6,400 Pound Excavator Tackles the Grand Canyon With Western River Expeditions, Experts at Navigating Rapids


SALT LAKE CITY, UT, Jan. 17, 2013– An 89-mile, waterful journey into night recently engaged the Utah-based rafting company, Western River Expeditions http://www.westernriver.com/ in a two-day task called successful when a 6,400-pound Bobcat Excavator was offloaded at its destination at Phantom Ranch on the bottom of the Grand Canyon. 

The project commissioned by Lake Powell Construction & Dev., Inc. of Page, AZ, for the National Park Service required the on-site equipment to replace a portion of underground cable at this popular National Park site. 

“Because only hiking and mule trails access the ranch, the only way to get the excavator here without the cost of an expensive airlift was by floating it down the river,” explained Trent Keller, raft captain for Western River Expeditions. He said the team rigged a (18’ wide x 36’ long) raft that departed Lees Ferry for the first leg of the journey, a 56-mile float to just above Quagant rapid where they pulled the rig over for the night. 

By first light they ran through Quagant, past the Little Colorado River and entered into the Inner Gorge, the deepest part of the Grand Canyon that had been causing Keller sleepless nights. 


“This is where the largest rapids we’d face are located,” he said. “We had to back the raft motoring upstream to slow the passage, allowing us more time to maneuver around large waves, holes and rocks. With a lot of creative spins, entries and eddy hopping, it went fine through Georgie, Unkar, Socdolanger, Grapevine and on to Phantom. It was a super-heavy load and made a really slow boat. It didn’t spin well either with the weight heavily concentrated and low in the middle.” 

The raft pulled into Phantom a day ahead of schedule and 55 minutes later the excavator was off-loaded and ready to go to work. The trip normally takes three days by motorized raft and six days by rowed raft. 

“What allowed us to accelerate the trip is the fact that there were no guests on board,” he added. 

“This time the equipment will stay on site,” Keller said. Maneuvering equipment on the river to this site was first accomplished by Keller’s father in 1980. That year, Lynn Keller took a Case 580C Backhoe down river, and then again in the early 2000s by Mark Pierce. When the earliest equipment completed the project, it was helicoptered out in pieces. The second time Western’s crew took it out. 


Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).

Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah rafting, and Idaho rafting trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. Today it pursues a “guiding green” philosophy and belongs to some of the top environmentally conscious organizations in the world: Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association, American Rivers, Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics, Utah Rivers Council, America Outdoors, and National River Cleanup Week. See: http://www.westernriver.com/whywestern/environment.php

Western River Expeditions has been named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company was honored last spring as the 2012 recipient of "Best of State" through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program. This is the ninth consecutive year Western River Expeditions has earned this distinction.  For 2013 season reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 or 801.942.6669.

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