|MEETING PLACE:||The Gonzo Inn, 100 W 200 S, Moab, Utah|
|MEETING TIME:||6:00 PM, the evening before your trip|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 4:00-6:00 PM|
|RIVER RATING:||Class III-V, depending on water levels|
|PUT-IN:||Potash Boat Ramp|
|TAKE-OUT:||Hite Crossing on Lake Powell|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 9 years / 16 at high water|
|TRIP LENGTH:||4 days/ 3 nights|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Motorized snout raft, paddle raft, oar raft|
Much of America’s desert southwest is defined by one river: the Colorado. Born of snow pack high in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River surges its way south and west into the state of Utah, its rock-shaping power among the defining characteristics of spectacular Canyonlands National Park. The river is mostly undammed above Cataract Canyon; thus, varying water levels at different times of the year provide a whitewater experience for everyone. During the high-water season of May and June, experienced whitewater enthusiasts delight in the huge waves and the famous “Big Drops,” which at times can make even the Grand Canyon’s Lava and Crystal Rapids seem tame. In April and then later in the season from July through October, as the water levels drop, it becomes a great family-friendly run, with less intimidating rapids suitable for all ages and levels of experience.
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day Before Your Trip…
We meet at 6:00 PM in the breakfast room at the Gonzo Inn for a pre-trip meeting. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and ask any last-minute questions. Your trip leader will give you a thorough trip orientation and pass out your waterproof river bags so you can pack your belongings that evening.
We’ll get going first thing, 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 on the first day, stopping for a short hike likely at Lathrop Ruin or Indian Creek Canyon. 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.
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, then enjoy a hearty breakfast and some time to relax as we get our gear back on the boats. Heading downriver, the Colorado winds us 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 rapids to come.
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.
After a delicious breakfast, we’ll be back on the boats winding through the final dramatic miles of Cataract Canyon, where lofty cliffs rise 2000 feet above us. Soon, we’ll reach 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 Marina where we’ll take a five-minute van shuttle to the airstrip. The scenic flight to Moab grants a bit of time to reflect, as we trace our path backwards through Cataract Canyon from high above, looking down on the beautiful landscape from a bird’s-eye perspective.
Included in You Trip Cost
- Skilled professional guide service
- All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the last day
- 3 nights catered camping
- 2 waterproof bags to hold your gear for the trip (approximate sealed size: 13” diameter x 25” tall). Your sleeping bag and pad must fit into one bag and your remaining gear will fit into the other bag. Please note: If you rent our gear it will come already packed in one of the two waterproof bags issued to each passenger. Your remaining gear, therefore, must fit in one bag.
- 1 small waterproof bag for camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter)
- 2-person tents on a shared basis (there is a $30 charge for a private tent)
- Personal flotation device (PFD) which must be worn at all times on the river in compliance with insurance requirements
- 12-ounce insulated Klean Kanteen with Café Lid to use for drinks in camp
- Camp chairs
- Eating utensils, cups and plates
- Highest quality inflatable rafts and related equipment
- Transfers to the river and back
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from Moab, UT
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Sleeping bag & a deluxe 3-inch thick foam and air-filled sleeping pad (these items may be rented from OARS)
- Single supplement tent ($30)
- Insurance of any kind, including travel protection plan
- Alcoholic beverages (be advised that the state-run liquor store closes at 7:00 PM)
- Items of a personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)
Available For Rent
Please indicate on your guest registration form whether you want to rent a sleep kit or if you prefer to bring your own.
- Sleep Kit: Can be rented for $40 per person. Sleep kits consist of a sleeping bag, deluxe 3-inch thick foam and air-filled sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet, pillow and pillowcase.
- Sleeping Pad Only: The deluxe 3-inch thick foam and air-filled pad only may be rented for $15
- 2-Person Tent: We provide 2 person tents. It is assumed you will share this tent with another person. You can (if you prefer) have a tent to yourself for an additional charge of $30 per tent.
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Help to protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation with the purchase of a short-term Travel Protection Plan. A Travel Protection Plan can help cover your non-refundable payments should you have to cancel your trip due to a covered illness or injury. Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit, and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. The cost for the optional Travel Protection is listed on your trip invoice. All Plan Benefits are administered by Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431Z or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan #F431Z).
Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail 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.
☐ Reserve flights, shuttles and lodging: Verify with your Adventure Consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at https://www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitation you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
☐ Payments: Final payment is due in our office 60 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting Place & Time
The day before your trip we will meet at 6:00 PM in the lobby of Gonzo Inn for a pre-trip meeting. Your trip leader will provide a thorough trip orientation and pass out your waterproof bags so you can pack your belongings that evening. The trip leader will also confirm the meeting time for the following morning and give you an opportunity to ask any last-minute questions. Keep in mind that the state-run liquor store closes at 7:00 PM. 3.2% beer can still be purchased at gas stations and the grocery store and full-strength beer in cans can be purchased at the Moab Brewery.
Getting to Moab
- From Grand Junction, Colorado take I-70 West to US 191 or take scenic route 128, which follows the Colorado River and offers spectacular views.
- From Salt Lake City, Utah take I-15 south to the Price/US 6 exit. Then take US 6 to I-70 East, to US 191 South.
Mileage and Driving Times to Moab, UT
|From Salt Lake City, UT||234 miles (5 hours)|
|From Grand Junction, CO||113 miles (2 hours)|
|From Denver, CO||355 miles (6 hours)|
|From Durango, CO||158 miles (3 hours)|
|From Bluff, UT||100 miles (2 hours)|
|From Vernal, UT||219 miles (5 hours)|
Parking a Car
If you’re arriving by car, parking is available at the OARS Warehouse.
OARS cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.
- You may fly into Salt Lake City, Utah or Grand Junction, Colorado, which are serviced by several commercial airlines.
- Red Tail Aviation 800-842-9251 offers charter flights
- Private reservation based shuttle services from the Moab, and Grand Junction airports can be arranged through Redrock Express. Please contact them directly on 1-800-259-2869, or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rental Car
- Unless you have a large group, a rental car from Salt Lake City is usually the best option; even if it sits for a week while you are on the river. This allows you the flexibility to visit surrounding areas and sometimes is more economical than renting a vehicle one way or chartering a shuttle service.
- There are two Enterprise Rent-A-Car locations in Moab. Please contact them directly for pricing and location hours as they are subject to change. Both can be reached at (435) 259-8505.
After Your Trip
Your return time to Moab will be between 4:00 and 6:00 PM. Please be advised, however, that it may be necessary for your belongings to be transported in the shuttle truck, which will arrive in Moab several hours after you do. (The plane’s luggage allowances vary depending on the number and weight of passengers on each flight.) Because of the possibility for delays and late arriving luggage, we strongly suggest overnighting in Moab after your trip.
A $139 per person transportation package is included in your trip cost for the return flight from the take out at Hite Marina to Moab at the end of the trip. If you prefer not to fly, we will deduct this fee from your trip cost and you may arrange to have your vehicle shuttled to the takeout point. For car shuttle information, please contact Coyote Shuttle (435)260-2097, or email@example.com.
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations
We recommend that you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging. (Pre- and post-trip lodging is not included in the trip cost).
- Gonzo Inn* 800-791-4044
- Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge 866-812-2002
- Sorrel River Ranch 877-359-2715
- Best Western Canyonlands 435-259-5167
*Please mention you are an OARS guest when making your reservation as some hotels offer our guests a special discounted rate.
Other Camping Options:
- Slickrock Campground 800-448-8873
- KOA 800-562-0372
- Arches Nat’l Park
- Moab Chamber of Commerce 435-259-7814
Extend Your Trip to Moab…
You might be coming to Moab, Utah for the rafting, but once you get to this cool little adventure mecca in the heart of canyon country, you’ll realize the adrenaline-pumping activities are endless. Always wanted to try your hand at canyoneering? Slip into the lost world of a slot canyon on a guided tour of Fiery Furnace or one of the many other rocky labyrinths in the area. Prefer exploring on wheels? Rent a mountain bike and challenge Moab’s famous 10.6-mile Slickrock Trail. Or, if you’re not afraid of heights, opt to see Moab’s spectacular red rock country from the air on a hot air balloon ride or zip line adventure in the “backyard” of Arches National Park. Visit www.discovermoab.com for more information.
