Beautiful Groover site in the Grand Canyon on a whitewater rafting trip.

How (Not) To Use a Groover Toilet

Disclaimer: This is not a how-to guide. This is a how the hell, don’t try this at home, how-not-to guide. If you need a how-to-use the groover and pee bucket explanation, I’m sure the pros at Oars can help you. In the meantime, enjoy the embarrassment of us non-professionals from river trips when everything went wrong with our bodily functions and the groover. 

River Trip Horror Stories

We reached out to the river community for groover fail stories, and you guys delivered. The following horror stories come to us from all over the country. Each is worth a laugh and provides a great opportunity to learn from others' mistakes. Enjoy!

Groover toilet stories for whitewater rafting.

Bedrock Rapid Made Me (almost) Sh*t My Pants

There we were. It’s day Nine in Early August, and we are a few miles above Bedrock Rapid. My stomach feels weird, but I shrug it off. Maybe it’s the heat or last night’s chicken curry made by drunk river rats. Whatever it is, I’m feeling a little off, but it can wait.

Or so I thought. One look at the mighty Colorado River piling up on the Bedrock boulder, and suddenly I’ve got about 60 seconds. I don’t have time to tie off my boat. My passenger is hanging onto the other rafts at the beach as I shout to the groover boat captain that he needs to get the groover out. Now!

He hands me a nearly full ammo can. I waddle about five feet up the beach, rip the lid off and sit right on the ammo can, no seat. Everything I’ve ever consumed is pouring out of me, and I’m shouting, “Don’t look at me! Don’t look at me,” to the other boat captains and passengers walking to the scout.

The demons inside me pass, I clean myself up, and this should be the end of the story. But as I bend down to grab the hastily-thrown lid, my PFD shoulder strap falls right into the fresh puddle of refuse. I abandon the open groover and head to the river to clean my PFD. This is when I slip and fall into thick Grand Canyon mud flinging PFD feces everywhere. 

Moral of the story: The river has a sense of humor. I could almost hear her laughing as I pulled myself out of the mud. –Megan Young McPartland

Scouting Bedrock Rapid in the Grand Canyon.

Fallen Soldiers

We were at Schist camp and were unloading gear from the boats when we heard yelling and screaming coming from the people who were setting up the groover. Everyone was thinking the worst, that they’d spilled the groover everywhere. When we went over to see what all the commotion was about, we saw that our friend’s full beer had fallen out of his clamshell right in the poo! Careful extrication of the beer can followed, but the offender never drank that one.

-Nathan Robelot

Open at Your Own Risk

After a 21-day Colorado River trip, one of our party had to fly home out of Vegas, so I headed over Hoover Dam (before the bridge). I had a raft and pick-up full of river trip gear - including six ammo cans. Not surprisingly, I was directed into the high-security lane for an inspection. The LE Federal agent was apparently new to the job and was freaked out about the rig, and had never encountered rafters. 

His eyes locked on the groover cans, and he marched right over and opened the first one. Greeted with a pressurized, overflowing bucket of shite, he turned kinda white and slammed the lid closed as fast as possible. He then announced I was "uninspectable" and couldn't go over the dam. After a lot of arguing, the supervisor came out, laughing very hard, and told me to be on my way. Lesson learned. –Jeff Grebe


Near the bat cave after a night float, circa 1970-71. Back when groovers still literally grooved (no toilet seat). Two old Yampas lashed together, one upside down as a sleeping platform, the other full of all the rest of the stuff, to make a lumpier sleeping platform. Just as we are waking to the fact that we are still a good bit of flat water from Pearce and the wind is going to start to blow, up the lake comes a ranger in a speedboat. Baseball cap, short hair, gun, attitude. 

He asks me where our "human waste disposal system" is. I gesture towards three rocket boxes in the bow. He's not going to fall for my bluff. He insists on seeing our groover box. It's not marked as such; we just know which one has the poop and which ones have utes and dry goods. So we hand it over (everyone knows where the story is going). Luckily, Ranger Rick has floated down-breeze from our crew. 

He opens the box and festoons his khaki uniform with a fine mist of well-digested salad, spaghetti, and Oreos. If we had managed to keep the smiles off our faces, he might have actually given us a tow into Pearce. We had to paddle. –Kent Madin

whitewater groover toilet for whitewater rafting and kayaking.


Very early on in my river trips career, I went on a trip where the groover was a homemade one based on a 5-gallon plastic bucket. No vent. The reader is invited to imagine the consequences of that bucket cooking in the hot Utah sun on day 6 of a Green River-Hite trip with 16 people. Fortunately, I was kayaking, so I did not experience the full splendor of the experience. The boatman and his passenger did. –Warren Musselman

A friend used old-style ammo can groover on the lower main salmon. Temps hit 110+, and the ammo can blew up. Now they drag them in the water or have vents.” –Aaron Helfrich

Dumpster Dive 

Working as a guide on the lower main salmon many decades ago…

Grover was lined with lawn-sized trash bags. At Heller, the Swamper was tasked with putting the heavy bags into a dumpster. The first trash bag was hoisted and exploded before dumpster entry; he was coated. –Aaron Helfrich

Does a Bear Sh*t in the Woods?

