Rafting the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon - The 2022 Portfolio

May 24, 2022  |  Grand Canyon National Park

On this date in 1869, the explorer John Wesley Powell and his team set out on an epic journey into "The Great Unknown," a large blank space on the maps of the day, including the Grand Canyon and much of the American Southwest. The Powell Geographic Expedition of 1869 was the first thorough cartographic and scientific exploration of the Green and Colorado rivers, which included the first recorded passage of white men through the entirety of the Grand Canyon.


You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle from which a curtain might be lifted, but to see it you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.”

~ John Wesley Powell


I often think about this quote above from Powell when photographing the Grand Canyon from the rim or the river. It's an immensely complex landscape that is often misunderstood by many to be nothing more than a big hole in the ground, but the reality is much more complex and interesting, with the Grand Canyon being the home to hundreds of smaller canyons within its depths. These smaller canyons are tributaries to the Colorado River, feeding into it from both sides of the river. Known as "side canyons," they each have unique characteristics and features, including waterfalls, slot canyons, boulder jams, and hanging gardens fed by springs or seeps.

To begin to know and appreciate the Grand Canyon, you must spend time exploring it, watching the light and shadows evolve, and waiting for the moment when the elements come together to create a special moment. I have recently returned from the canyon to take a group of 12 photographers down 226 miles of the Colorado River on a photography expedition. I am thankful to have the privilege of spending a lot of time getting to know the canyon, witnessing many special moments, and for the opportunity to share the place I love with others.

Below and on the following page is a collection of photographs I made on this recent trip. I hope you enjoy seeing them and perhaps even develop a better understanding of what makes the Grand Canyon and Colorado River a truly special place.

As another day comes to an end, the sun begins to slip behind the towering cliffs of Conquistador Aisle as the Colorado River...

Last Light in Conquistador Aisle

As another day comes to an end, the sun begins to slip behind the towering cliffs of Conquistador Aisle as the Colorado River flows into the distance.

Scarlet monkey flowers grow beneath a waterfall alongside Royal Arch Creek in Grand Canyon National Park.

Royal Scarlet

Scarlet monkey flowers grow beneath a waterfall alongside Royal Arch Creek in Grand Canyon National Park.

Afternoon light streams into Marble Canyon causing a chimney rock to glow in the warm reflected light bouncing off the canyon...

Late Afternoon from Eminence

Afternoon light streams into Marble Canyon causing a chimney rock to glow in the warm reflected light bouncing off the canyon walls. From Eminence Camp in Grand Canyon National Park.

Granite Rapid rushes through the Inner Gorge of the Grand Canyon. From river mile 94 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National...

Granite Rush

Granite Rapid rushes through the Inner Gorge of the Grand Canyon. From river mile 94 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

A small stream flows through a narrow passage in Matkatamiba Canyon. Near river mile 148 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon...

Matkatamiba Passage

A small stream flows through a narrow passage in Matkatamiba Canyon. Near river mile 148 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park

A colorful sunrise over the Colorado River in the Granite Gorge of the Grand Canyon. If you look closely, you can see the tracks...

Sunrise in the Granite Gorge

A colorful sunrise over the Colorado River in the Granite Gorge of the Grand Canyon. If you look closely, you can see the tracks left by a Desert Bighorn sheep that had come down to the river to drink.

A small stream flows through a narrow passage in Matkatamiba Canyon. Near river mile 148 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon...

Matkatamiba Chamber

A small stream flows through a narrow passage in Matkatamiba Canyon. Near river mile 148 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park

A small waterfall along Royal Arch Creek plunges into a pool of water surrounded by red rock and green foliage.

Spring Along Royal Arch Creek

A small waterfall along Royal Arch Creek plunges into a pool of water surrounded by red rock and green foliage.

North Canyon from the bank of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

North Canyon from the River

North Canyon from the bank of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Cottonwood trees glow in morning light along the Colorado River. From the confluence of Monument Creek and Granite Rapid in Grand...

New Light on Granite

Cottonwood trees glow in morning light along the Colorado River. From the confluence of Monument Creek and Granite Rapid in Grand Canyon National Park.

Waterfalls in the Monument Creek narrows. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

The Heart of Monument Creek

Waterfalls in the Monument Creek narrows. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

Golden light on the cliffs of Marble Canyon. From North Canyon at river mile 20 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National...

Upriver from North Canyon

Golden light on the cliffs of Marble Canyon. From North Canyon at river mile 20 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

The Colorado River gently flows past the tall cliffs of Marble Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park.

