5 Best Canyons to White Water River Raft in Utah and Colorado:
- The Yampa
Sometimes referred to by boaters as a “little Grand Canyon,” the Yampa Canyon is potentially the most beautiful place in Colorado. Located just a short distance outside of Vernal, Utah, the Yampa River is an amazing combination of peaceful flat water and big rapids. The bigger rapids are sure be a thrill at any level sending water over your head throughout the trip. The biggest rapid, Warm Springs is one boaters talk about all over the country. The flat water gives you time to explore the waters on paddling your a paddle board or inflatable kayak. Paddling solo truly gives you a feeling of the wilderness and isolation of the canyon. At night, the campsites are typically big beaches perfect for a game of beach volleyball, kids to play, or just enjoying the firelight with the company of your family and friends.
The 700 foot tall white sandstone walls act as a time machine, sending you back a 1,000 years when the Fremont native Americans called the canyon home. Unlike most western rivers the Yampa is free flowing, meaning it looks almost exactly as it did 1,400 years ago. The trip has many stops where you will be able to see 800 year old petroglyphs, ancient storage granaries and maybe a little wildlife like mule deer or bighorn sheep. Beyond the native history, the canyon is a cornerstone for environmental history, at the center of the first ever grassroots environmental movement. This also makes it one of the most competitive private river permits to get in the US.
This canyon truly has it all, epic whitewater, peaceful flatwater, stunning geological landscapes, and history dating back thousands of years. It’s hard to travel through this canyon and not be simply overwhelmed by it beauty.
- The Gates of Lodore
The Yampa River may be tops on this list but the Green River Gates of Lodore takes a tight number two spot. Both trips are unbelievable and either one is spectacular depending on the time of year you can go rafting. The Powell expedition was one of the first to stare awestruck at the Gates of Lodore on the Green River with a mix of fear and enthusiasm. Today, the reaction to the dark red sandstone at the beginning of the canyon is the same no matter who rafts through the gates of lodore. The aw only escalates upon learning that it is the oldest rock in Utah and Colorado, dating back almost a billion years, predating life itself. The stunning views are matched with amazing white water. At high water (5-9,000 CFS), you are signing up for a “hold on tight” sure to find a thrill adventure and at lower water a family friendly continuous splashy 42 miles.
- Cataract Canyon
This is the place to go if you are looking for massive rapids. Just outside of Moab, Cataract Canyon is home to the biggest whitewater in Utah and at high water, the biggest rapids on the Colorado river. At anything above 20,000 CFS (Cubic Feet per Second) three biggest rapids turn into one long whitewater ride, so don’t worry about the desert heat, you are sure to get wet.
- Split Mountain
A beautiful stretch of canyon if you are just looking for a day of rafting. This section of river is the last 9 miles of a Green River Gates of Lodore or Yampa River trip through Dinosaur National Monument. The mouth of the canyon gives it the name, as it appears the river is cutting the mountain it half. Multiple layers of rock bend and twist here giving it an other worldly look. The rock formations drip and twist the whole way down the canyon allowing for a common game of “what shapes can you see in the rocks,” in between the fun class 2 and 3 rapids. Remember to ask your guide about the Pirate watching over you in the second half of the river!
- Desolation and Gray Canyon
Knock out two canyons in one river trip with this 84 mile float. The Gray/Deso combination is a beautiful river trip in eastern Utah with great views and fun class 2-3 rapids and an abundance of native American history, wildlife and spectacular Utah River Rafting scenery.