A couple of months ago, a buddy and I took his inexpensive self-bailing kayaks to Lee’s Ferry for a short trip on the Colorado River. We floated and paddled about 16 river miles in the lower Glen Canyon Recreation area between Glen Canyon Dam (Lake Powell) and Lee’s Ferry at Marble Canyon, Arizona.
We spent 6 or 7 hours on the water in one of the most beautiful canyons of the Colorado River. The water as it exits the dam is crystal clear, deep, and has an abundance of large trout. There are a number of small beaches with campgrounds as well as petroglyphs, wildlife, (including big horn desert sheep, blue hereon, condors and bald eagles eagles) and some of the most amazing red rock scenery you will ever see.
It is about a 2½ hour drive from St. George. Turn onto Highway 59 in Hurricane towards Fredonia, Arizona. At Fredonia, turn right onto 89A south towards Jacob Lake and the Grand Canyon. At Jacob Lake, stay left on 89A across the top of the Kaibab Plateau and you will drop down across the desert and to Marble Canyon, Arizona. Just before the Navajo bridge (don’t miss it), turn left into the Glen Canyon Recreation area and Lee’s Ferry.
There is a rafting company called Colorado River Discovery located in Page, Arizona. They take half day motorized raft tours from Glen Canyon Dam down to Lee’s Ferry once or twice a day March 1 through November 1, http://raftthecanyon.com/raft-the-river/half-day-raft-trips/ .
If you call ahead, you can arrange for them to back-haul your party and your kayaks from Lee’s Ferry upriver to within a few hundred yards of Glen Canyon Dam for about $50.00 per person. The trip alone is worth seeing Glen Canyon Dam from the river.
Paddling downstream is easy and smooth. There are only a few light ripples on the water. There are a number of small beaches and campgrounds available on a first come first serve basis. We did the trip in about 7 hours and camped at the large campground at Lee’s Ferry.
The scenery is spectacular. Both sides of the river have towering red sandstone cliffs hundreds of feet high. We saw numerous fish and blue heron. There are at least two places you can stop and photograph petroglyphs. There are primitive restrooms at a number of stops. You likely will see a number of other boats on the river. Principally, small powered boats which were launched from Lee’s Ferry containing fishermen taking advantage of what is reported to be world class trout fishery. You also may see other groups in larger rafts guided by the Colorado River Discovery Rafting Company.
The trip is approximately 16 river miles, so in spite of other boats and groups boats, there is plenty of time for solitary contemplation. Temperatures in the summer months are very hot, and because the water comes from the bottom of Lake Powell, the water is incredibly clear and very cold.
The lower half of the trip the river is quite placid. It took a considerable amount of paddling to finish before dark. I would recommend an early start and steady progress for a day trip, or ideally an overnight trip with lightweight camp gear in a water proof bag. If you go, take plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. There were few biting insects, but from time to time, without repellant flying midges were somewhat distracting on our trip.
As you get closer to Lee’s Ferry, the topography changes substantially. The river leaves what is the lower end of Glen Canyon and transitions to a completely different geological structure at the beginning of Marble Canyon. Marble Canyon at Lee’s Ferry is the typical starting point for Grand Canyon River trips. Undoubtedly, you will see large rafts and parties launching for their Grand Canyon adventure.
At Marble Canyon, at the very small hamlet of Marble Canyon at the turn off to Lee’s Ferry, a few miles from where you exit the river, there are a couple of small quaint motels as well as a restaurant or two. A few miles up the road is a convenience store and small gas station. On other occasions, I have stayed in the Cliff Dweller/Marble Canyon, Arizona area and hiking slot canyons. Not to be missed is a walking trip across the Colorado on the original Navajo Bridge which has recently been replaced by a wider span just past the Lees Ferry turn off on Highway 89A.
The old (right) and New (left) Navaho Bridges at Marble canyon near Lees Ferry \