I didn’t start doing river trips till my mid-twenties.  I was hooked immediately. But just because I decided I wanted to run rivers didn’t mean I could without spending an awful lot of money on commercial trips or buying my own equipment, which I knew nothing about.

So my first river adventure was a commercial trip on the Grand Canyon, hiking in at the half way point of Phantom Ranch. They picked me up on the beach and we shot through the rest of the Canyon on a raft in eight days. 

The bridge at Phantom Ranch where hikers who've come down 4,380 ft. & 10 miles might cross to meet their trip.

The bridge at Phantom Ranch where hikers who’ve come down 4,380 ft. & 10 miles might cross to meet their trip. Notice the burros? Some folks hire them to carry their gear down the trail

It was phenomenal, but way too fast. I knew I would have to return under my own power and on my own schedule.

It wasn’t until fifteen years later of being married to an avid kayaker and following him down as many rivers as I could while raising two boys, that I finally made it back on the Big Daddy of them all, the Grand Canyon. It was epic with good friends, me rowing the Mother Ship, and Don & the kids kayaking. The ultimate in river trips.

Rowing the Mothership on my first private Grand Canyon trip many years ago.

Rowing the Mothership on my first private Grand Canyon trip many years ago.

And now here I am again, with good friends, sans kids, and the wisdom gained of another thirteen years of living to make it an all new experience. How lucky can I get?

What running river trips really means to me, the ultimate value, is the access to wilderness. Rivers are roads into places I could never see otherwise. Places where the laws of nature are primary and I am free to fit in and belong on Her terms only. Free of the shackles of our complex, technological modern world. Priceless.

Double bridges spanning the Colorado River just after putting in at Lee’s Ferry


Looking back and saying goodbye to the modern (crazy) world for 21 days. Whew!

Although I kayaked initially, ultimately my place of comfort became rowing the “Mothership”, as I mentioned. I love being the nest of good eats, rest and safety for the kids (and their dad).  And yes, there is whitewater, but it’s never been a primary reason for running river trips for me.  In fact it usually makes me pretty darn nervous.

But back to the Grand Canyon…

Some would call it the “River Runner’s Ground Zero”. The Ultimate in River Trips. Why is that? Because there are certainly many spectacular rivers just as, if not more, famous than the Grand Canyon.

Maybe it’s because it’s 220 miles of protected wilderness river, allowing as many as twenty four days of “Slowing to River’s Flow” to complete it.  And maybe it’s because of the depth, breadth and sheer size of the canyon with it’s unsurpassed rugged beauty. 

View from above Bass Camp, on our first layover day

Maybe it’s because of the amazing geologic story it tells as the layers of rock reveal themselves in the river’s descent, mile after fascinating mile.

It’s like reading a geology book…

Or maybe it’s the truly transcendent side hikes that are each a mini journey into an unspeakable paradise of surprising waterfalls, moist ferns, pools and perfect rock gardens.

Clear Creek Canyon



There certainly is a special reverence for this unmatchable treasure because it was almost lost forever, drowned in the waters of the Marble Canyon dam proposed and defeated in the 1960’s.  Thank god for David Brower and his cohorts.

Rounding out the ultimate river experience is a lot of river ready equipment, a good circle of river ready friends, and blessings of good weather if you’re lucky (a prayer to the River Gods helps….). Put all those things together and add in a good measure of BIG WHITEWATER and you’ve got the Ultimate in River Trips.


River God’s blessings to you my friends. Thanks for listening. I’l be putting together more of this unique experience for you in the coming weeks, so come back soon….

Connie McClaran

My work is an expression of the deep connection I feel with the natural world. When I’m on a photographic “walkabout” I allow the lines of separation to blur and settle into an immersion, if you will, that becomes the images you’ll see on this website.

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  1. […] it’s a desert, there is plenty of water. In fact, there are rivers of it!  As I described in The Ultimate River Trip blog, they are a spectacular highway through wilderness seen only by a few who answer the challenges […]

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