"Lighthouse Away" Southwest Expedition

Monday, July 22, 2013 - 12:45pm - Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 12:45pm

The Chicago Lighthouse is teaming up with Global Explorers and Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana for a truly unique leadership travel program featuring rafting on the San Juan River and an unforgettable camping experience at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

This program is specifically designed to combine sighted participants with travelers who are blind or visually impaired (ages 15-19).

The stunning scenery of the Southwestern U.S. never fails to awe and inspire those who take the time to discover its riches. This region, known as the Four Corners, showcases dramatic geologic formations and sits at a crossroads of American Indian, Spanish and American cultures. As a testament to the unique combination of natural and cultural history in the region, the Colorado Plateau boasts the country’s highest concentration of National Parks and Monuments. Raft the San Juan River, explore spectacular National Monuments, and visit the Navajo Nation, the largest American Indian reservation in the country. There’s no better place to contemplate your place in the universe than under the desert sky’s magnificent canvas of stars.

Day 1: Travel Day
Today we drive from Telluride to Durango, Colorado. Here, we spend the night at a modest motel.

Day 2: Canyon de Chelly & Navajo Culture
Today we travel to the Navajo Nation, specifically Chinle, Arizona – the gateway city to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We get our first taste of Navajo culture and watch the sun set from an overlook on the rim of spectacular Canyon de Chelly. Tonight we camp at a campground on the rim.

Day 3: Hiking & Storytelling
Before we hike down into the dramatic red rock walls of Canyon de Chelly, a Navajo Park Ranger introduces us to the challenges of protecting an area that’s been inhabited by humans for over 5,000 years. Once in the canyon, our resting spot is Antelope House Ruin, where we camp under a massive alcove on a Navajo family’s property. Tonight we are captivated by fireside Navajo storytelling and music as we gaze at the stars above.

Day 4: Hiking & Service
Today we engage in a service project that will help the family whose property we’re staying on. We may help clear the area of invasive species or assist Canyon elders with a special project such as building fences or benches. We hike out of the canyon in the late afternoon and then drive a few hours to the San Juan River. Tonight we meet up with our river guides from Grand Canyon Youth and
camp near the river at a campground called Sand Island.

Days 5 - 7: Raft the San Juan River
We begin our voyage down one of the most spectacular rivers in America, the San Juan. We spend the next four days floating 27 miles from Sand Island, Utah to Mexican Hat, Utah.

Although we use rafts to make our way down the river, we actually spend quite a bit of time on land hiking to ancient ruins, playing games around camp and exploring the amazing geological features of the region. This is a calm section of the river and the largest rapids we encounter are Class II. During our time on the river, we camp on sandy beaches every night and help with each meal preparation.

Day 8: Transition Day
Today we spend our last morning on the river and then help our guides unload all the boats and pack up gear. From the “take-out” in Mexican Hat we either drive to Gallup, New Mexico or Moab, Utah. Here, we enjoy a much-deserved shower at our motel and reflect on our awesome adventure.

Day 9: Travel Day
Depending on whether we’re driving or flying, we may have time to visit another National Park nearby before heading home.

Pre-Travel Curriculum

  • Desert ecology, soundscape research and Southwest conservation issues


  • Navajo culture and Spanish, American Indian and U.S. history


  • Leadership skills, service learning and responsible travel knowledge

RSVP: For more information, contact Pam Stern at 847-510-2054 or pam.stern@chicagolighthouse.org 

You can support participants by donating funds to support their trip.  Click here to donate!

Photo of rafting courtesy of Global Explorers