Mike Godfrey, At Home in Wild Spaces

Floating the Green River: An intro to white-water rafting

By Mike Godfrey, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jun 12th, 2018 @ 2:35pm

THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Utah is known around the world for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation. The state’s soaring mountains, other-worldly deserts and sprawling canyons are the stuff outdoor adventures are made of.

And while touring the state’s beauty on foot or in a vehicle is an outstanding way to take in the scenery, floating one of Utah’s river ways is a different experience entirely.

From leisurely, even luxurious, float trips to the epic Class V swells of Cataract Canyon, Utah’s rivers have something for everyone. The above video falls somewhere in the middle (depending on the season) and offers novice-friendly rapids and calm scenic sections.

Beginning at the base of the Flaming Gorge Dam, the first 7 miles to Little Hole (known as section “A”) is famous for its stunningly clear water and towering red canyon walls. The entire 7-mile stretch is accessible by foot via the Little Hole National Recreation Trail, but there’s simply no substitute for a wonderfully scenic, and often wet, three- to four-hour float along this section of the Green River.

Section “A” is also a great introduction to whitewater rafting or kayaking due to its average of one Class I or Class II rapid per mile. Depending on flow rate, only the "Mother-in-Law Rapids" toward the end of section “A” (marked by a sign about 100 yards before the rapids) sometimes achieve Class III status— if conditions are right. Keep to the left of the medium-sized rock in this stretch (show at 2:19-2:22 in the video) and navigating the "Mother-in-Law" section shouldn’t be too difficult.

For real-time Green River flowrates and temperatures, click here. Review the United States Geological Survey website often as flow rates vary frequently.

Ashley National Forest river manager Kevin Clegg offered some important safety practices and requirements to be aware of and adhere to before floating the river.

  • Each vehicle is required to obtain and display a recreation usage pass. They are available at the Flaming Gorge Dam visitor center, Manila and Vernal National Forest offices or at the self-service kiosk at the boat ramp.
  • Life preservers (PFDs) are required and should be worn by everyone in your party whenever on the river.
  • All vessels must carry a bailing device (examples: a bucket or bilge pump), as well as a spare oar or paddle while on the river.
  • Boats longer than 16 feet must carry a noise device, such as a whistle or horn for communication/emergency use.
  • Canoes must have a 1/3 volume floatation ratio. Example: A 15-foot canoe must be outfitted with 5 feet of floatation— these are often enclosed air compartments or inner tubes securely lashed to the body of the canoe.
  • All inflatable rafts and kayaks much be multi-chambered.
  • Watch for submerged hazards such as boulders or fallen trees on the river.
  • Camping and fires are prohibited along Section “A” of the Green River.
  • Beware of hypothermia (water temperatures are quite cold, even during summer.)
  • Bring an adequate amount of water or a filtration system and stay hydrated.
  • Wear sun protection.
  • Bring bug spray.


As always, it’s best to float or paddle with someone who is familiar with the section of river you’re traveling on or who has river navigation experience. If you are new to river sports or attempting this section for the first time, make sure to familiarize yourself with the proper safety measures and ensure every member of your party is properly briefed on safety before launching on the river. There are a number of online resources or river classes you can review or attend in preparation. Remember that you are responsible for your safety.

Guides and transportation

If you are looking for someone with experience on the river, an outfitter or guide can be hired at both the Flaming Gorge and Dutch John resorts or through a number of local river and fishing guides in Dutch John. Many of these guide services also offer shuttling or car relocation services (bring a second set of keys for the latter). If you do not hire a transportation service, make sure to work out transportation between Flaming Gorge Dam and Little Hole with your party.

Leave no trace

Finally, more than just a source of unforgettable adventure, rivers are the lifeblood of the state and a crucially important water resource. Leave no trace and do not compromise the cleanliness of the water or the scenery during your trip. Flush or composting toilets are located at the Flaming Gorge Dam, the dam boat ramp, the north shore near Dripping Springs rapid (roughly 1 mile upstream from Little Hole) and at the Little Hole Parking area.

Pack out and dispose of all trash properly. Never discard trash in composting toilets. They are not designed for trash and the remote location of these facilities makes removal extremely difficult. Clegg stresses the need to “respect (these) facilities and do (your) part to keep them clean.”

So have fun, stay safe and do your part to preserve Utah’s precious outdoors while enjoying time on the river.

Mike Godfrey

About the Author: Mike Godfrey

Mike Godfrey is a graduate of BYU and along with his wife Michelle, the manager of At Home in Wild Spaces, an outdoor recreation website, blog and community, dedicated to sharing national parks, wilderness areas, hiking/biking trails, and more.

Mike Godfrey

KSL Weather Forecast