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colorado river moab

Colorado River Rafting

From mild to wild, Moab has an abundance of river recreation opportunities available to suit any taste.

Introduction

While our area is known for its family oriented whitewater trips on the Fisher Towers section of the Colorado River, there are several wilder single and multi-day trips available in Westwater and Cataract Canyons. Additionally, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are the perfect way to explore the calm water segments of the Colorado River. Individuals or groups may raft the river on their own or with a professional river outfitter.

Moab Rafting Trips

Overview of Moab rafting trips for families and thrill-seekers.

Half-Day
A morning or afternoon rafting trip on The Moab Daily section of the Colorado River is a mild rafting experience suitable for everyone from children (40 lbs and up) to senior citizens willing to get their feet wet. These relaxing trips are perfect for photographers and families with toddlers and senior citizens. A half day paddle boarding trip is also great fun for the entire family.
Full Day
A full day rafting trip on The Moab Daily section of the Colorado River is suitable for everyone from children (40 lbs) to senior citizens willing to get their feet wet. For a wilder adventure consider a whitewater trip in Westwater or Cataract Canyons. Those with river navigation skills can rent their own canoe, raft or kayak and do a self guided trip.
Several Days
Camp on the river bank on the Fisher Towers section of the Colorado, or in Westwater or Cataract Canyons. Camp more nights to experience a non-motorized Cataract Canyon river trip. Consider one of Moab’s Guides and Outfitters to raft on the nearby San Juan River or in Desolation and Gray Canyons on the Green River.

Rafting Companies in Moab

There are many reasons why a guided river trip is the best way to experience the Colorado River. Above all, the rafting company will supply all of the equipment needed for your trip. Then, of course, there are the skilled river guides. In addition to their excellent navigation skills and emphasis on your personal safety, they will also point out some of the best hidden treasures along the river. Going with a guide can leave you with a far greater appreciation for the river and natural environment you will be traveling through. Guides also receive Swift Water Rescue, First Aid and CPR training, which can definitely help if something unexpected happens. Check out Moab’s Rafting Companies.

Mild Whitewater Rafting – Moab Daily Section (Class I-III Rapids)

Time Required: 4-8 hours
Season: March-October

The perfect trip for first-timers and families, the "Moab Daily" is a popular 13-mile section of the Colorado River that runs from Hittle Bottom Campground to Take Out Beach and parallels state Route 128. This stretch features easy boater access, close proximity to the city of Moab, alternating calm water and moderate rapids, and wonderful scenery. Depending on water levels, rapids on this section range from Class I to Class III. There are numerous commercial outfitters in Moab who have permits from the Moab BLM Field Office to offer half-day and full-day guided trips on this section of the river. For a complete list of Moab outfitters check out our Guides & Outfitters Page.

Colorado River Daily Section

If you’re rafting this section on your own, the BLM maintains parking areas, boat ramps, and campgrounds along the entire stretch, including Hittle Bottom, Rocky Rapid (a.k.a. Ida Gulch), Sandy Beach, and Take Out Boat Ramps. Special regulations apply for boaters wishing to camp along the "Daily" section. Overnight camping on river right (facing downstream) is allowed only in designated sites between Dewey Bridge and Salt Wash (the boundary of Arches National Park). On river left, people must camp in BLM developed campgrounds (dispersed camping is not allowed on this side of the river in order to protect resources). For those wanting a longer trip, the 7.5 mile Dewey Bridge to Hittle Bottom stretch of the Colorado River offers flat water and great views. Roughly half of the trip is within sight of Fisher Towers and the La Sal Mountains. There is a developed, but steep, boat ramp at the Dewey Bridge Campground (please use caution with vehicles) and boater parking is available. No fee is charged for use of this boat ramp. All BLM individual campsites are first-come, first-served. Group sites are reservable one year in advance but no more than 8 days before the desired arrival date through Recreation.gov. No permits are required for private trips.

Wild Whitewater Adventure – Westwater Canyon (Up to Class IV Rapids)

Time Required: One or more days
Season: May-September

Westwater Canyon was named “The West’s Best Short Whitewater Trip” by National Geographic. It is the first whitewater stretch on the Colorado River in Utah and has a put-in located near the Colorado/Utah border. The canyon is 17 miles long and includes Class IV rapids. This section is challenging at all water levels and is only recommended for experienced boaters. As with any remote river section, Westwater can be a very humbling and dangerous place if not treated with proper respect and ability.

Due to heavy recreational demand and to protect the primitive nature of Westwater Canyon, permits are required year-round for private and commercial use. Permit reservations may be made two months in advance and are obtained online through Recreation.gov.

Westwater Canyon Map

Westwater Canyon Rafting

For a complete list of Moab outfitters check out our Guides & Outfitters Page.