Tatshenshini, Gateway Knob Camp on the morning of layover day. I was the trip leader, and I was taking a much-needed sleep-in morning in my tent. All of a sudden, I hear this little ‘clink, tink, clink sound, and I hear someone yell, “Whoa, bear! Whoa, bear!’ I bolt upright out of my tent and come running out with an air horn! 

The rest of the crew is hollering and starting to get pots & pans to bang on. I see a small black bear jump off one of our cataracts and run into the woods. Come to find out, one of our crew was literally sitting on the groover, taking a dump, when the bear came out of the woods right in front of him! – Karen Casa

I was on a rowing instructional trip over labor day on the Rogue. A bear decided the groover contents would make a nice snack. I still gag a bit thinking about it. – Jeff Swett

Rescue Mission

At Granite Camp on the Grand Canyon. Early in the morning, people were either making coffee or poo. One of the peeps came into the kitchen to report that a mouse had climbed into the groover. It was still alive, as evidenced by its efforts to climb out.

There were several firefighters on the trip who, recognizing a poor soul in distress needing rescue sprung into action. They grabbed a set of kitchen tongs and proceeded to extricate the poor creature from the gooey sludge. They deposited it near the water, but the mouse was not willing to jump in and instead scurried off into the underbrush.

The rescue apparatus received a thorough cleaning and a double dose of Clorox, but no one looked at it the same for the rest of the trip. – Scott Coultas

Whitewater groover for rafting and kayaking.

Always Choose a Spot With a View

On a salt river trip, someone had the great idea to put the groover on the other side of this notch. For sure a 4th class scramble on both sides of this thing, but to be fair, the groover had its own beautiful beach. Of course, it was Chili night. Nearly everyone in the group had a close call, with at least four, myself included, admitting to shitting themselves trying to access the groover late at night. – Yale Brown

Why Is It Called a Groover?

One of our crew forgot the toilet seat once. So we improvised with a pool noodle set onto the grooves. Wore out halfway through the river trip and had to do the hover-craft rest of the trip. – Patty Pinkham

Chew Your Corn

On a two-night trip with 25 people on Ruby, our Cajun boil dinner included corn on the cob. Delicious, of course. After the trip, I grabbed my groover drain hose from the rafters in my garage, where it had gone through the hot and cold cycles of 5 or 6 Colorado summers and winters. 

When I got to the RV dump and connected the garden hose and drain hoses to the groover tank, I quickly noticed the corrugated plastic of the drain hose moving like an inchworm under the pressure of the supply garden hose, filling the groover. What I couldn’t see because the end of the drain hose was in the RV dump hole was that nothing was coming out - the drain hose was fully plugged.

I reached for the hose just as the pressure exceeded the strength of its deteriorated plastic tubing. The explosion that followed left the contents of the groover covering me from head to toe. Worst of all were the kernels of corn on the inside of my sunglass lenses. Lessons learned - don’t store your drain hose in the attic, and always chew your corn. – Jason Goodman

Not the Toilet Paper

On a trip to the Middle Fork of the Salmon, I was part of the shuttle drive from Hell while the rest packed the boats. We got back, and without even a chance to check things over, we hustled onto the boats and launched.  

We got to camp and unpacked, and I heard someone asking, "Where's the toilet paper?" Guess where. Back at the launch. But for some strange reason, I had packed a couple of rolls in my dry bags. I've never done that before or since, but I doled it out a couple of sheets at a time, and there was enough to get us to the Flying B, where we were able to buy some more very expensive rolls. – Sandy Michaud

Everybody Poops

I was an instructor for outward bound on the Deschutes River. I once had an exclusive cosmetic model as a student. In those days, we would line the groover with plastic bags, and when folk's business was done, you would squeeze the air out of the used bag and tie a knot to contain the mess and leave room for the next day’s deposits. 

One morning one of my more entertaining students came back to the group carrying the groover, chuckling to himself. I said, “What’s so funny”? He bursts out laughing and says, “Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that one day I would be holding the warm shit of a supermodel in my hands!” We all laughed until we got side aches. – Scott Waeschle

Jump Right In

Grand Canyon a long time ago. I was rowing a gear boat that had two 48-gallon polypropylene barrels (food, kitchen, etc..) wedged against a 20-gallon poly barrel that held the trip poop. These were in the stern of the raft, secured by a large bag - a tight fit but a pretty slick rig.

On around day 10, my hands were pretty raw from rigging and rowing, and I was having a hard time pushing the pooper barrel into place. Bob offered to help, and I gladly accepted. He had a tough time pushing the pooper barrel into place. So he stood on it, rocked side to side, but it wouldn’t move. 

So he jumped on it, and whoosh! In an instant, he was up to his knees in the barrel that held all the poop for a 12-person trip on day 10. Getting him and the lid extracted is another story. – Bill Carlson

Last Call

The groover is a strange thing. Try explaining to a non-river runner that during a river trip, you’re supposed to relieve yourself in a portable toilet. It’s just a bucket or ammo can, and we carry it with us because we have a duty to pack everything out. Oh, and there’s a separate pee bucket. It’s so weird; it’s comical.

Do you have a groover fail? Let us know in the comments, and share this post with anyone who needs a laugh!


By: Megan Young McPartland


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