Cataract Canyon Whitewater Rafting

4 or 6 days See dates & prices 4.98 60 reviews
Location Utah Adventure Level Moderately Challenging Minimum age 9 (12 - 16 during high water) River Rating Class III-IV (Class V possible during peak flows) From $1749
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

Raft Cataract Canyon and explore Canyonlands National Park on this Colorado River rafting adventure near Moab.

Rafting in Utah on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon has it all: breathtaking scenery, tranquil floating, and one action-packed day of Class III-IV whitewater rafting. Add to that hiking in Canyonlands among multi-million-year-old rock formations, plus nights spent stargazing in an International Dark Sky Park, and you have a whitewater rafting adventure suitable for the whole gang. 

Explore Utah’s dramatic canyon country, and get a taste of Cataract Canyon’s wild waters from the deck of an oar raft, dory, inflatable kayak, or stand-up paddleboard (paddle rafts may be available by request). Depending on when you choose to go and how much time you have, this 100-mile wild and untamed stretch of the Colorado River offers a dynamic multi-day river trip experience that caters to a wide range of interests and abilities. 

Our classic 6-day Cataract Canyon rafting trip spends several days leisurely floating through the peaceful waters of Meander Canyon to the confluence of the Green River, allowing plenty of time for quiet reflection from the rafts, or inflatable kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, before tackling the famous rapids of Cataract Canyon further downstream. For those short on time, the 4-day “express” trip covers the same stretch of the Colorado, but the first half of the adventure is largely motorized to cover additional miles in the scenic flatwater stretches. 

Feeling fearless? Crank your adventure up a notch with a trip down Cataract Canyon in late spring. Snowmelt from the Rockies yields big runoff, massive Class IV-V rapids, and some of the country’s most exciting whitewater.

Trip Highlights
  • Choose from a 4-day “express” trip or 6-day extended adventure
  • Seasonal waterfalls, sensational side hikes & otherworldly scenery
  • Inflatable kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding on the Colorado
  • Raft the legendary Class III-IV rapids of Cataract Canyon
  • Ancient Native American sites, including pictograph & petroglyph panels
  • Scenic return flight over Canyonlands to Moab

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Cataract Canyon rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your 4- or 6-day trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

We’ll meet in Moab this evening for a pre-trip orientation. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and guides, and ask any last-minute questions.

Day 1

We’ll get going first thing in the morning, taking a short drive to our Colorado River put-in at Potash. Upon arrival at the boat ramp, our guides will present a brief safety talk and orientation to our boats and gear. We’ll cover some miles through ruggedly beautiful Meander Canyon on the first day, likely stopping for a short hike to see some 250-million-year-old petrified wood. We’ll make camp on a big sandy beach, watching afternoon turn to evening as your guides prepare dinner and the sun sets behind towering canyon walls.

Day 2

Morning begins with a coffee call from the kitchen. Grab a hot drink and watch the sunrise play out on the cliffs above you. Get a head start on packing up your dry bags, and then enjoy a hearty breakfast and some time to relax as we get our gear back on the boats. The river meanders peacefully, each new bend revealing stunning views of eroded canyon country. Hiking opportunities may come at the Lathrop archeological site or Indian Creek Canyon, where Ancestral Puebloan structures and a stunning seasonal waterfall await.

As we head downriver, the Colorado winds through the Loop—an exceptional example of the river’s convoluted twists and turns and a venue for another great hike—before we reach the confluence with the Green River. Here, the current picks up, signaling the beginning of Cataract Canyon. We’ll try for one of the great campsites in the upper reaches of Cataract Canyon. We won’t let the mesmerizing spectacle of a billion bright stars keep us awake too late, wishing to be well-rested for the days to come.

Day 3

Our day begins with a relaxing breakfast, and then we’ll be off into the roiling depths of Cataract Canyon to challenge the Big Drops and the big wave thrills of the mighty Colorado.  After a day of drenching whitewater excitement, we’ll make camp and toast to the thrills and spills with new friends. Revel in a final night at the river’s edge as your guides prepare a farewell feast.

