Of all the people trying to raft the Grand Canyon - among them 16 licensed outfitters and an 8,000-person waitlist of private paddlers - guides at California-based Outdoor Adventure River Specialists (O.A.R.S.) were among the first to float it commercially in 1969, and they knew the canyon the best. More than three decades later, the company still offers a classic two-week trip from Lees Ferry to Whitmore Wash in classic wooden dories with guides such as Regan Dale, a chatty river rat with more than 250 Grand Canyon trips and at least 35,000 river miles worn into his oar-calloused hands.
Spend up to five hours each day slicing through boiling rapids like Lava Falls, a class 10 (the hardest on the Grand Canyon's own whitewater-rating system), before pitching a tent on sandy beaches and hiking to ruins like Nankoweep, a collection of centuries-old pre-Puebloan granaries perched 500 feet above the green water. At the takeout, you’ll board a helicopter for a ride reminiscent of the Grand Canyon IMAX, returning you to civilization with a memorable view of the 5 million-year-old canyon.