The Colorado River can exhibit extreme variations in water level at different times of year, providing a whitewater experience for everyone. In the high-water season of May and June, experienced whitewater enthusiasts delight in the huge waves and the famous “Big Drops,” which at times can make even the 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 all ages and levels of experience.
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 time motorized assistance will be needed to navigate this last section of the trip.
- Solo Travelers’ trips: What brings unique individuals together on an OARS Solo Travelers’ trip is a shared appreciation for outstanding quality, a spirit of adventure and exploration, and a passion for good times.
- Astronomy (Stars with Lars): With access to clear, dark skies undiminished by urban light pollution, you’ll witness a star display as you’ve never seen before. OARS astronomy trips are scheduled around the new moon to allow for optimal stargazing opportunities. Our resident astronomy expert, Lars Haarr, puts his laser pointer to good use and provides informal educational discussions each evening on such topics as the history of constellations and Native American interpretations of star movements and groupings.
- Adult-only Departures: Don’t feel guilty if you’re in need of a kid-free vacation. Everybody deserves a break from the daily grind, and sometimes that means leaving the kids at home (or not traveling with other people’s kids). Whether you’re vacationing with your significant other, friends, colleagues or flying solo, OARS kid-free departures offer all the fun and adventure that our normal itineraries offer, minus the kiddos.
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Upon arrival, our first task is to unload the boats using a bag line of crew and passengers to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. On the first night in camp, a crew member will give a demonstration on setting up a tent, which you’ll see is quick and easy. 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 dinner is being prepared by the guides, hors d’oeuvres will be served and you will have 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 will let you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit and cold cereal are ready on the hors d’oeuvres table. 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 is served, the entire camp will be broken down and packing will be completed. The gear will then be loaded onto the boats and we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, complete with fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. A typical morning on a multi-day trip might start with French toast, bacon, fruit, orange juice, and coffee or tea. Lunch might be a delicious spread of cold cuts and cheeses with several types of bread, or pitas stuffed with veggies and hummus. There are always cookies and a cooling drink to top it off. At dinner, our guides’ cooking skills truly shine—sizzling steaks or salmon, chicken enchiladas, and delicious pasta dishes are all part of their repertoire. Dinner generally includes a salad, and desserts are frequent. Hors d’oeuvres are a pleasant surprise before many meals.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we should consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be a supplemental menu fee, ranging from $5-$25 per person per day, to cover any increase in our increased costs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you intend to do so.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of cooking for a large group in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
We provide fresh water and an assortment of soft drinks, including sodas, sparkling water, fruit juices and lemonade. Commercial outfitters may not provide any type of alcohol for their guests. You may bring your own supply of beer, wine or liquor in non-glass containers. If you choose to bring your own drinks (other than what we provide) or alcoholic beverages, please let us know in advance, ideally at the pre-trip meeting. For your safety and the safety of others, alcoholic beverages are limited to camp.
Some beers (3.2% alcohol by weight) are available in grocery stores. For other beer, wine and liquor you will need to go to the Utah State Liquor Store. The hours are 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM year-round. They are closed on Sundays and holidays, including Pioneer Day (June 24). You may check their website for further information and to see what beverages are available: abc.utah.gov/stores/.
We are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the managing agency with jurisdiction over the area in which our trip operates. Use of marijuana on federal lands, whether it be medicinal or recreational, is illegal and therefore we ask that you refrain from bringing it with you on your OARS trip.
We carry sufficient drinking water along with us to provide for your needs throughout the trip. Water jugs are accessible in camp, at lunch time and before hikes for filling personal water bottles. In some cases, we will re-supply water jugs with water filtered through a purification system we provide. (No iodine is used in the purification process.)
