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River Sports – Moab

River Sports – Moab

Is floating down the Colorado River on your must-do list? The adventure of whitewater and the rare beauty of desert canyons make the trip both exciting and spectacular.

As the only major Utah city located on the banks of the Colorado River, Moab specializes in river play. The Colorado is a majestic river with incomparable desert scenery.

The river offers rapids for the adrenaline junkie or a scenic float for those who wish to enjoy the tranquil beauty surrounding the river.

Respect the River

Even when the water looks calm, there is a strong undertow in the Colorado River. Beware. Never dive into the river, or any river, without checking what is below the surface. Rocks and other debris can pull you under. Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device), and stay alert, even when swimming!

What to Take

Playing on the river means you will inevitably get wet. Wear lightweight synthetic fibers that cover a wide temperature range and dry quickly. Wear footwear that will stay on and is designed for the river, such as Chacos or Tevas. Tennis shoes will do, but avoid flip flops that will likely be lost in the current.

Wear a snug-fitting hat with a wide brim, sunglasses with a strap, waterproof SPF 30+ sunscreen, and SPF lip balm.

Try wearing clothing made of UPF (ultraviolet protection fabric). Items available include short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, pants, and hats that incorporate up to UPF 50 factor protection. Wearing these fabrics drastically reduces the need to pile on sunscreen. The fabric is great around water as well.

Leave rings and other jewelry behind to avoid blisters or loss. Keep car keys, wallet, and other valuables in a zippered pocket, dry bag (or better yet, don’t take them on the river at all). Don’t forget a bandana, swimsuit, towel, sunglasses, and waterproof camera. Have a set of dry clothes in the car.

Always have a reusable water bottle, and start with it full. Outfitters often bring coolers of water for refills. Avoid bringing bottled water. Your empty plastic bottle is added trash in the boat. Everything should be attached to you or the raft in case you fall out or the boat turns over.

Outfitters are required to provide safety equipment such as flotation devices and first-aid kits, and some also supply waterproof bags for storing equipment, and watertight boxes for cameras, food, and non-alcoholic beverages. Check with the outfitter for specific information since requirements vary by trip and season.

Reasons To Go Rafting

River Regulations and Ethics

River Rafting

The most popular place to play on the Colorado River in Moab is “The Daily” (some may refer to this as a Fisher Towers trip). This section is east of Moab and an excellent rafting trip for first-timers and families.

This 13-mile stretch features seven rapids mixed with calm-water sections and follows Utah Scenic Byway 128 as it floats past iconic Fisher Towers and Castle Valley. Half- or full-day trips are offered. For the best value, go on an all-day trip as lunch is provided.

If you are looking for more of a thrill, try Westwater Canyon. Named “The West’s Best Short Whitewater Trip” by National Geographic, it is a 17-mile river stretch that contains 11 Class III to IV rapids, plus numerous less-challenging rapids.

Westwater begins near the Colorado/Utah border and runs through deep canyons surrounded by towering walls of black, gold, and red.

This is an exclusive day trip—only 25 people go on a trip, and usually only three companies can launch per day. This is because the BLM manages this stretch of river as a “wilderness study area” in order to protect the resources within it. Another great thing about Westwater is that rafters are very likely to see some birds, including great blue herons, bald eagles, and other raptors. There are also occasional river otter sightings. It’s as popular as it is exclusive, so book early. This trip is well worth it.

Cataract Canyon is considered to be among the best whitewater rafting in the country and is at the top of all river runners’ lists.

“Cat” is offered as a day trip or multi-day trip by NAVTEC, with their Zodiac-style boat. This is a big water experience. 435-259-7983,

Multi-day Trips

If you want to really experience the pace of the river, consider a multi-day trip. You will need to do a bit of planning and make advanced reservations. Multi-day trips are offered on rafts, sea kayaks, or stand up paddle boards.

