Cara MacDonald

3 places to go whitewater rafting around Utah

By Cara MacDonald, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Jun. 4, 2020 at 12:15 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — On the hunt for a new outdoor recreation activity this summer? Try whitewater rafting on one of Utah’s great rivers.

The Green River from Flaming Gorge Reservoir

There are multiple locations around Utah where the Green River can be enjoyed, but the Green River A, B and C sections from Flaming Gorge Reservoir near Vernal provides an excellent introduction to river rafting with the option to raft for multiple days or single-day trips, depending on one’s boat take-out point.

"If you’re wanting a super mellow (introductory) trip, I would recommend the A, B, and maybe C section of the Green River right beneath Flaming Gorge Dam," Cortney Bayuk, a rafting guide for Oars Whitewater Rafting, told KSL.com. "It’s scenic, has a few wave trains and is low consequence."

This rafting destination is popular for fishing, camping and wildlife viewing. Permits are not necessary for public access, according to the Bureau of Land Management. This river can be self-guided by experienced river-runners or accessed through guided commercial expeditions.

Section A runs from Flaming Gorge Dam to Little Hole take-out point, according to Flaming Gorge Country. This 7-mile stretch consists of gentle flow, quality fishing conditions, high canyon walls and plentiful wildlife. Though rafting straight through this section would only take around three hours, it is easy to extend it into a full-day adventure through stopping to fish or hike along the way.

Section B runs from Little Hole to Browns Park/Indian Crossing, according to Flaming Gorge Country. This 9-mile stretch consists of fairly gentle terrain; however, Red Creek Rapid (Class 3) presents a challenge. Some rafters may wish to portage their boat past this rapid.

Section C runs from Browns Park/Indian Crossing to Swinging Bridge on the Colorado State Line, according to Flaming Gorge Country. A 14-mile stretch with slow water, this section will be the longest day at around 6-8 hours of floating. However, the lack of rapids makes the distance relaxing and filled with views of historic sites and stunning wildlife.

You can access a map, take-out points and campground information on the Bureau of Land Management brochure.

The Green River via the Gates of Ladore

Follow in the footsteps of John Wesley Powell and raft through the Gates of Ladore, a multi-day trip through stunning scenery and along rowdy whitewater rapids. This expedition requires a permit and provides a challenge to intermediate rafters.

"If you’re looking to break into multiday trips, the Green River through Gates of Lodore is amazing," Bayuk told KSL.com. "You can do it in 3-5 days depending on how much you want to push. (It's) super scenic, historical and (has) some really fun rapids to learn on."

Located within Dinosaur National Monument, this section of the Green River is managed by the National Parks Service and thus requires fees for both applying for a permit and anything related once a permit is granted, according to the National Parks Service. Campgrounds are not included with the permit and must be booked separately.

"(The Gates of Ladore is) about 50 miles from put in to take out," Bayuk explained. "It has three Class III rapids in Lodore itself, four Class III rapids the last day through Split Mountain Canyon, and lots of fun Class II’s throughout. It’s scenic, can be big water or more technical depending on what [water] level you float it at, and the views are truly breathtaking."

Some rapids on this river are rated up to Class IV with high water flows, according to the National Parks Service. As such, it should never be mistaken for an easy river run and many rafters find themselves flipping boats or caught on rocks during the most troublesome of the journey’s rapids.

Nonetheless, the Gates of Ladore may be accessed through commercial guided rafting trips or planned by skilled private rafting trips. Whichever you choose to access this river, access maps and more information about the river here.

The South Fork of the Snake River

The South Fork of the Snake River corridor may be accessed from many locations, including its earliest put-in point at the Palisades Dam, according to the Bureau of Land Management. From there, river runners can travel up to 77.6 miles and take out at any of the 12 take-out points along the way.

There are several campgrounds along the route, including 16 between Conant Boat Access and Byington Boat Access, according to the BLM; however, free self-issue overnight camping permits must be obtained for all non-commercial overnight camping.

Access maps and more information about rafting the South Fork of the Snake River here.

Getting started

Not feeling ready to lead your own trip yet? Find a guiding service, like Oars Whitewater Rafting. Smaller river trip guiding companies exist on every river, so seeking out the rivers you would most like to visit and researching local guiding companies is an excellent way to access outfitters.

"In general, (do) your research," Bayuk told KSL.com. "Get a map of the area, come up with ideas for possible evacuation points, resources in the area, rapids, hazards on the river, et cetera. Information that’s going to have you prepared (if something) goes wrong on your trip."

You can learn more about rafting in the state at Utah.com.

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Editor's note: The contents of this article are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. The owner and operator of this site do not recommend or endorse any specific products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by the site owner and operator, is solely at your own risk. Always make sure you have the proper equipment, physical condition and experience level before trying any outdoor activity. And be sure to always check the weather conditions before traveling into any canyon.

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