The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip may 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. The following boats may be a part of your experience:
- Motorized Snout Raft—Our stand-alone motor rig that gets us through the first leg of our adventure which is a calmer section of the Colorado. This 22-foot pontoon craft is used on our 4-day Cataract Canyon trips. Ride up front for the biggest hits, or sit in the rear for a drier ride. (Four to eight passengers)
- Oar Raft—The OARS flagship on our 6-day departures, and often available on our 4-day trips, oar rafts carry the bulk of the gear on most of our multi-day adventures. Your guide pilots with long oars from a center-mounted aluminum frame. Ample deck space allows for lounging in calm stretches, sturdy weight and width give your guide confidence to hit the big waves head-on. (Three to five passengers)
- Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and team work begets success. We can bring these on our 4-day trips only. A thrilling way to brave the whitewater section! A trip may require a minimum of 13 total participants for a paddle raft to be made available. Helmets required. (Four to eight paddlers)
Hiking / Side Creek Exploration
Each day varies, but on an average you’ll spend 4-6 hours a day on the boats. The rest of the time will be spent hiking and exploring, eating, or just relaxing in camp. While we generally plan at least three guided hikes on each trip, there is ample opportunity for the curious to explore the area at length. Please let your trip leader know if you are an avid hiker and remember to bring extra water bottles and good shoes. Remember, however, that all hikes are optional and you can choose to lie on the beach and take in a few tanning rays or read a book instead.
The Portable Toilet
While the idea of a river trip is appealing to most people, many are inhibited or reluctant because of modesty or uncertainty. To minimize our impacts, we carry out all solid human waste and use a portable toilet system that is set up each day at camp in a secluded location a discrete distance from tent sites. It is essentially a toilet without plumbing and is available from the time you pull into camp each afternoon until you leave camp the next day. Toilet paper and a convenient hand-washing station are provided.
We also carry a small container called the “day tripper” that can be easily accessed during the day should the need arise. It is a personal disposable toilet, which includes an odor-proof transport bag, chemical solidifier and odor eliminator, toilet paper and an oversized hand wipe.
On popular stretches of wilderness rivers, the common refrain is “dilution is the solution to pollution.” We practice this approach by urinating in the river during the day. For use in camp at night we provide pee buckets so that urination can occur in a secluded location and then be dumped into the current where it will be carried downstream.
Bathing is allowed in the Colorado River, but must be done with biodegradable soap. It is not, however, allowed in any of the side streams that feed into the river. If you plan to bring soap, we recommend Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s, which can be purchased in most stores that have a camping section. Disposable anti-bacterial towelettes (Coleman Swash Cloths, baby wipes, etc.) are good alternatives to submersion in the river and are especially convenient for spring and fall trips.
Clothing can easily be washed out in the river with biodegradable soap. With the dry warm climate in Canyonlands, lightweight clothing generally dries out quickly. Please Note: The color of the river fluctuates from completely clear to very silty. Light colored clothing has the possibility of becoming permanently stained.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. You can use sandwich-sized Ziploc baggies during the day to store feminine products while you are on the river or hiking, and you can then discretely dispose of the baggies when you reach camp. When possible, we recommend o.b.® tampons, which are 1/3 the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping. If you use pads, be sure to bring extras. Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
We provide a small waterproof bag (17” tall x 9” diameter—approximate sealed size) to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While these bags are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-lock plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. We also strongly recommend you take out a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover your camera—especially if it’s fine equipment. Make sure to bring additional memory cards, batteries and any other extras you will need. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players and flying drones, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip and leave your drone at home*.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone even though there is no cell service. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
*The use of drones is prohibited by the National Park Service in Cataract Canyon.
We are not able to provide a power source for recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS and other devices working you may need spare batteries or portable power. Options include compact portable solar panels that can recharge devices directly, portable power banks that store power, or a combo unit that can be charged before the trip and recharged with a built-in solar panel.
Once you are on the river there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Cell phone service is not available. Our guides carry satellite phones which are strictly used to call out in case of an emergency situation on the river. They can call out, but we cannot call them. Periodically the trip leader will check in with our office. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call our office (800-346-6277). If possible, we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind, however, it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
Fire activity frequently impacts the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. Smoke impacts are more likely in the latter-half of the summer season, so those with asthma or other respiratory conditions may wish to steer clear of this time frame. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. Necessary changes to logistics and/or destination may occur with very short notice as fire conditions are constantly changing. We will do our best to keep you apprised of excessively smoky conditions that can be foreseen for your upcoming trip, but we also encourage you to stay informed about local fire activity: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/.
Our guides do not carry firearms on our trips, and in most cases, are prohibited from doing so by the managing agency. As a matter of preference, we ask all our guests to kindly leave your own firearms at home or in your vehicle.