Trips out of this area include the calmer Labyrinth/Stillwater Canyons on the Green River, Westwater Canyon, 112 miles through Cataract Canyon, or on the San Juan River near Bluff.

Contact our outfitters to see the various trips that they offer.

Canoeing & Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaking on the calmer parts of the Colorado River is a beautiful way to see the sights. Novices and experienced paddlers alike can paddle in solo or tandem sea kayaks.

Most guided day trips are on the section of “The Daily” to the Moab bridge where the water is calm. During high water, trips also go from the Moab bridge to Gold Bar.

If you want to venture out on your own, rental boats are available. South of Moab, Meander Canyon is calm, beautiful, and a perfect place to go. Paddle down to Gold Bar (10 miles downriver from the Moab bridge) or to the Potash boat ramp (about 11 miles from Moab). This is the last boat ramp, so don’t paddle beyond here unless you have arranged a jet boat shuttle to pick you up.

Paddle Moab will pick you up at the Potash boat ramp. 435-210-4665,

Due to the current in the Colorado River, if you are canoeing, it is best to have experience.

NAVTEC offers kayak rentals and will know the water levels and conditions.

Powerboat Tours

If motoring along is more your speed, then a powerboat trip is for you. Some trips are fast and adrenaline pumping while others show you calmer parts of the river. And the best part? The boat does all the work!

Moab Jett offers Adventure (wet), Scenic (dry), and Custom Tours in Moab’s only New Zealand Style Jet Boat. The boats are open air with stadium seating holding up to 10 passengers, so every seat is exceptional. All tours are scenic, informative, and fun for the whole family.

Scenic tours depart morning and evening for optimal lighting on the canyon walls. Relax as you travel through a maze of canyons. This tour is great for photography. The three-hour tour includes a short walk through a petrified forest.

The most popular tour is the signature two-hour Adventure Tour. In this wet and wild ride your adrenaline will flow with moves like the “Hamilton Spin,” sliding turns, and rapids.

Then they slow it down to float, take in the beauty, and learn about the area. Splash jackets and beverages are provided.

For larger parties, they have three boats for a holding capacity of up to 30 people at a time. Look for their little blue boats. 435-259-5538,

NAVTEC Expeditions offers a half-day tour to explore the beauty and geology beneath the 2,000ft canyon walls. Traveling in a rigid hull inflatable boat, the guides will stop for you to see Native American rock imagery and cruise around the Goose Neck of the Colorado River. 435-259-7983,

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is the fastest-growing water sport in the world. People everywhere are taking to lakes, rivers, and the ocean on paddle boards. This sport is easy to fall in love with and offers a great way to stay fit, get wet, and have fun.

The paddle boards used by most outfitters in Moab are fairly big and wide for more surface area which makes them more stable and easier to balance upon. Some boards are large enough to accommodate an adult with a small child.

Paddle boarding is a sport the entire family can enjoy. With the right instruction, you can paddle board down the Colorado River your first day.

If the river is too intimidating, then Ken’s Lake, south of town, is a perfect place to go for a paddle. Wherever you go, always, always wear a PFD (personal floatation device)!

For a fun stand up day, Moab Adventure Center has guided trips. 435-259-7019,

Paddle Moab offers guided trips on the Colorado River. Choose from flatwater, slightly splashy, or rapids.

They also offer rentals and shuttles. 435-210-4665,

Wild West Voyages offers guided stand up paddle or kayaking instructional tours on the Colorado River or at Ken’s Lake. For a self-guided experience, Wild West Voyages rents paddle boards and offers a river shuttle if you need one. A special “Friendly Float” package deal includes a kayak or paddle board rental (including all the gear) and a ride to the Colorado River. 435-238-4257,

Who Can Float Your Boat

Please check with each company for all of their trip options.

Moab Adventure Center’s choices are half- or full-day rafting on the Colorado River, two- or four-day raft/camp adventures in Cataract Canyon, multi-day trips down Desolation/Grays Canyons, or paddle board tours on mellow water.

