The Colorado and Green Rivers

Canyonlands National Park

The Heart of Canyonlands

Two great rivers, the Colorado and the Green, flow toward each other forming a “Y” of deep red rock canyons in canyon country’s landscape before merging at the Confuence.

Both rivers offer abundant ways to enjoy outdoor activities and savor spectacular scenery.

The Colorado River

The Colorado River from Westwater Canyon to the Confluence offers recreation for all ages and abilities.

  • Take a raft trip on the family-friendly Daily, or float the calm water of Meander Canyon.
  • Use a paddle board, canoe, or kayak to explore the calm stretches of the river.
  • For those who want more action, try the thrillling and very challenging whitewater of Westwater or Cataract canyons.

Westwater Canyon

Soon after entering Utah, the Colorado River flows through the narrow gorge of Westwater Canyon. This challenging stretch includes Class IV rapids and is only recommended for experienced boaters.

A permit is required. For permit information visit the Bureau of Land Management website.

A list of Moab area guides and outfitters is available here.

The Moab Daily

The “Moab Daily” is a popular 13-mile (21 km) section of the Colorado River near Moab, Utah that runs from Hittle Bottom Recreation Area to Take Out Boat Ramp. This stretch features moderate rapids, and iconic red rock scenery.

Depending on water levels, rapids on this section range from Class I to Class III. No permits are required for private trips.

There are commercial outfitters who offer half-day or full-day guided trips on this section of the river. More information is available on the BLM website. A list of guides and outfitters is available at Discover Moab’s website.

Potash to the Confluence

The Colorado River below Moab at the Potash boat ramp to the Confluence where the Colorado and Green Rivers meet, is mostly flat-water, ribboning its way some 51 miles (82 km) through the incredibly beautiful Meander canyon. Along the way, the river flows through Canyonlands National Park. The Colorado and Green Rivers flow together at the Confluence, far below the southern tip of the Cayonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District.

The National Park Service requires a permit for overnight trips on the river below Potash. Trip planning and permit information is available on NPS.gov here.

Cataract Canyon

Below the Confluence, the Colorado River enters Cataract Canyon, a popular 14-mile (22.5 km) section of dangerous whitewater, with rapids up to Class V, that, at peak flows, may produce standing waves over twenty feet high.

Most Cataract Canyon trips put in at Potash, Moab, Green River, or Mineral Bottom.

The usual take-out for Cataract trips is Hite Marina on Lake Powell.

A permit is required for Cataract Canyon. Permit information is available on NPS.gov here.

The Green River

The Green River from Green River, Utah to the confluence with the Colorado River offers nearly 120 miles (193 km) of relatively calm water ideal for canoes, sea kayaks or rafts. Floating through the exquisite canyons of the Green River is a truly amazing experience.

Several options are available for boating the Green River:

  • Labyrinth Canyon to the Mineral Bottom takeout;
  • Stillwater Canyon from Mineral Bottom to the Confluence;
  • or the entire stretch through both Labyrinth and Stillwater canyons to the Confluence.

Outfitters in Moab offer shuttle services for river trips.

Labyrinth Canyon

From the put in at either Crystal Geyser, or Ruby Ranch, the river is flat water flowing past rolling desert hills, then the red rock walls rise as Labyrinth Canyon gradually deepens.

As you wend your way downriver, you can explore side canyons such as Three Canyon at Trin-Alcove Bend, hike to historic and prehistoric structures at Fort Bottom, see old mining equipment, and spot birds and wildlife along the way.

It is a 64-mile (103 km) float from Crystal Geyser to the Mineral Bottom take out, typically taking 4-5 days, or a 45-mile trip from Ruby Ranch, requiring 3-4 days on average.

A free permit is required for Labyrinth Canyon. Permit information is available at the BLM website.

Stillwater Canyon

From Mineral Bottom, the 52-mile (83.6 km) trip through sublime Stillwater Canyon to the junction with the Colorado River takes about 4-5 days. The canyon deepens and the cliff walls tower ever higher as you descend.

Keep an eye out for ancestral Puebloan granaries tucked into the cliffs as you pass, and explore the bottoms such as at Turks Head and Anderson Bottom for rock art.

This section of river passes through Canyonlands National Park so a permit is required from the National Park Service. Permit information is available here.

Visit the Canyonlands National Park website on NPS.gov for more information about river trips on the Colorado or Green Rivers.

Things You Might Need

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A Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country

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Belknap's Canyonlands River Guide

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