Day 4

After a delicious breakfast, we’ll be back on the boats winding through the final dramatic miles of Cataract Canyon, where lofty cliffs rise 2,000 feet above us. There may be a few fun rapids left on this last morning before motoring the impounded waters of Lake Powell, held back by Glen Canyon Dam 180 miles or so downstream. 

After a final lunch on the river, we’ll come to our take-out at Hite Crossing, where we’ll say goodbye to our guides and take a five-minute van shuttle to the airstrip. The scenic flight to Moab grants us a bit of time to reflect as we trace our path backward through Cataract Canyon from high above, looking down on the beautiful landscape from a birds-eye perspective.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Moab, UT

Meeting time

6 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

Approximately 4 – 6 PM to Moab

Trip Map

Itinerary At a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Cataract Canyon rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your 4- or 6-day trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

The evening before your trip, we’ll meet for a pre-trip orientation in Moab, UT. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and guides, and ask any last-minute questions.

Day 1

We’ll get going first thing in the morning, taking a short drive to our Colorado River put-in at Potash. Upon arrival at the boat ramp, our guides will present a safety talk and orientation to our boats and gear. We’ll cover some miles through ruggedly beautiful Meander Canyon on the first day, likely stopping for a short hike to see some 250-million-year-old petrified wood. We’ll make camp on a big sandy beach, watching afternoon turn to evening as your guides prepare dinner and the sun sets behind towering canyon walls.

Days 2 – 4

Morning begins with a coffee call from the kitchen. Grab a hot drink and watch the sunrise play on the cliffs above you. Get a head start on packing up your dry bags, and then enjoy a hearty breakfast and some time to relax as we get our gear back on the boats. 

The river meanders peacefully, each new bend revealing stunning views of eroded canyon country. Hiking opportunities may come at the Lathrop archeological site or Indian Creek Canyon, where Ancestral Puebloan structures and a stunning seasonal waterfall await.

As we head downriver, the Colorado winds through the Loop—an exceptional example of the river’s convoluted twists and turns and a venue for another great hike—before we reach the confluence with the Green River. Here, the current picks up, signaling the beginning of Cataract Canyon. We’ll try for one of the great campsites in the upper reaches of Cataract Canyon. We won’t let the mesmerizing spectacle of a billion bright stars keep us awake too late, wishing to be well-rested for the days to come.

Weather permitting, the active hikers among us may make an early morning bid to hike 1,500 feet up to the Doll House in the Maze District of Canyonlands, which offers astounding views in all directions. (Please note that this is a strenuous hike that can’t be undertaken during the intense heat of mid-summer.)

Day 5

This is usually the day that we’ll be off into the rolling depths of Cataract Canyon to challenge the Big Drops and the big wave thrills of the mighty Colorado. After a day of drenching whitewater excitement, we’ll make camp and toast to the thrills and spills with new friends. On the final night, revel at the river’s edge as your guides prepare a farewell feast.

Day 6

After a delicious breakfast, we’ll be back on the boats winding through the final dramatic miles of Cataract Canyon, where lofty cliffs rise 2,000 feet above us. There may be a few fun rapids left on this last morning before motoring the impounded waters of Lake Powell, held back by Glen Canyon Dam 180 miles or so downstream. 

After a final lunch on the river, we’ll come to our take-out at Hite Crossing, where we’ll say goodbye to our guides and take a five-minute van shuttle to the airstrip. The scenic flight to Moab grants us a bit of time to reflect as we trace our path backward through Cataract Canyon from high above, looking down on the beautiful landscape from a birds-eye perspective.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Moab, UT

Meeting time

6 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

Approximately 4 – 6 PM to Moab

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

Save $200 on 2024 departures when you’re one of the first to book by March 31 and request “Premier Pricing” over the phone.

