Photos from the 2023 Rafting the Grand Canyon Photography Expedition

December 31, 2023

How do I define the trip of a lifetime? For me, it's a trip through the Grand Canyon, rafting the Colorado River over 18 days and covering 225 miles. It's hanging on as the bow of the raft breaks through a wave in a rapid, and the water of the river briefly engulfs the boat. It's camping on sandy beaches, eating great food, and sleeping under the stars. It's hiking to hidden waterfalls deep in a slot canyon and watching the cliffs of the canyon glowing fiery orange and red in the early morning light.

A few months ago, my group, our river guides, Sally, and I shoved off from Lees Ferry, mile 0, on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. The photos below and on the following pages, of which there are four pages of photographs in total, are all from this year's trip. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I did making them.

An image of the Colorado River winding its way through the red cliffs of the Grand Canyon.
Past the Palisades

The Colorado River winds its way through the Grand Canyon and beneath the towering cliffs of the Palisades of the Desert.

The cliffs of the Grand Canyon reflect in the Colorado River with clouds above. A large beach has formed along the river.
Conquistador Aisle from Blacktail

Looking downstream through Conquistador Aisle along the Colorado River as sunlight breaks through a gap in the clouds. From Blacktail Canyon in the Grand Canyon.

Before Glen Canyon Dam was built, the river carried more sediment through the canyon resulting in many beaches along its banks. In the Spring of 2023,the Bureau of Reclamation conducted a High Flow Experiment (HFE) releasing water from Glen Canyon Dam at a rate of 40,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The result was the formation of many new beaches. Later in the summer of 2023, the Bureau of Reclamation closed the tap and only released about 5,000 cfs through the canyon. The resulting low water revealed even more beaches.

A dark and moody photograph of a waterfall in a slot canyon in Grand Canyon National Park.
Darkness Falls

A waterfall cascades into the darkness of a remote slot canyon in Grand Canyon National Park.

A waterfall cascades out of the redwall cliffs of the Grand Canyon.
Vaseys Paradise

As you round the bend in the Colorado River at mile 32 just below Stantons Cave, you begin to hear the soft sound of water cascading across rocks. As the sound becomes more evident, you get your first view of the waterfall at Vaseys Paradise. Pouring out from a cave in the Redwall limestone high above the river, the waterfall delicately makes its way down the cliff face, passing through a hanging garden of helleborine orchid, Emery’s sedge, western redbud, narrowleaf bricklebush, coyote and Goodding’s willows, watercress, and red cardinal monkeyflower.

On his historic 1869 expedition down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, Major John Wesley Powell named it in honor of his friend and noted botanist, Dr. George W. Vasey, who was Curator of the U.S. National Herbarium and Botanist of the Department of Agriculture. Dr. Vasey never saw the springs that bear his name.

A tall waterfall cascades in front of a massive red rock cliff in the Grand Canyon.
Enchantment of Deer Creek

Deer Creek emerges from a slot canyon and plunges one hundred feet before finding its way to the Colorado River.

Water trickles over a sandstone pour-off in the cliffs of the Grand Canyon.
Papago Canyon

A trickle of water gently cascades down a pouroff into a dry creekbed. Papago Canyon near the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

A very tall waterfall becomes a stream winding its way through boulders in the Grand Canyon.
Approaching Deer Creek

There are many waterfalls in the Grand Canyon, but one of the most beautiful is Deer Creek Falls. This waterfall emerges from a crack 100 feet above and cascades into a pool. Deer Creek then winds its way along a short course before reaching the Colorado River.

A small waterfall deep in the Grand Canyon is located within a slot canyon with white cliffs framed by dark overhanging boulders.
Hidden Falls

This small waterfall in a slot canyon disappeared for many years after a flash flood filled the lower part of the canyon with rocks. Years later, the powerful waters of another flash flood cleared the rocks away, and this waterfall returned. Reaching this waterfall requires you to wade and sometimes swim in cold water below a large chockstone. On the day that I made this photo, the water was nearly up to my neck.