We would descend into the canyon a couple thousand feet below the rim and sometimes the winds would suck you down lower than you planned, and then it would turn you loose. During the summer months, the temperature at the south rim would be much lower than at the base of the canyon near the Colorado river. This would cause a strong updraft near the canyon walls. You could fly a fully loaded Jet Ranger over near the canyon walls and never add any additional power to climb out of the canyon. The strong winds would just push you out of the canyon. This really worked well when we were doing what was called river pull outs. Several tour companies that did rafting trips down the
Rafting down the Colorado river click to enlarge
Colorado river contracted our helicopters to fly their people out of the canyon at the end of their rafting tour. This would be at a point at the west end of the canyon called Lava Falls. In the past, people would either have to hike out or by horse back to get out of the canyon. It was good business for us and we would fly several hours each time we went down to the falls.. Our company located a fuel truck on the north rim at a place called Tuweep. The truck was left there until it needed to be brought back to our heliport to be refilled, then returned to Tuweep. Their was a small dirt strip there where you could land airplanes. We would pickup people at Lava Falls and then fly them up to the north rim. They would then board an airplane and either return to Page, AZ or Las Vegas, NV. The canyon was very narrow at the Lava Falls, so catching the updraft really made it easy to get to the top of the north side of the canyon. For the same reason, it was equally hard to descend back down to the falls for the next pickup.
|More river rafting click to enlarge|
You can not imagine how quiet and peaceful it is on the river at the bottom of the canyon.
Some of these trips lasted for several days and they would camp on the river banks at night. I had been invited more than once to make one of the rafting trips down the river, but my objective was to get as much flying time as possible while I was at the canyon. So no time for rafting.
|Red circle is landing area at Lava Falls.|
|Rafting over Lava Falls|