Grand Canyon National Parks & Monuments Travel

One of the questions I have been asked about frequently after our Western River Expeditions Grand Canyon river trip is….what do you do about bathrooms on the river? Being a backpacker, this initially didn’t concern me much, I figured it would be similar to backcountry rules. Well, not exactly! The rules are a bit different in the Canyon.

This beach was a good ‘smile break’ beach.

First things first, all urine must hit the river. Why, you ask? Well, the weather is so hot that the liquid evaporates very quickly, leaving all the waste products in the urine behind. There is so little rain in the canyon that these waste products don’t wash away; they just stagnate and contaminate the entire environment. Can you imagine if 27,000 people just peed wherever? Ugh! Not a pretty thing to imagine (or imagine smelling)! So…easy for boys, harder for girls. Boys stand and pee into the river, girls either wade in up to their waist in the 50 degree Colorado River for a ‘smile break,’ as our leader called it, or pee in a cup and toss the urine in the river afterwards. Not terrible, though certainly not as convenient as your home en suite bathroom.

What about poop, you wonder? Western River Expeditions has a pretty slick set up for this. They have two toilets that they set up and fondly refer to as the ‘groovers.’ These are for poop only. One groover is set up in a yellow privacy tent with doors that elastic closed. The second groover is placed in a location more remote, the pathway lit with flashing yellow lights for easy night navigation, and always has an amazing view. How do other people know if the groover is occupied, you ask? Western River has a ‘groover paddle’ that one takes when they are using that particular groover. If the paddle is gone, wait. If the paddle is there, grab it and go to it!

Me and the groover paddle

The groovers were surprisingly clean and easy to use! I came to love my daily treks to see what the ‘poop with a view’ was like each day. I never once used the tented groover, preferring to sit on my throne and admire the world around me alone and in silence for just a few moments.

Pretty nice set up, right?
Night 5’s groover

Why are they called groovers, you ask? Apparently, the ones we were using were the new and improved design. The older ones had a toilet seat placed upon a plastic box that after sitting on it awhile, would leave long, grooved indentations into the backs of your legs…..hence, the groover. Everyone knew where you’d been!

All in all, the groovers worked great for us. If you are planning a river rafting adventure and are worrying about this, strike it off your list and instead look forward to your daily visits and poop with a view.


I'm an only child who grew up on a sailboat, a lover of adventure, a mom, wife, an RN, and a friend of all dogs.


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