UPDATE: October 2020


Since cancelling all expeditions for the 2020 season, the GCY staff has been hard at work formulating a return-to-river plan that is mindful of the potential impacts of COVID-19.  


We are hopeful that we will return to in-person expeditions in some form in 2021. At this time, we anticipate being able to share our plans in January, including a list of planned expeditions, application process, and COVID management guidelines. In the meantime, you can sign up here to be notified as soon as 2021 applications for Individual Expeditions become available. If you are a teacher or group leader interested in a 2021 expeditions, please reach out to us at expeditions@gcyouth.org


We are so grateful for the many forms of support our community has provided during this very challenging year. We couldn’t do it without our committed staff members, loyal donors, and thoughtful partners. You can learn more here about how we’ve been engaging youth this year. We truly believe that now, more than ever, young people need connection to place, self, and community. We can’t wait to get them back on the river!

Help sustain Grand Canyon Youth through the pandemic. Thank you!

May 11, 2020


Grand Canyon Youth 2020 Season Cancellation – A Letter from Executive Director Emma Wharton 


Dear Grand Canyon Youth Community,


We have made the difficult decision to cancel all Grand Canyon Youth (GCY) expeditions for the remainder of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are deeply saddened by the impact this will have on our community, especially the young people who were looking forward to their GCY expeditions this year.


For over 20 years, GCY has prioritized the health and safety of our participants, staff, and volunteers. Based on the science and information currently available to us, we are not able to adequately assess and manage the risks associated with this quickly-changing pandemic.


Even though we will not have trips on the water, the GCY staff will be hard at work! We will be focusing on projects we often don’t have time for during the busy program season, such as curriculum development, program evaluation, and gear maintenance. We are already working to ensure that when the time comes to re-launch our expeditions, our program quality will be better than ever. 


We believe that young people will need the powerful, healing connections of nature and community that GCY provides more than ever when this pandemic has subsided. We are committed to being there for generations of young people to come.  


More information regarding specific expeditions and refunds will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. We will be working diligently to coordinate communication with our various schools and collaborators. (Please note that fees paid via Arizona State Tax Credit cannot be refunded.) Please feel free to reach out to us with any urgent questions.


Unfortunately, this crisis leaves our field staff, along with many other seasonal workers in the river community, in a difficult financial position. We are proud to be a founding member of the newly-formed Grand Canyon Relief Coalition, which is offering support to the guide community. 


We are hopeful Grand Canyon Youth will survive this year even without our usual program income. Our staff and board of directors are hard at work with the scenario planning and financial analysis needed to lead us safely through this unexpected year. 


We have been overwhelmed by your support and warm wishes as we have faced these difficult decisions. Thank you! When this time is over, the river will be there, ready to share lessons of resiliency and joy with youth. For now, I enjoy imagining the tranquility of the rivers and canyons of the Southwest in the absence of humans. 


Our best wishes are with you and your family as we face the uncharted waters of the coming months. We look forward to the day we can share the transformative power of the river with youth once again! 



Emma Wharton

Executive Director


P.S. You can stay connected and read stories from the river (and more) on our new blog, The Ripple Effect