Morning from Nankoweap

The Colorado River gently flows past the tall cliffs of Marble Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park.

Fern Glen Canyon, a side canyon to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Boulders in Fern Glen

Fern Glen Canyon, a side canyon to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

The turquoise-blue waters of the Little Colorado River flow through the Grand Canyon.

Along the Little Colorado River

The turquoise-blue waters of the Little Colorado River flow through the Grand Canyon.

Abstract details found along the banks of the Little Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Ephemeral Vision

Abstract details found along the banks of the Little Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

The golden light on the surrounding cliffs reflects on the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River in Grand Canyon National...

Gold on Turquoise

The golden light on the surrounding cliffs reflects on the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Sunlit cliffs reflect in the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Reflecting on the Little Colorado

Sunlit cliffs reflect in the turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

In the cliff walls of Blacktail Canyon are these small erosion pockets known as tafoni. The etymology of the word tafoni is unclear...

Tafoni in Blacktail Canyon

In the cliff walls of Blacktail Canyon are these small erosion pockets known as tafoni. The etymology of the word tafoni is unclear, but it may come from the Greek word taphos, or tomb. The largest of these tafoni measured close to five inches across.

The fiery glow of reflected light in the narrows of Fern Glen in Grand Canyon National Park.

Fire in Fern Glen

The fiery glow of reflected light in the narrows of Fern Glen in Grand Canyon National Park.

The waterfalls of Elves Chasm. Royal Arch Creek in the Grand Canyon.

Musical Waters

The waterfalls of Elves Chasm. Royal Arch Creek in the Grand Canyon.

Blacktail Canyon, a side canyon to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Reflected Light in Blacktail

Blacktail Canyon, a side canyon to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Fern Glen Canyon, a side canyon to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

The Terrace at Fern Glen

Fern Glen Canyon, a side canyon to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.

Monument Creek flows into the Colorado River at Granite Rapid. From river mile 94 in Grand Canyon National Park.

Monument to Granite

Monument Creek flows into the Colorado River at Granite Rapid. From river mile 94 in Grand Canyon National Park.

Deer Creek waterfall in the Grand Canyon.

Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek waterfall in the Grand Canyon.

A small stream flows through a narrow passage in Matkatamiba Canyon. Near river mile 148 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon...

Sinuous Matkat

A small stream flows through a narrow passage in Matkatamiba Canyon. Near river mile 148 on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park

The Colorado River rushes through Marble Canyon at North Canyon Rapid. From river mile 20 in Grand Canyon National Park.

North Canyon Rapid

The Colorado River rushes through Marble Canyon at North Canyon Rapid. From river mile 20 in Grand Canyon National Park.

Rapids churn on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Chaos on the Colorado

Rapids churn on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

Golden light reflects off the Colorado River as it meanders beneath the cliffs of Marble Canyon. From the trail to the Nankoweap...

Ancient Vista

Golden light reflects off the Colorado River as it meanders beneath the cliffs of Marble Canyon. From the trail to the Nankoweap Granaries in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

North Canyon Rapid on the Colorado River in Marble Canyon. From river mile 20 in Grand Canyon National Park.

Aqueous Apparition

North Canyon Rapid on the Colorado River in Marble Canyon. From river mile 20 in Grand Canyon National Park.

Beneath the towering cliffs of Marble Canyon near Nankoweap are the beautiful forms of these dead trees. They are far enough...

Whiserping Wind at Nankoweap

Beneath the towering cliffs of Marble Canyon near Nankoweap are the beautiful forms of these dead trees. They are far enough from the shoreline that you can no longer hear the river. The onyl sound is the wghisper of the wind through their branches.

Acknowledgments

Making photographs on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon wouldn't be possible without the hard work of a great crew of boatmen and river guides. I want to thank the crew from Tour West, including John, Kyle, Turner, and Jacob. In addition to guiding our two boats safely down 226 miles of river, they also cooked many great meals, told some fantastic stories, and helped us reach some great locations. Above all else, our boatmen shared their love for the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.

Photo Gear

The photographs on this page were all made with my Fujifilm GFX 100S, a 102-megapixel medium format mirrorless camera, and Fujifilm lenses. I love using this camera and I continue to be blown away by the detail, colors, and dynamic range of the GFX 100S camera and their lenses are top-notch.

You can learn more about the equipment I used by clicking on the links below.