Prime Paddling on the Colorado

Calm Waters
  |  Gorp.com
Egrets at sunset on the Colorado
Egrets at sunset on the Colorado

Permits are not required between Cisco Landing and the Potash boat ramp, a distance of a little over 60 miles, so paddlers can easily spend three to five days on this section. Relatively few people do this, however. Campsites are limited to developed sites, which are also used by mountain bikers, hikers, and other visitors during the height of the tourist season (mid-March to October).

The 16 miles between Cisco Landing and the Dewey Bridge is probably the least heavily floated section on the Colorado. The river flows calmly through mostly flat, open country adjacent to irrigated cropland. It's an easy canoe float for beginner-to-intermediate paddlers. The Dolores River enters the Colorado on the left about two miles above the Dewey Bridge.

Most of the river activity between Westwater and Moab takes place beginning either at the Dewey Bridge or at Hittle Bottom, a BLM-operated boat ramp about seven miles below the bridge. This section is known locally as the Moab Daily, and is heavily used during the rafting season by commercial outfits in Moab and elsewhere and by private groups from Utah and Colorado.

Most of the commercial groups begin at Hittle Bottom and float 16 miles to the Big Bend Campground, a heavily used BLM campsite. This float features four Class IIIII rapids: Onion Creek, Professor Creek, Ida Gulch, and White's. They're splashy and fun, and none of them are exceptionally difficult or treacherous, though they've flipped many an unsuspecting or poorly piloted boat and should not be taken lightly.

The scenery on the Moab Daily is spectacular. There are views of the Fisher Towers, Castleton Tower, the Priest and the Nuns, and other remarkable sandstone formations. Local outfitters do a booming summer business booking raft trips and renting small one- or two-person inflatable kayaks.

After Big Bend, the Colorado River flows for 75 miles with scarcely more than a riffle before the river gets nasty again, deep in Cataract Canyon.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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