Myke Hughes, veteran river runner and owner of Adrift Adventures in Moab, offers his unofficial guide and tips to Utah's best rafting rivers.
Colorado River as it passes through Canyonlands National Park and into Cataract Canyon
“Cataract Canyon runs through the heart of Canyonlands National Park, and the river is the only way to see this amazing country.”
The standard rowing trip runs 120 miles, takes anywhere from one to seven days and encounters 29 major rapids. The trip begins south of Moab on the Colorado River and ends on the upper reaches of Lake Powell. This is the most formidable section of white water in Utah.
“Westwater holds some of the oldest exposed formations known to man (dating back 1.75 billion years), and even low water offers an exciting experience.”
This is the first section of white water on the Colorado River as it enters Utah. Calm water leads to 17 miles of rapid after rapid, the most formidable being Skull. Rated as the best one-day white-water trip in the country.
“Desolation Canyon is as deep in some places as the Grand Canyon and offers an abundance of wildlife and pioneer history.”
This section of the Green River features several Native American ruins and historical sites, including abandoned ranches, one a hangout for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s a great family trip with long sections of calm water. But it also holds 60 class I to III rapids (with VI being too high to run.)
“Fisher Towers is a great family adventure. This is also a great trip for first-time passengers and last-minute schedules.”
This can be a half-day or full-day trip on the Colorado River. Many trips include rides in small inflatable kayaks. Several major movies have been shot along this section of river. Rafters engage five rapids.
San Juan River
“The San Juan River is one of the most beautiful sections of river that offers a number of archaeological sites and big sand waves.”
The river is one of the few places in the world where a long string of large rolling sand waves appear and then disappear. It is considered one of the most exciting rivers but draws few passengers. The river feeds into Lake Powell and has several class II and III rapids.
The Grand Canyon
“The Grand Canyon trip is the ultimate river adventure, with incredible country and huge rapids.”
The river is divided into two sections of the Colorado River, the first running from Lee’s Ferry to Phantom Ranch and the second from the ranch to Whitmore Wash. The sections cover some 280 miles and include 150 named rapids, many class IV and V. Trips range anywhere from three to 14 days.