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
April 16, 29$1,849$1,749
May 6, 12, 18$1,849$1,749
May 24 All Adult$1,849
June 10, 23, 30$1,849$1,749
July 8 All Adult$1,849
July 14, 21$1,849
August 4$1,849$1,749
August 10 All Adult$1,849
August 17, 23, 31$1,849$1,749
September 7$1,849$1,749
2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
March 29$1,999$1,899
April 7 All Adult$1,999
April 15$1,999$1,899
May 7, 15, 23, 30$1,999$1,899
June 1$1,999$1,899
June 16 All Adult$1,999
June 24$1,999$1,899
July 2, 10, 18$1,999$1,899
July 26 All Adult$1,999
August 3, 19$1,999$1,899
August 27 Women’s Wellness$2,349
September 4$1,999$1,899
September 12 All Adult$1,999
September 22$1,999$1,899
September 20* Mindfulness$2,699
October 3 Stars & Guitars$1,999$1,899
October 13$1,999$1,899

*The Mindfulness departure is a 7-day trip

Book Now

Deposit

$400

Additional Costs

• Sleep Kit $40 | Tent included


*Prices subject to National Park Service review

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

Premier Pricing

Save up to 10% (or more) on most domestic trips when you’re one of the first 4 people to book by March 31st!

Specialty Trips

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled professional guide service
  • All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the last day
  • Expedition equipment, including highest-quality rafts, 2-person shared tent, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof bags, camp chair, as well as eating utensils and plates
  • All transportation from day 1 through the last day, including scenic flight back to Moab

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to and from Moab
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
  • Sleep kit: sleeping bag, pillow & a deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (available for rent)
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Gratuities

The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. 

Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Oar raft, paddle raft (requires 11 or more trip guests), inflatable kayak, SUP, dory, and snout.

After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. 

While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.

As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.

In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast.

After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.

More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

Air (Day) °FAir (Night) °FWater °F
April734257
May835160
June955672
July1016681
August966475
September875267
October744062

Water Levels & Temperature

The flow of the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon is generally unregulated, meaning no single reservoir controls the water level. The river can reach flows considered extreme during spring runoff in years when the high country feeding the Colorado River watershed has received a plentiful snowpack. Peak run-off through Cataract Canyon usually occurs between mid-May and mid-June but can vary widely from early May into July. High-water trips equate to a more intense whitewater experience and a high level of physical fitness is recommended. Water temperatures are coldest during the high water period, and rain gear and warm synthetic clothing will be required.

Whitewater

This Class III-IV section of the Colorado River can exhibit extreme variations in water levels at different times of the year, providing a whitewater experience for everyone. In the high-water season of May and June, Class V whitewater is possible during peak flows, and experienced whitewater enthusiasts delight in the huge waves and the famous “Big Drops,” which at times can make even Grand Canyon’s Lava and Crystal Rapids seem tame. This is some of the biggest navigable whitewater in the U.S. at peak flows. Later in the season, from July through October, as the water levels drop, this becomes a more moderate run with less intimidating rapids, suitable for most ages and levels of experience.

Lake Powell

The dammed waters of Glen Canyon back up into the lower stretches of Cataract Canyon, with some 20-plus rapids still buried under water or sediment. With the wildly varying reservoir levels and changes in seasonal river flow, this stretch of the river is always in flux. The sheer depths within the Cedar Mesa & Honaker Trail formations are breathtaking, but camps become limited and are often on the sediment beds that used to be the bottom of Lake Powell when it was at full pool. Reservoir levels and river flow will dictate how much motorized assistance will be needed to navigate this last section of both our 4-day and 6-day trips.

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation email for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Deposits

A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Your payment is fully refundable for 48 hours, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to departure.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
180 or more days before your trip$50/person
179 – 90 days before your trip$100/person
89 – 60 days before your trip$200/person, balance available as a limited-time trip credit valid through the end of the following season
59 days or less before your tripFull Fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.

Transfers

If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.

O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Inc. is an authorized concessioner of Canyonlands National Park

Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement

We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Colorado River between the Potash Boat Ramp and Hite Crossing, we acknowledge the territories of the Ute, Pueblo of Canyonlands National Park, Southern Paiute, and the Navajo Nation.

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