Canyonlands National Park

Whitewater Rafting in Canyonlands National Park
Whitewater Rafting in Canyonlands National Park (National Park Service)

Canyonlands National Park is carved by the famous Green and Colorado Rivers. If these mighty rivers could talk, they would have fascinating tales to tell: Not only do they possess a wild, ruggedly-forged beauty, they have hosted outlaws and explorers. They are waiting to host you.

Above the Confluence

The Colorado runs for 64 miles from Moab to the confluence, while the Green extends for 120 miles to the confluence. Both the Green and the Colorado rivers above the confluence offer gentle, flat rides. Rafts, canoes, amateur-skippered power vehicles: all can navigate these waters. While not part of the national park, the canyonlands along the lower Green River offer an exceptionally memorable paddling trip. Cataract Canyon, however, is a different story!

Wildlife River Alert

As the only major water source in the midst of a dry expanse, the rivers attract a variety of wildlife. Deer, fox, beaver, bobcats, and migratory birds find shelter in the riverside cottonwoods, tamarisks, and willows. Hanging gardens of lush maidenhair fern, monkeyflower, and columbine cling to the 1,200-foot high cliffs along water seepage lines. A lazy pace is best suited for observing life along the rivers. As in other corners of the park, cliffside stone houses and rock art of ancient Indians are scattered along the rivers.

Cataract Canyon

Boasting whitewater names like Hell-to-Pay and the Big-Drops (dropping 30 feet in 1 mile!) on the Colorado river, Cataract Canyon is a real trip. No wonder Fred Dellenbaugh, a member of John Wesley Powell's 1871 expedition, wrote after rowing out at the confluence of the Colorado that he felt, "at last on the back of the Dragon itself." Located below the confluence, Cataract Canyon's wild rapids challenge whitewater rafters and kayakers. To run Cataract, you need skilled boatpeople, professional equipment, and a park permit! The river eventually flows into gentle Lake Powell. Guided whitewater trips are offered on the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead.

Permit Info

Those boating above the confluence are required to pick up a backcountry permit. Anyone planning a trip below the confluence through Cataract Canyon in a raft or specialized whitewater boat must obtain a permit at park headquarters. A limited number of individuals are allowed to run this dangerous whitewater stretch each year. Boat launch sites are at locations north of the park, including Moab and Green River. There are no services along the rivers. The best times for trips are spring through fall. A trip down the Colorado River promises excitement and adventure. Unlike Major Powell's trip in 1869, today's trips are pleasurable vacations where you can absorb and enjoy the natural world. These are places where you can't be reached by phone, and a sunset or ride through the rapids is the event of the day.


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