Boating and Rafting

Seeing Canyonlands National Park from the river is a great and rare pleasure. Long stretches of calm water on both the Green and Colorado rivers are perfect for lazy canoe or raft trips. Still, be sure to wear life preservers as drownings happen nearly every summer in the area.

In Labyrinth Canyon, north of the park boundary, and in Stillwater Canyon, in the Island in the Sky District, the river is quiet and calm and there's plenty of shoreside camping. The Island in the Sky leg of the Colorado River, from Moab to its confluence with the Green River and downstream a few more miles to Spanish Bottom, is ideal for both canoeing and for rides with an outfitter in a large, stable jet boat. If you want to take a self-guided flat-water float trip in the park you must obtain a $30 permit, which you have to request by mail or fax. Make your upstream travel arrangements with a shuttle company before you request a permit. For permits, contact the reservation office at park headquarters (435/259–4351).

Below Spanish Bottom, about 64 miles downstream from Moab, 49 miles from the Potash Road ramp, and 4 miles south of the confluence, the Colorado churns into the first rapids of legendary Cataract Canyon. Home of some of the best white water in the United States, this piece of river between the Maze and the Needles districts rivals the Grand Canyon stretch of the Colorado River for adventure. During spring melt-off these rapids can rise to staggering heights and deliver heart-stopping excitement. The canyon cuts through the very heart of Canyonlands, where you can see this amazing wilderness area in its most pristine form. The water calms down a bit in summer. Outfitters will take you for the ride of your life in this wild canyon, where the river drops more steeply than anywhere else on the Colorado River (in ¾ mile, it drops 39 feet). You can join an expedition lasting anywhere from one to six days, or you can purchase a $20 permit for a self-guided trip from park headquarters.


Oars. This well-regarded outfitter can take you for several days of rafting the Colorado, Green, and San Juan rivers. Hiking/interpretive trips are available in Canyonlands and Arches. Moab, Utah, 84532. 435/259–5865; 800/346–6277; From $109.