Zone, the inventor’s studio, guests can code a variety of motion-interfacing robots to explore simulated off-world terrains and to navigate mazes. These robots will demonstrate a variety of abilities, including artificial intelligence, assistive and rehabilitative technology and autonomous functionality. Guests can also experience 3D Printing the Future: the Exhibition, The Amazing You exhibition, Kids In Charge!, the largest children’s science center in the nation, and more than 450 hands-on, interactive exhibits. Guests can also experience

000DAW_Olivia Warford, 5, stares into the eyes of a life size Triceratops

Admission to $5 Day also includes entrance to the Florida Hospital® IMAX DOME Theatre Film Humpback Whales, BioWorks Butterfly Garden and the Richard T. Bower Historic Tree Grove. MOSI’s Sky Trail® Ropes Course and Zip line will also be available for an additional fee. For more information, call MOSI reservations at 813-987-6000 or visit mosi.org.


Three Ways Austin Adventures Will Celebrate National Parks 100th

Perhaps Austin Adventures’ premier claim to fame over 40-plus years is the company’s commitment to sharing the beauty and lore of America’s National Parks, celebrating a milestone in 2016 that Dan Austin, Founder and President, can’t pass up.

“At Austin Adventures, National Parks are what we do best. Our homegrown guides have been leading small groups through America’s most pristine and protected lands for decades. Combine our legacy with that of Xanterra Parks and Resorts – who first hosted guests at the Grand Canyon in 1901 – and you can rest assured that when it comes to behind-the-scenes access and insider’s knowledge, our National Parks’ experience is simply unbeatable,” Austin said.

To mark the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation and companies such as Austin Adventures (http://www.austinadventures.com/) will be lending financial and promotional support to a variety of national initiatives. Specific to Austin Adventures will be

4th Graders Travel FREE in 2016:  The National Park Foundation and the White House are launching an Every Kid in the Park initiative whereby 4th grade students across the country have free access to National Parks throughout the 2015-2016 school year. As advocates of this program, Austin Adventures is waiving trip fees for all 4th graders traveling on any National Park adventure with them in 2016. (Offer subject to certain conditions, see: http://www.austinadventures.com/find-your-park/)

Preserve A Park Program: Since 2010 Austin Adventures has helped honor and protect “America’s Best Idea” by sending a portion of specific National Park program bookings to a designated non-profit organization dedicated to national park preservation and education. In 2016 each booking of Austin Adventures’ Death Valley National Park adventure will generate a $100 donation to The Death Valley Conservancy http://deathvalleyfund.com/ a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide support and private funding for projects that preserve, protect or enhance Death Valley National Park by improving the area’s natural, cultural and historic resources as well as the visitor experience.

In past years Austin Adventures sent checks to Glacier National Park Fund (Montana), the Yosemite Conservancy (California), Canyonlands Natural History Association (Utah), Crater Lake Natural History Association (Oregon), and Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota). In 2015 the recipient was the Grand Canyon Field Institute.

Tourism Cares, Inc.: As a participant in The Centennial Tour Operator Program for upcoming National Park Service Centennial, Austin Adventures will donate $2 from each guest booked on one of if its National Park trips in 2016. Donated funds will be used by Tourism Cares and the National Park Foundation to bring more than 1,000 industry volunteers to aid restoration projects at five National Parks engaging hundreds of companies for tens of thousands of dollars of labor and materials. The program will also help promote National Parks and will make grants directly to support park priorities and projects. Tourism Cares, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit public charity that benefits society by, among others, preserving the travel experience for future generations by awarding grants to natural, cultural and historic sites worldwide.

Nearly a dozen National Park trips are on Austin Adventures’ 2016 schedule. All adult rates are per person, double occupancy.

Grand Canyon National Park: 6-days/5-nights from $2,798; children from $2,238.

Kenai Fiords National Park: 6 days/5 nights from $3,498; children from $2,798.

Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks:  6 days/5 nights from $2,498; children from $1,998.

Yellowstone National Park:  6 days/5 nights from $2,498; children from $1,998.

Grand Teton National Park: 6 days/5 nights from $2,998; children from $2,398.

Yosemite National Park: 6 days/5 nights from $3,298; children from $2,638.

Glacier National Park: 6 days/5 nights from $2,898.

Arches & Canyonlands National Parks: 6 days /5 nights from $2,698; children from $2,158.

South Dakota – Black Hills (Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monuments / Wind Cave NP): 6 days/5 nights from $2,498; children from $1,998.

California – Death Valley National Park: 5 days/4 nights from $2,598.

Oregon – Crater Lake National Park: 6 days/5 nights from $2,798.

To receive print and or digital copies of the newly released 2016 Family Adventures and Adult Adventures catalogs, please go to: www/austinadventures.com/request-catalog/ . For more information about Austin Adventures programs in National Parks please see: http://www.austinadventures.com/national-park-vacations/. To inquire about destinations and trips or to make reservations please call (800) 575-1540 or email info@austinadventures.com.

About Austin Adventures
Based in Billings, MT, Austin Adventures (formerly Austin-Lehman Adventures) has spent more than 40 years building an international reputation as a provider of scheduled small group tours and customized trips to all seven continents. In 2014, Kasey Austin, Vice President of Operations, was named the World’s Top Family Guide by Outside Magazine. In 2013, Austin Adventures joined the Xanterra Parks & Resorts® portfolio of experiential leisure offerings. Xanterra Parks & Resorts has operations in the Grand Canyon, including Grand Canyon Railway and The Grand Hotel; Yellowstone; Zion; Crater Lake; Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, and Country Walkers.

Benise’s “Strings of Passion Tour” Comes to Tampa Theatre!

Guitar virtuoso Benise and his Emmy award-winning show return with a brand new PBS special and tour –  Strings of Passion!  The show is set to take place on Tampa Theatre’s historic stage on Thursday, February 25, 2015 at 7:30pm (doors will open at 6:30pm.)

000DAW_Olivia Warford, 5, stares into the eyes of a life size Triceratops

From his humble beginnings as a street performer to performing around the world, Benise takes us on a musical journey of Salsa, Flamenco, Tango, Waltz, Samba…and more! 

Benise’s ‘Strings of Passion Tour’, showcases classic songs from Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and The Eagles and combines them with Spanish guitar and Spanish dance. Benise’s love of both Spanish Guitar and rock brings a fierce intensity to these new interpretations of his favorite classic anthems.

Tickets are $65.50, $49.50, $29.50 and a limited number of VIP Fan Experience tickets at $95.50 plus applicable fees.




Go behind the scenes, meet Benise and cast, and get your own photo moment when you attend a working sound check!



·         Exclusive Meet & Greet with the Benise and Cast

·         Private Sound Check Experience

·         Personal Photographs with Benise

·         Souvenir Official Meet and Greet Laminate

·         Personally Autographed Copy of  ‘STRINGS OF PASSION’ 2 CD-SET

·         Premier Seating (first 4 rows)

Tickets will go on sale Noon Friday, September 11 and will be available at the Tampa Theatre Box Office & online at www.tampatheatre.org.

About Tampa Theatre: Built in 1926, Tampa Theatre hosts more than 600 events each year, including first-run films, classic movies, concerts, corporate events, educational programs, weddings and tours.

It is a passionately protected landmark and one of America’s best-preserved movie palaces. The majestic building is owned by the City of Tampa and operated as a dynamic film and cultural center by the not-for-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation. Programming is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Council on Arts and Culture and the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. Tampa Theatre is a proud member of the League of Historic American Theatres and the Art House Convergence. For more information, visit www.tampatheatre.org