Rafting Bathrooms in the Grand Canyon..
What a View!
Written By – Carlie Woody – December 21, 2022
One of our most commonly asked questions here at Rivers & Oceans is the inevitable “What is the bathroom situation when rafting the Grand Canyon?”. While we wish it was just as simple as plumbing pipes and flushable toilets, we’re here to talk about The Groover, which is the next best thing.
What is The Groover?
While it’s formally known as The Groover, there are a multitude of names you may hear when it comes down to the Grand Canyon toilet system. You may hear it referred to as Oscar, a Johnny, even a Loo with a View. Regardless of what you may hear, it’s implemented and utilized mostly the same way by outfitters.
The Groover originates from trips operating back in the 70’s. Some companies then and today utilized a 20 MIL rocket box for depositing solid waste while on the river. Back then, no one had thought to bring a toilet seat, so you sat directly on the can. When it came down to business, you were left with some grooved decorations down the back of your thighs. With “short shorts” being in fashion, these grooves weren’t easily hidden. Hence the name, The Groover.
We’ve Come A Long Way…
While you may be fearful of going to the bathroom in a big metal vault, there’s no need to fear! Outfitters have since implemented toilet seats on these groovy toilets, making it for a more comfortable (and less obvious) experience. In addition, they bring along multiple boxes so there is a new one every couple of days.
All liquid waste MUST make it into the river in the Grand Canyon. While it may be tempting to scope out a hidden bush or tree, there are thousands of people who raft and explore the Grand Canyon every year. If we all began to utilize the hidden beaches, smells would begin to accumulate. This creates an unpleasant environment for other river runners who may need a place to sleep or eat.
Guides tend to make riverside stops throughout the day. Commonly one between breakfast and lunch, and another between lunch and dinner. If there’s a time you need to relieve yourself and feel it’s an emergency, don’t hesitate to ask your guides for an additional bathroom break. It’s likely someone, or everyone, will take the time to go to the bathroom or enjoy the opportunity to stretch.
Now, I know you may be thinking. How do we pee out in the open with other guests?
While the first few days may be a little awkward, you become pretty familiar with the fact that you’ve just got to do your thing when business calls. It’s normally established during bathroom breaks that the ladies will go one direction, while the men go another. You’ll find it routine to follow the opposite gender once you get on land. Guests normally want to relieve themselves prior to anything else.
The men may find it a little easier, being that they can wade into mid-calf level water to urinate. While on the other hand, ladies will tend to find a more secluded area. Being that woman are normally required to sit down to do the deed, it can be a little more intimidating trying not to flash everyone while avoiding a fall into the river. If you’re one of those who struggle with this concept, it may be a good idea to consider a GoGirl, which is a female urination device. Not only will it help with being a little more discreet, but also prevents your lower half from being drenched in the chilly Colorado river.
Finally, we’re down to the groovy part of this conversation. How do we use The Groover?
The Groover will be the first thing set at camp, and the last thing guides will take down before your day of rafting. Guides will try to find the most private and quietest place on the edge of camp to establish your “restroom” setting. Meaning, if you find a secluded camping space, it might actually be the groover location.
It’s important to remember that The Groover’s purpose and intent is solely for solid waste. If everyone were to pee in the groover there would not be enough space for solid waste. To facilitate this, a pee bucket is placed next to The Groover allowing you to hop back and forth and separate your deposits. If you just need to go pee at camp, you can use the pee bucket next to the Groover if you’re unable to utilize the river.
Don’t Forget Your Key!
The Key just may be the most important part of The Groover. Most guides will inform you of the established key, whether it’s a small box with toilet paper, or even the toilet paper itself. You don’t want to be caught without it! Not only is this important to inform other guests that The Groover is occupied, but you’ll also need it to keep your business clean. The last thing you want to do is use old leaves and twigs at an attempt for some personal hygiene.
Stick To The Trail
Guides will inform guests of the locations of your Groover once it’s established. You’ll know you’re on the right path once you’ve located your hand-washing station. Set with buckets, hand-soap, and most importantly the Key. After ensuring the key is still there (and making sure to grab it) just follow directly past the hand-washing station and you should soon see your metal throne. It’s best to figure out the location of the Groover before it gets dark.
It’s important while out on the river to ensure proper hand-washing at all times to not only stay clean, but also prevent any illnesses to spread. This means that even in the outback, we must follow proper hand-washing etiquette. At the start of The Groover path, guides will have a hand-washing station complete with soap and water. After returning your sacred key, you’ll have everything you need to ensure appropriate hygiene.
The Pee Bucket
Along with the Groover, you’ll find the Pee Bucket. While its name seems pretty straightforward, it’s important you know the difference between the two. The Pee Buckets are handy to use when beaches may be difficult to navigate, or at night when finding a spot by the river becomes a threatening trudge. Typically Pee Buckets are next to the groover and solely used for liquid waste.
Some outfitters may provide additional Personal Pee Buckets for you to utilize in or around your own tent which are helpful for those mid-night urges. Be sure to empty these the following morning into the river and give it a good rinse. If your outfitter doesn’t provide a personal pee bucket you might want to think about bringing your own. Something with a screw top lid works best!
In the morning, after you’ve eaten a nice breakfast and packed all your gear. You’ll hear your guides for the “Last Call“. This is your time to shine before the beginning of your day if you think you may need to do your business. Otherwise, you may not get the opportunity for that vaulted toilet seat until your next evening at camp.
Now that’s not to say you won’t be able to relieve your solid waste the entire day. Guides can provide you what’s known as a “to-go toilet system” which is a personal waste bag. This is a user-friendly system to contain and neutralize waste, it also includes necessary hygiene products to stay clean. Although, it provides a higher level of adventure than the comfortable camp set-up.
Some Important Tips
- Find where you’re going! It’s important to try to find the bathroom before the night falls, as you don’t want to wind up off a beaten path away in the dark. Whether you need to go before nightfall or don’t, try to at least get an idea of where you’re headed!
- Don’t hold it! While it may be difficult to get use to the concept, it’s important not to go the whole trip without using the toilet. – Yes, it has been done!
- Avoid the rush. It’s common for most guests to try to utilize the toilet at 3 times: once camp it set, after dinner is eaten, and right after the last call. It’s a good idea to get into your own bathroom routine and trying to avoid the crowd. This makes it a little less stressful!
- Relax and enjoy the view! We know how daunting it can be preparing to use a metal vault with a toilet seat. But, pooping is a normal thing, and everyone does it! Try to sit back, relax, and enjoy the spectacular view that these restrooms come with. When’s the next time you’ll see the Colorado River while taking care of business?
- Keep your flashlight or headlamp handy! Make sure you keep it in an easy and secure location to grab and go when you need to use the restroom at night.
For the ladies, if you’d like additional information for taking care of yourself while in the Canyon, or tips on preparing for that time of the month, check out our blog post Feminine Hygiene on Rafting Trips.
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