Nixon Rock

About Nixon Rock

Originally referred to as 100 Mile Rock, Nixon Rock is one of the few rapids that are caused solely by rockfall, with the others being Sinyala Rapid and MNA Rapid. (Source.)

In the series “Grand Canyon River Guides Oral History” an interview with Allen Wilson shines a light on the name change. In short, Mike Castelli, a guide for ARTA, pegged it Nixon Rock in 1972 as it was a tricky maneuver and the rock was just right of center. (Nixon had the nickname of Tricky Dick.)

These recordings, by the way, are an incredible collection of Grand Canyon history. The recording can be heard here, and the relevant info is quoted below.

“WILSON: Yeah, that’s right. (recording paused) I have to say that Mike Castelli named Nixon Rock. What mile is that, do you remember?
STEIGER: No.
WILSON: Have to look it up.
STEIGER: Yeah, we’d have to look it up.
WILSON: It’s below 110, isn’t it?
STEIGER: No, it’s right below Crystal, so it’s like….
WILSON: Oh that’s right, it is!
STEIGER: It’s like 90….
WILSON: It’s around 100.
STEIGER: Yeah, something like that.
WILSON: Well, anyway, it doesn’t matter too much.
STEIGER: Hand [that map] over here, and I’ll find it.
WILSON: Back during the days when we were runnin’ the river, we were runnin’ these motor trips, Nixon Rock you had to….
STEIGER: It’s right at 100.
WILSON: Is it? Okay.
STEIGER: Well, 99.7.
WILSON: Okay, yeah. You had to go around a big boulder, and then there was another little boulder just beyond it, and that rock was just a little bit right of center–the whole works there–and it was troubling to get around it. And Castelli called it President Nixon Rock, because it was just a little right of center, and he didn’t like Nixon, and so it was a sarcastic thing that he did, and now it’s actually in the guide book.
STEIGER: Oh, yeah, everybody knows that.
WILSON: That’s funny. And when I told Mike that the first time, he went, “Oh no! That wasn’t the idea, to make Nixon famous!” 

How to run Nixon Rock

At most flows, going left of Nixon Rock is the preferred route. If the water is low, then a right line opens up around the rock. What makes it tricky is the top entrance rock which is just off the left bank. You have to go right of this rock and then work left around Nixon Rock. Overall, not a difficult rapid, but you do need to pay attention.

Nixon Rock, Grand Canyon, from Google Earth

Please note that Google Earth has this incorrectly labeled as Willie’s Necktie Rapids. As you can see from the satellite image, the move is to go right of the entrance rock and then work left of Nixon Rock.