Extreme Whitewater Adventure – Cataract Canyon (Up to Class V Rapids)

Time Required: Two or more days
Season: May-August

South of Moab, where the Green and Colorado Rivers meet in a majestic setting called "The Confluence”, Cataract Canyon begins. Bolstered by the Green River, the Colorado River doubles its force, and carves a deep 100-mile-long chasm through the heart of Canyonlands National Park.

Cataract Canyon contains 14 miles of rapids ranging in difficulty up to Class V. It is a particularly hazardous and isolated section of the Colorado River and is subject to extreme water level fluctuations. Cataract Canyon also has flatwater sections that cannot be bypassed. You must have a river permit for all trips through Cataract Canyon.

Most Cataract Canyon trips put in at Potash, Moab, Green River, or Mineral Bottom. The usual take-out for Cataract trips is Hite Marina on Lake Powell. Boaters should be aware of lake conditions as they will affect the final day(s) of your trip.

Because of the complex logistics of rafting Cataract Canyon, we strongly recommend experiencing this trip with an experienced river outfitter. For a complete list of Moab outfitters check out our Guides & Outfitters Page.

Cataract Canyon Rafting

Calm Water Fun – Paddle Boarding, Kayaking and Canoeing

Time Required: Several Hours
Season: March-October

If you’re looking for calm water stretches of the Colorado River near Moab, there are several options available for paddle boarding, kayaking and canoeing.

Short Trips:

  • Big Bend Campground to Moab Boat Ramp: 7 miles (There are numerous boat ramps along this stretch of the river to put in or take out, providing many options for shorter trips.)

Longer Trips:

  • Moab Boat Ramp to Goldbar Campground: 10 miles
  • Moab Boat Ramp to Potash Boat Ramp: 17 miles

Need a shuttle to or from your boat launch? Check out our Shuttle Page.

Paddle Boarding on the Colorado River

Recreate Responsibly

River Use Ethics

Please exercise the utmost level of care and caution when visiting desert rivers. The following principles should be adhered to during your visit:

  • Urinate directly in the river
  • Carry and use a portable toilet for solid human waste
  • Dispose of human waste in approved facilities
  • Respect wildlife encountered along the river
  • Camp in previously hardened sites or on beaches
  • Pack out all trash (including fire ash, charcoal, and food waste)

River Use Regulations

  • It is required by law that all people wear Personal Flotation Devices at all times on board the watercraft and during transitions at the water’s edge. Personal Flotation Devices are also made for dogs.
  • Carry and use a leak-proof portable toilet for solid human waste. Recommended for day use; mandatory of overnight trips.
  • Respect wildlife encountered along the river.
  • Carry a first aid kit, a repair kit and an air pump. Rafts, dories and canoes must carry an extra oar, paddle or motor capable of maneuvering the vessel, a bail bucket or bilge pump (does not apply to self-bailing boat, kayak or paddle boards). Kayaks, inflatable kayaks, and stand up paddle boards (SUPs) must carry one spare paddle for every 3 low capacity vessels. Each boat 16’ or longer must carry a type IV throw-able device AND a commercially made throw bag with a minimum of 40’ of line. Each boat must have a whistle or horn.

Best Time to Go Rafting

Depending on the time of year that you visit, and the time of day that you start your river activity, you can enjoy the Colorado River from March-October. Rafting in Moab in April is definitely possible. Here are the high temperatures for the rafting season:

MarAprMayJunJulAugSepOct
6172829398968773

Current Flow Rate

The Colorado River flow rate can vary immensely from month to month depending on mountain snow pack and current precipitation. Check out the current flow rate here: Colorado River Near Cisco Flow Report

Other Colorado River Activities

Jet Boat Tours

Jet Boat Tours take you down a calm water stretch of the Colorado River south of Moab in a covered jet boat. Explore the scenery around each bend of the river and ask your guide questions as he or she explains the geology and history of the Moab area and Colorado River. Since you don’t get wet on these tours they are perfect for photography.

Several companies also offer High Speed Jet Boat Tours. These exhilarating rides spin and splash through scenic sections of the river. You will definitely get splashed on these tours!

Jet Boat
Jet Boat

Jet Boat
High Speed Jet Boat

Nighttime Sound and Light Show

The Canyonlands by Night and Day Sound and Light Show is a unique experience and a great end to a perfect day in Moab. After being served a cowboy-style Dutch Oven dinner on the banks of the Colorado River you board a flat-bottomed boat as head up river with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide. Once darkness settles in, 40,000 watts of natural light illuminate the canyon walls while music and narration make the stories of the canyon’s formation come to life.

For a list of tour companies check out our Guides & Outfitters Page.

Jet Boat

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