The coveted 21-day noncommercial river permit for Grand Canyon National Park is one that’s worth the wait. Rafters and kayakers handpick their teams––industry professionals, former guides, and avid paddlers––outfit their rigs, and push off from Lee’s Ferry to embrace 226 miles of the Colorado River. Along the way, they run legends: rapids like Lava and Crystal alongside smaller, punchy series like the Jewels and the Roaring Twenties.
What’s most unique about the permit is the time allows people to spend extended time exploring side canyons and deep pools hidden high up toward the plateau. The longer you’re down there, the smaller you become. You realize those who have come before: Hualapai and Havasupai, and the Hopi and Zuni before them. Further still, the colossal forces that compressed and upended rock for more than a billion years.
And through it all is a thin blue thread that has laid itself at the bottom of a canyon, churning and grinding its way deeper into the landscape, pushing people through big water and making them clean.