Moab Rafting

River Rafting in Moab

Don Strimbu Flikr

If you are looking for an adrenaline rush come experience the roar of the rapids on a river rafting expedition in Moab. If you are the type that likes to travel by water you will find that a raft is not only cheaper, but a lot more exciting than one of those oversized cruise ships. Whitewater rafting in Moab is a great way to see the outdoors and it will bring your friends and family closer together as you work together to tame the river.

If you are new to the sport the first thing that you must understand is that not all rapids are created equal. Rapids are formed as water moves downhill and the steeper the gradient the bigger the rapid. Since the canyons around Moab are still being carved by erosion, rafters are likely to encounter boulders and layers of hard bedrock in the middle river. Obstacles such as these create heart-stopping excitement such as vortices of swirling or funneled water, natural ramps, and sudden drops in elevation. Rapids are generally classified on a scale of 1-5. A class 1 rapid is just slightly more exciting than a calm river while a class 5 may cause your life to flash before your eyes. A guide can help you to choose an expedition with just the right level of excitement for you and your group.

The rapids can be quite challenging at times and the destinations remote, for this reason a seasoned guide can be invaluable to you. Any one of the experienced Moab outfitters will be able to provide you with the knowledge, equipment, and safety that will enable to you relax and enjoy your river rafting vacation.

River Rafting Tips:

No matter which course you choose, come prepared to paddle and get wet. The following tips will help you get prepared and know what to expect:

  • Wear the right clothing. Both the water and the air can be cold during early spring and late fall so be sure to pack a pair of wool socks and a wool sweater. Wool will pull the water away from your skin and help prevent you from losing too much body heat. A windbreaker and hat might also come in handy. The spring run-off caused by melting snow makes for very cold water, so if you plan to go during March, April, or May you should wear a wet suit. In the summertime you can don a swimming suit, shorts, t-shirt, or tank top and don’t forget to bring along lots of waterproof sunscreen.
  • Listen to your guide. Prior to your expedition your guide will give you a tutorial, be sure to pay attention. One of the most common errors that rafters make is to paddle in the wrong direction; to turn right you paddle with the left oar and vice versa.
  • Be ready for a challenge. Remember that river rafting will challenge both your body and your mental stamina. There really isn’t any need for special training at home before you take off on your expedition but be prepared to feel sore in unusual places at the end of a long day on the river. You will of course be required to wear a life jacket but it is a good idea to know how to swim just in case.
  • Inform your guide of any preexisting medical conditions that may affect your performance. Your guide needs to be aware of any heart conditions, back and neck injuries, diabetes, or epilepsy. You may not experience any problems during your expedition but it is a good idea to make your guide aware of it so that he/she can be as prepared as possible.
  • Choose the right guide. You don’t want to jump into a raft with just anybody as your guide, make sure that he/she will not only show you a good time, but bring you home safely as well. Ask him/her what the standard ratio of guests to guide is. Any more than fifteen to twenty people per guide could be problematic. Also ask what kind of training the guides have. Of course the guides are required to have certain qualifications, but you will want to make sure that they have received at least two to four weeks of training on the specific course he/she will be taking you on. Make sure that they provide you with 20-30 minutes of training before taking you out.

River Runs:

Located next to the Colorado River, Moab provides incredible opportunities for rafters who are looking for the perfect mix of exciting runs and beautiful scenery. On a river rafting trip in Moab you will float down the Colorado River as it winds though the spectacular formations of Canyonlands National Park. You can choose from a ride that is charged with excitement, or float lazily down the river as you admire your surroundings, On the other hand, you may opt for a trip that will provide you with some of each. The following are brief descriptions of some of the different river rafting trips in and around Moab:

Cataract Canyon

2-3 Days
Up to Class 5

Cataract Canyon is the so called “grave yard” of the Colorado River and contains some of the best whitewater in the country. The entire trip through the canyon covers 112 miles and contains 26 substantial rapids which range in class from 3 to 4+. The trip begins in Moab and ends at Hite Marina of Lake Powell. Most of the whitewater within Cataract Canyon is grouped together within an 18 mile stretch leaving the rest of the trip calmer and giving you the chance to enjoy all of the spectacular scenery that Canyonlands National Park has to offer. If you are visiting the area as part of a guided expedition your trip will most likely include hikes to cliff dwellings and Native American petroglyphs. A trip to Cataract Canyon is especially adventurous during spring run-off, the canyon is run from April through October.

Hittle Bottom to Take-Out Beach

½ -1 Day
Up to Class 3

Hittle Bottom to Take-Out Beach is one of the most popular sections of the river. The run contains a moderately easy whitewater section and incredible scenery. The run is easily accessible from Moab and is 13 miles long. Known as the “Colorado River Daily” this is Utah's most popular river trip and is ideal for a short adventure, a group outing, an overnight camping trip, or a first river trip.

Highway 191 to Potash

½ - 1 Day
Class 1

This is a 17 mile run that can be shortened to 10 by taking out at Gold Bar. On this trip you will float along high canyon walls and the scenery is incredible. This section of river is less popular so you’ll likely find the river to be less crowded. The shoreline through this stretch of river doesn’t provide many opportunities to de-boat so you will find that your picnicking and camping options are limited.

Potash to Confluence

2 – 3 Days
Class 1

If you are looking for an exciting way to explore the beautiful canyons around Moab, but don’t want the excitement of a class 5 rapid than this is the perfect river run for you. This stretch of river is 47 miles in length and takes you away from the highway through the canyons surrounding Dead Horse Point and then on to Canyonlands National Park. This is a longer trip so you may want to plan on camping along the river one night. The ride does contain one significant rapid about a half a mile before the confluence.

Fisher Towers

½ - 2 Days
Up to Class 3

If you are a first-timer or are coming with your family this is the perfect rafting trip for you. The water is relatively calm, containing 6 class 2 rapids and you will enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife along the river. Fisher Towers is best run from April through October.

Westwater Canyon

1 – 2 Days
Up to Class 5

This short 17 mile stretch of river contains 11 class 3 to 4+ rapids and several other less challenging rapids as well. This section of the river travels through some of the oldest exposed rock in Utah, you will see a combination of black and gold canyon walls in addition to the red rock cliffs that Moab is known for. Westwater Canyon was labeled “The West’s Best Short White Water Rafting Trip.” Westwater Canyon begins near the Utah/Colorado border about 50 miles northeast of Moab.


Whether you want to experience wild whitewater or float lazily down the river and enjoy the beautiful canyon, Moab has just the ride for you. For more information about which ride would be best for you and your friends or family contact one of Moab’s many outfitters. You can choose from single or multi-day trips and your outfitter will help you to choose the location that is best for you.

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