White Water Rafting in Utah
Utah is probably a better kayaking and creek destination than it is a rafting destination. Utah does have some great places for white water rafting but compared to California, Idaho and Colorado, it has a lot to be desired. Three major river systems flow through the eastern and south eastern part of the state. Starting at the north eastern part of the state is the Green River. The Green River is filled with run off from Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. The Colorado River enters Utah in the south eastern part of the state and joins with the Green River inside Canyonlands national park. The last major river is the San Juan River which enters Utah near Four Corners Monument and empties into Lake Powell. These three rivers are the only ones that have the potential to give you a big water experience.
The Green River runs the length of the state from Flaming Gorge Dam to its confluence with the Colorado river. There is a daily section just below the dam, and a daily section just outside of the town of Green River. Both of the dailies offer class 2 rapids and during really high water may get up to class 3. The two sections you will find that have Class 3 or 4 rapids are the Gates of Lodore and Gray and Desolation Canyons. There is also the Split Mountain section, but that is usually included or considered part of the Gates of Lodore.
The Colorado River drains a good portion of Colorado. The length of the Colorado River has some of the best rafting there is, from the mountains of Colorado, through the deserts of Utah, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The biggest white water in Utah and some of the biggest in the nation can be found in Cataract Canyon, if the water level is high. If a four day trip and lots of flat water doesn’t appeal to you, then you may want to try Westwater which is the first white water section in Utah. There is also a daily on the Colorado which is 13 miles long and begins just outside of Moab.
The San Juan River is the last large river in Utah. It may have a big water volume, but there are only a few class III rapids along its length. Getting permits may be hard, and there is a lot of flat water. However, it is a beautiful section with a lot of historical significance, but if white water is for you, this probably isn’t your section.
There are a lot of other rivers spread out throughout Utah. Most of these rivers aren’t suitable for rafting and definitely aren’t big or white water destinations. Many of them are great for aggressive kayakers or tubers.
The Provo River is close to Utah Valley and draws lots of people every year. The six mile float offers class 1 and sometimes a class 2 rapid for the casual person. It is a very conservative crowd and its a pretty boring time unless its the first time you have done something like this. There are services that will rent you tubes and life-jackets, but really they are a rip-off. You can buy something cheaper and use it more than once.
The Weber River is a little farther away from Salt Lake County than Utah Valley. However, the rapids are bigger and funner. The Weber run has numerous class 1, class 2 and one class 3 on it. It is the same length as the Provo River but is about 10 times more fun. It is actually a pretty big party river. There are also services that rent tubes and life-jackets. These are also a rip-off. I would recommend buying your own, because this river is fun enough you will want to do it several times.