“We are three-quarters of a mile in the depths of the earth, and the great river shrinks to insignificance, as it dashes its angry waves against the walls and cliffs, that rise to the world above; they are but puny ripples, and we but pigmies, running up and down the sands, or lost among the boulders. We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not.” — John Wesley Powell
Powell wrote those words to describe the challenge facing he and his eight companions as they began their epic journey through the Grand Canyon in 1869. They had already been traveling for two-and-a-half months down the Green and Colorado rivers, through territory that was almost completely unknown to Europeans at the time. They were low on food, their clothes had been worn to rags, and their boats were battered an in constant need of repair. Somehow, Powell and five of the men made it through the Grand Canyon, becoming the first to ever do so – as far as we know. (The three others decided to hike out of the canyon, and were never seen again.)
Of course the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is well known now. Every mile has been thoroughly explored and mapped. But rafting down the river is still a great adventure.
I’ve even been down the canyon once before. Back in 2003 I joined a raft trip for photographers chartered by my friend Charlie Cramer. That was an amazing experience. When we got to our take-out spot at Diamond Creek there was a bus waiting to take us back to Flagstaff. But I wanted to know where to get a bus to take me back to our starting point at Lee’s Ferry so I could do it again.
I didn’t find that bus. But ever since then I’ve wanted to go back, and starting tomorrow I’ll get that chance, as I’ll be co-leading a photography workshop down the canyon with Jerry Dodrill for Visionary Wild. In addition to being a wonderful photographer and teacher, Jerry has done this trip many times before, so he knows all the best photography spots, and how to get us in position to photograph those places along the one-way street of the Colorado River.
And while Claudia didn’t get to join me in 2003, this time she will, along with a great group of participants, many of whom are past clients, and people we consider friends. It’s going to be so much fun!
Before floating through the bottom of the canyon, Claudia and I wanted to see it from the top again, so we spent the last two nights camping at the South Rim. It had been a long time since either of us visited the South Rim, and it was a treat to see this perspective again. There are so many wonderful viewpoints, and opportunities to photograph different aspects of that great gulf down below. Here are a few images from those last couple of days.
But as wonderful as it is to see the views from the rim, there’s nothing like traveling along the river through the heart of this magnificent canyon. I can’t wait!
— Michael Frye
Related Posts: Canyon Mood; North Rim
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.
Thank you for the wonderful photographs, Michael.
Carmen and I can’t wait either.
This is our first journey into the Grand Canyon!
Don & Carmen
That sounds like a wonderful adventure awaiting you and Claudia! I was there once 27 years ago and would love to visit again. Looking forward to the photos from down in the canyon, and also to hear how your experience differs from your previous trip (considering the drought).
Beautiful images, Michael. Looking forward to seeing images from your float!
OK, I’m just a little bit jealous of your trip. Have a good one!
Michael – What a wonderful set of photos and am so glad there was still enough water for you to make the trip. I worked at Grand Canyon as secretary to the Superintendent in the mid 50’s. At the time I was a single mom with a toddler so never made the trip to the bottom. Later with a second husband who loved to hike, we did hike down to Phantom Ranch in December. Nothing will ever take away my love of that park. Thank you so much for sharing the photos.
Thanks Dawn! Yes, there’s still enough water – for now. Our flows were between around 7,000 and 10,000 cfs, which is low, but runnable. I’m glad to hear that the Grand Canyon still has a place in your heart. It’s an amazing place – so incredibly vast, with beauty in every nook.
Beautiful place and all beautiful images but the Dust Storm is absolutely amazing!
Thanks very much Roland!