Packrafting the Canyons of the Colorado River [Video]

packrafting funnel falls in westwater canyon

Hank Leukart taking on Funnel Falls Rapids on the Colorado River

Filmmaker and outdoor adventurer, Hank Leukart and his buddy, Jake Jenkins, take a packrafting trip down the Colorado River through Horsethief, Ruby and Westwater Canyons. They tackled up to Class IV rapids on their epic packraft adventure.

You’ll enjoy this film, winner of 2021’s Waterwalker Film Festival, for its gorgeous scenery, amazing packrafting footage and humor.

Take a look:

Although there are boat launches onto the Colorado where most packrafters put in, Hank and Jake decided to give themselves an extra challenge and combine their paddle with a backpacking portion through beautiful Rattlesnake Canyon. They wanted to do a trip others hadn’t done before them.

So they started at the Rattlesnake Arches trailhead in Colorado, in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, and made their way down over gradually more and more difficult terrain. After some scrambling and bouldering they reached the river at the bottom of the canyon.

Horsethief Canyon to Ruby Canyon

The stretch between Horsethief Canyon—named after the outlaws who used this area as a hideout—and Ruby Canyon is mostly easy flatwater.

packrafting colorado river

As they set up camp in Ruby Canyon, the late evening sun on the canyon walls showed them how Ruby got its name.

Westwater Canyon and Little Wild Horse Rapids

Their second day found Jake and Hank crossing into Utah and Westwater Canyon. They approached Little Wild Horse Rapids with its Class II and III areas. They were able to navigate the rapids without much trouble and camped for night two.

More Westwater Canyon Rapids

Day 3 saw more rapids in Westwater Canyon: Little Delores, Marble, Staircase and Hummer Rapids. These are all Class III.

Then the real fun begins: Funnel Falls, Surprise, Skull—their toughest challenge of the trip—Bowling Alley, Sock It To Me and Last Chance.

As they approach their day, their thoughts differed slightly…Hank: “I’m scared!” and Jake: “I’m excited!”

Action-Packed on Skull Rapids

They handled everything fine until Skull Rapids when they both took a toss. Hank had had enough, but Jake wanted another pass at it. So he portaged back upstream without most of his gear.

He flipped again, but this time was separated from his packraft. Did he get it back? You’ll have to watch the video to find out :)

packrafter flipping into the rapids colorado river

And over we go…

Finishing the Trip

Both men finished out their day dumping into the river again—Hank on Sock It To Me and Jake on Last Chance. But as Jake said, “It was a great adventure—probably one of Hank and my best adventures to date. No regrets!”

Hank added, “I’m blessed to have a handful of people in my life who are willing to head out on adventures at a moment’s notice. I hope for everyone that they have a friend like Jake to go on adventures with. You don’t want to go on big adventures by yourself, and it’s a lot more fun to go with someone who you’ve known for many years.”

packrafter rapids in westwater canyon

Jake just before he dumped in Last Chance Rapids

For more adventuring from Hank Leukart, check out his website, YouTube channel and Instagram page.

Last words: “I use Aqua Bound four-piece paddles for all of our packrafting trips and love them!” ~ Hank

Want to watch this film in Virtual Reality? You can! Click here and put on your VR headset.

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