They stop at Red Cliffs Lodge if your tour includes lunch. 435-259-7019,

NAVTEC Expeditions will take you on a one- or multi-day Cataract Canyon trip or a float on “The Daily” section of the Colorado.

They also offer Westwater trips and tours down Meander Canyon. They rent oar and paddle rafts, kayaks, and gear. 435-259-7983,

Paddle Moab offers guided stand up paddle boarding trips, paddle boat whitewater trips, inflatable kayak trips, and multi-day trips. They also offer SUP, kayak, and raft rentals. 435-210-4665,

Sheri Griffith River Expeditions offers a variety of trips on the Colorado, Green, and Yampa Rivers for solo travelers, groups, or family trips. 435-259-8229,

Wild West Voyages offers guided raft, kayak, and stand up paddle board trips on the Colorado River.  Make new friends on a Shared Group Tour, or charter a Private Trip for just you and your traveling companions. Half-day, full-day, or overnight trips are available on this favorite, family-friendly “Moab Daily” section with mild-to-moderate whitewater, depending on seasonal flows. They also rent paddle boards, inflatable kayaks, and paddle rafts. 435-238-4257,

Shuttle Service

NAVTEC offers shuttle service to most put-ins. 435-259-7983,

Paddle Moab offers shuttles for “The Daily,” Cataract Canyon, or Labyrinth Canyon. They will also pick you up at the Potash boat ramp if you want to float Meander Canyon. 435-210-4665,

Wild West Voyages offers shuttles when renting gear from them. 435-238-4257,

Taking a multi-day hiking, biking or river trip? Redtail Air can fly you to your remote starting point, and meet you at the end of your adventure and fly you back to Moab or on to your next destination. River shuttles are offered to various river destinations including Sand Wash, Mineral Bottom, and Hite. 435-259-7421,

The San Juan River

Originating in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, the San Juan River is a major tributary of the Colorado River, providing the chief drainage for the Four Corners region. The river flows 383 miles through northwest New Mexico and southeast Utah before joining the Colorado River at Glen Canyon.

The river carved its way through ancient sandstone, creating spectacular red-rock canyons rich in scenery, archaeology, history, remarkable geographic features, and desert wildlife. Sandstone and limestone walls frame the narrow canyon as the river snakes through the countless goosenecks for which it is famous.

Scores of ancestral sites and petroglyphs line the canyon walls. The archeological record along the San Juan River between Bluff and Mexican Hat is unsurpassed. These places are delicate and require careful visitation.

Take a Float

The best way to really see the vast amount of history and geology of this area is to float down this river. The rapids are smaller than what the Colorado River can throw at you, and there are more archeological sites such as petroglyph panels, dwellings, and Moki steps. This is a great trip for families with children. Seasoned rafters will also enjoy the fun nature of this river.

Trips can vary, depending on how much time you have to float. Trips start at Sand Island or Mexican Hat. The river flows through the famous Goosenecks, 56 miles to the Clay Hills boat ramp.

To float the San Juan, you must either obtain a permit for a self-guided trip, (visit or go on a guided trip with a local outfitter.

Day Trip

If you want to float just a bit of the river, there is a seven-mile stretch of river off Foot Bridge Road to Sand Island which is perfect for a day trip. This is not a maintained put-in and best for kayaks or paddle boards.

You need a permit (free and not part of the lottery). Call the San Juan River Office, 435-587-1544.

Rent from Wild Expeditions. They can also provide the shuttle to the put-in. 435-280-2557,

Go With the Pros

Ancient Wayves River and Hiking Adventures is a Navajo owned company that offers single- or multi-day trips on the San Juan River. The guides are local with ancestral roots connected to this river. 505-239-8505,

Wild Expeditions offers fully-outfitted one- to five-day trips with knowledgeable guides that will teach you about Ancestral Puebloan culture and the history of the river.

They also have kayak tours and rentals as well as paddle board rentals. 435-280-2557,


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