Hikers exploring Lower Dark Canyon during a guided Cataract Canyon rafting trip in Utah with OARS.

Hidden Canyons: Rafting in Utah & Beyond

Groups rafting through the Gerand Canyon.

Journey Into the Great Unknown with OARS

John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers “into the great unknown,” which included the first descent of Grand Canyon, is considered one of the greatest river expeditions in history. Today, you can live and breathe the legacy of Powell with OARS.

As the only commercial outfitter that holds the unique collection of river permits that retraces the bulk of Powell’s route, we’re proud to be able to offer more whitewater trips on the legendary waters of the Green and Colorado Rivers than anyone else. From unique expeditions, like a 23-day John Wesley Powell partial retrace trip that’s true bucket list material to what’s arguably the most scenic 1-day whitewater rafting trip in the West, choose from a selection of more than 30 unique adventures that will take you rafting in Utah, Colorado or Arizona. And, unlike what Powell and his crew endured as they ventured “into the great unknown,” OARS adventures include experienced guides, top-notch equipment, impressive meals, and hassle-free camping.

A secret world of hidden canyons awaits for you to make your descent. Discover spectacular scenery, disconnect from daily life as you know it, and paddle through America’s canyons less traveled in the heat of the Colorado Plateau from Flaming Gorge to Grand Canyon.

5 Magical Destinations


Rafting through Flaming Gorge.

Frolic through Flaming Gorge

“It enters the range by a flaring, brilliant red gorge, that may be seen from the north a score of miles away.” –J.W. Powell

Brilliant red-hued cliffs and crystal-clear waters await you on this fun and ultra-scenic stretch of the Green River. With splashy, no-stress whitewater, excellent swimming, and trout fishing, a Flaming Gorge rafting trip is definitely a crowd-pleaser.


  • Family-friendly whitewater – Fun Class II rapids, followed by calm sections of water, provide an easy intro to whitewater for first-timers.
  • Brag-worthy trout fishing – The cold, clear waters of Flaming Gorge are chock full of rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout.
  • Wild West history – Step back into a forgotten era and get a glimpse of pioneer life at the Jarvie Historic Ranch.
  • Jaw-dropping scenery – Imagine red rock country, and this is it; vibrant canyon walls dotted with lush greens and intriguing formations.
  • Paddling playground – The perfect place to try your hand at a paddle raft, inflatable kayak, or stand-up paddleboard.
  • Wildlife sanctuary – See an impressive array of wild animals and bird life as you head toward Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge.
Rafting the Green River through Gates of Lodore.

Delve into Dinosaur National Monument

“No quiet in all that time; but its walls and cliffs, its peaks and crags, its amphitheaters and alcoves told a story…of beauty and grandeur.” –J.W. Powell in Gates of Lodore

A must-do Utah river rafting adventure, Gates of Lodore not only offers scenery that rivals Grand Canyon but also boasts fun whitewater, gorgeous side hikes in Dinosaur National Monument, far-out fossils, and beach camping at its best.


  • Grand Canyon vibes – Steep walls rising dramatically from the river & striking geology give paddlers a taste of Grand Canyon magic.
  • Spectacular side hikes – Lodore Canyon is a hiker’s paradise with treks to hidden waterfalls, beautiful oases, and lush side canyons.
  • Open-air museum – Discover prehistoric fossils, Fremont-era petroglyphs, and Wild West hangouts preserved in a geologic time capsule.
  • Beach vacation done right – Relax on beautiful sandy beaches — perfect for beach games, campfire chats, and comfy camping under the stars.
  • Family-friendly whitewater – The friendly, big-wave rapids on a Lodore rafting trip are nothing but splashy fun for all ages.
  • Choose your own adventure – Relax on an oar raft or up the adventure level in a paddle raft, inflatable kayak, or on a stand-up paddleboard.
Dory rowing through Desolation Canyon.

Discover Desolation Canyon

Powell called it a “region of the wildest desolation,” but the rugged and underrated stretch of the Green River through Desolation Canyon is strikingly majestic. Dramatic rock walls tower as high as Grand Canyon in places, hiding remnants of past visitors and exciting whitewater that beckons modern-day explorers.


  • Untouched wilderness – Fly into a remote landscape, where 40 million years of geologic time is on display in its colorful canyons.
  • 50+ rapids – First-timers and kids alike will have a blast tackling Desolation Canyon’s bouncy fun wave trains and splashes.
  • Relics of the past – Hike to thousand-year-old Native American structures and intriguing petroglyphs, left behind by the Fremont-era people.
  • Outlaw history – Explore the abandoned homestead where Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch spent their evenings and found refuge.
  • Paddler’s choice – Soak in the scenery from an oar raft, dory, paddle raft, inflatable kayak, or stand-up paddleboard.
  • Where the wild things are – Keep an eye out for deer, bighorn sheep, bear, and even bison that make this secluded region their home.

Conquer Cataract Canyon

“At this great depth the river rolls in solemn majesty. The cliffs are reflected from the more quiet river, and we seem to be in the depths of the earth…” –J.W. Powell in Cataract Canyon

Meet Grand Canyon’s punk rock uncle. Cataract Canyon is a Colorado River rafting trip for adventurous beginners and thrill seekers that takes you into the wild and untamed heart of Canyonlands National Park before concluding with a dramatic scenic flight retracing your trip.


  • National Park solitude – Get backdoor access to Canyonlands National Park as you explore the park’s remote Maze and Needles District.
  • Legendary whitewater – Tackle Cataract Canyon’s thrilling Class III-IV whitewater, including the notorious Big Drops, by raft or dory.
  • Spectacular hiking – Trek to seasonal waterfalls, into hidden slot canyons, and climb to epic vistas in a red rock wonderland.
  • Relics of the past – Discover Ancestral Puebloan structures and rock art and important archaeological sites scattered through the canyon.
  • Explore your way – Explore scenic, calm stretches by inflatable kayak or stand-up paddleboard (6-day trips only).
  • Stargazing at its best – Take in the mesmerizing spectacle of a billion bright stars from the canyon’s massive sandy beach camps.
Looking over the view at Nankoweap in Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Grandeur

“The walls now are more than a mile in height—a vertical distance difficult to appreciate.” – J.W. Powell in Grand Canyon

It’s the ultimate river trip and one of the most sought-after travel experiences on the planet. We’re talking mind-boggling geology and historic sites, unmatched scenery, epic hiking, legendary whitewater, and the chance to go completely off the grid for 5 to 18 days in Grand Canyon.


  • Majestic scenery – A layered rainbow of ancient rock, sheer walls, and geologic wonders paint an awe-inspiring, billion-year history.
  • Hiker’s paradise – Experience canyon magic as you hike to hidden oases, splash in waterfalls, and scramble through slot canyons.
  • Ancient past – Search for Nautiloid fossils, and discover petroglyphs and ancestral Puebloan sites like the Nankoweap Granaries.
  • World-famous whitewater – Hance, Lava Falls, Crystal, and Granite are just a few of the rapids that make Grand Canyon whitewater legendary.
  • Rewild your brain – Escape from the distractions of daily life as you restore and rejuvenate your mind on the ultimate tech detox.
  • Dory history – Make the journey in an oar raft or experience the Colorado River in a dory, the ultimate river craft.

Hidden Canyon Adventures

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Rafts docked on the bank of the Green River.

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