Crystal Rapid – Grand Canyon
One of the more infamous rapids of the Grand Canyon is Crystal Rapid. It ranks between 7-10 on the Grand Canyon rapid scale depending on how high the river is flowing. The rapid itself is created from Crystal Creek entering on river right and Slate Creek entering on river left at the same point on the Colorado river.
Crystal contains multiple deep holes as well as a rock garden that makes navigation difficult and the consequences of a mistake serious. Ideally, river runners select between the right or left run but some end up in the middle (see videos below). Because of the ever changing nature of the canyon, today the rapid differs from the past and what it will be in the future.
Classic Crystal Rapid Flip
The crystal rapid has changed considerably over the years. Partly due to flooding and dam activity upstream. In December of 1966 a large rain event caused Crystal Creek to rise to flow at an estimated 10,000 cfs which at that time was larger than the Colorado River itself. Crystal rapid pushed a bunch of debris and large boulders into the the river. Though still much easier than today this event initiated the beginnings of today’s Crystal Rapid.
In 1983 high water (80,000+ cfs) moved around much of the debris that had been washed into the river. This created the nasty rock garden below Crystal Hole and made it more challenging to miss Crystal Hole. Over time, as happens with many rapids on the Colorado River, the river has washed out more of the debris and the rapid has become dramatically easier since its hay day in the 80’s and 90’s.
Crystal, while easier today, remains one of the more challenging rapids on the river. At lower flows below 10,000 cfs there is a nice line to the left of the hole that is not possible to run when the river is higher. This low water run can bring rafts up against a wall on river left.
Classic Right line
Video of Crystal at 40,000 cfs
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