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend the following website: www.wunderground.com for weather in Moab, UT.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F||Notes|
|April||73||42||57||Mild temperatures, with nighttime lows in the upper 40s|
|May||83||51||60||Warmer temps with wildflowers beginning to bloom|
|June||95||56||72||Daytime highs in the 90s; fewer wildflowers|
|July||101||66||81||Temps in the low 100s—bring water and sunscreen|
|August||96||64||75||Highs and lows similar to July, rare thunder showers|
|September||87||52||67||Lower temps with occasional thundershowers|
|October||74||40||62||Similar to April but with fewer daylight hours|
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 and 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.
Our primary goal is for you to have an enjoyable experience. The nature of the trip is such that it involves some physical exertion and potential exposure to the elements, including cold water, heat, sun, wind and rain. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight or lack conditioning can endanger themselves, other guests and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure. In general, trip participants must be able to:
- Wear a Type V Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches)
- Climb on and off the boats multiple times each day
- Paddle or hold on to the boat while navigating whitewater rapids
- Navigate uneven terrain in camp and on hikes
- Carry your own dry bags (20 – 30 lbs) from the boats to your camping location and back
- Self-rescue by swimming to a boat or to shore in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
- Self-rescue by climbing into a boat with the help of another person in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30 – 40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body work-out and is training that may come in handy in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
Packing for Your Trip
Click on this link for helpful information about packing for your trip: www.oars.com/video/pack-river-rafting-trip/
During the day—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or merino wool shirt as a base layer. Additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added and subtracted depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids.
In camp—When the weather is warm, lightweight cotton pants/skirt or shorts and shirt make great camp wear. Anytime the forecast calls for cool evenings and cold nights, a dry set of long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.
During the day—The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option, especially on rivers with sandy beaches. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco® at www.chacos.com, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand or stepping on a sharp stick. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring for hiking can double as your camp shoes. It’s nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. Flip flops or slip-on sandals are OK for wearing in camp only.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
During the day—Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection. Ball caps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.
In camp—When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a beanie-style hat to wear in camp. They are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.
Hot Weather Trips
During summer months, conditions on the river may be hot and sunny. These trips require less gear than spring or fall trips, but thoughtful packing is still required. Protection from the sun and heat will be critical to your enjoyment and health while on the river and during side hikes. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, consider bringing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
A good way to keep cool is with long-sleeved cotton shirts. Old collared dress shirts work well. They can be soaked in the water and worn in the raft or carried on a hike for later use. This method of evaporative cooling is very effective. Bandanas are another useful item that can be used in this manner. Camp-wear should be made of cotton and be loose-fitting. A combination of shorts/skirt and a lightweight top is ideal for staying cool on hot afternoons.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather a rain jacket and pants work better than a wetsuit, because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold, or when you’re going through whitewater, then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.
Something warm for your top & bottom: You need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your base layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for camp.
April, May, September and October Trips: These are surely some of the most beautiful months to be on the Colorado River, but they can also produce some surprisingly chilly times. During the fall, the sun is not far enough north in the sky for its warming rays to reach down into the river canyon for as many hours a day as it does in the summer. This means more shady areas, fewer sunny ones. Therefore, when you are splashed (drenched) going through the rapids and you’re in a shady area, you will get very cold unless you are prepared.
Rain gear protects you from rain, wind and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended as well as good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho as it cannot be worn under your PFD.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can be bothersome at times in certain areas on the Colorado River, particularly after high water drops. Though this happens at different times every year, it typically beings in June and extends into July. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times.
You can either bring your own sleeping bag, pad and ground tarp, or you can rent our sleep kit. If you are purchasing your own bag for the trip, keep in mind that a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°F (the normal range for an all-around, “three-season” bag) is recommended for early and late season trips.
Suggested Packing List
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Sleeping bag, pad, sheet liner, small pillow, 5×7-foot tarp. Sleep kits including these items may be rented for $40 (for trips in April, May and early-June, September and October we suggest a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°F)
☐ Two 1-liter water bottles: durable and reusable
☐ Locking carabiner (for clipping a water bottle or personal dry bag into a raft
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Small, quick-drying towel
☐ Toiletries, including biodegradable soap (such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash for gratuities
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco® chacos.com)
“Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Athletic shoes or light hikers: for hikes or in camp
☐ Hiking socks
☐ Long-sleeved shirts: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap – flexible enough to fit under your helmet
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant) A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended
☐ Swimsuit / Trunks: 2-piece suits recommended for women. Tankinis are a great option
☐ Shorts: 1-2 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 1-2
☐ Synthetic or merino wool long underwear: 1 set top & bottom (light-, mid- or expedition-weight depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Jacket: fleece or down/synthetic fill puffy (depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Camp clothes: comfortable and appropriate for season. Cotton recommended for hot weather trips
Additional Essentials for early/late season trips (April / May / early June / September / October):
☐ Wetsuit booties and/or neoprene, wool or synthetic socks (for wearing inside your river shoes)
☐ Fleece top & bottom
☐ Warm hat and gloves: synthetic or wool
☐ Extra set of synthetic or merino wool long underwear top and bottom
☐ Neoprene paddling gloves
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection/changing clothes
☐ Small day pack, waist pack or hydration pack for side hikes
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Plastic bags: for separating dirty clothes from clean
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Splash jacket and pants
☐ Lightweight cord and clothespins for drying clothes
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Feminine Urinary Device (for women only)
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide disadvantaged youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Packing Your Gear
At the pre-trip meeting each person will be given two large waterproof bags (approximate sealed size: 13” diameter x 25” tall; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L). One bag will be for your clothing and personal items; the other bag will be for your sleeping gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet and pillow). These two bags will be your “checked luggage” and will only be accessible in camp. Tents are stowed separately. Please note: if you rent our sleep kit, it will come already packed in one of the 2 waterproof bags issued to each passenger. We also provide a small waterproof bag for day use where you can keep items such as rain gear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L). The bags are cylindrical in shape and pack from the top. Please pack light, and keep in mind that river attire is casual: comfort, convenience and boat space take precedence over style. At the end of the trip, you will return to Moab with your waterproof bags, where you will be able to unpack your gear before your trip home.
We recommend you take on the river only what’s absolutely necessary. Keeping gear to a minimum insures it will fit into the waterproof bags we supply and reduces unnecessary packing and unpacking in camp. If you do have extra luggage that you need to store, you may keep it locked in your car at our warehouse or you may be able to store it at the lodge you are staying at for an additional fee.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home. For personal items like wallets, purses and cell phones, we recommend putting them in a zip-lock bag at the bottom of your waterproof bag with your clothing.
Tipping is optional, but appreciated by our staff. If you are wondering how much to tip, you may consider that we operate in a service industry with a host of behind-the-scenes contributors in addition to the guides on your trip. In general, we suggest a gratuity based on 10 – 15% of the trip cost. It is customary on OARS trips for gratuities to be given to the Trip Leader in the form of cash or personal check, who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff.
In reviewing your statement, you’ll note a $1/person/day donation to Utah Rivers Council a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to Utah’s rivers and clean water sources. One-hundred percent of these funds go directly to Utah’s rivers and your contribution is tax-deductible. This donation is voluntary and may be removed from your invoice if you choose not to participate. Please notify our office if you would prefer to delete the donation from your balance.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to the OARS Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit https://www.oars.com/oars-foundation/ to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
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Terms & Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
A $250/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. The balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. The cancellation fee after you’ve made your deposit can range up to the entire trip cost, based upon the number of days prior to your trip that we receive your cancellation notice. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection).
Cancellations 60 days or more prior to your trip earn a full refund less a $100/person fee. Cancellations 59 days or less prior to your trip are not refundable.
If you transfer from one trip to another within the same season, there is a $50/person charge up until 60 days before the trip. Transfers made after this time will be treated as cancellations.
If you are traveling as part of a charter group please note that deposit/cancellation policies differ from those listed above.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS Canyonlands trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
For those unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we offer an optional Travel Protection Plan from Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency) that can help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings. Should you have to cancel your trip due to illness or injury—your own or that of an immediate family member—non-refundable payments may be covered by a travel protection plan (see Cancellations and Refunds). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431Z or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan #F431Z). Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
Acknowledgement of Risk
Everyone is required to sign a standard Acknowledgement of Risk form before the trip, acknowledging awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the trip. However, due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS Canyonlands cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Inc. and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and well being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 4 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept passengers weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced at accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice.