Desolation Canyon River Rafting

About This Trip

The Tavaputs Plateau and Desolation Canyon are among the most remote areas of the continental United States. This area was home to the Fremont Indians for thousands of years and later became a hideout for some of America’s most notorious outlaws.  You’ll find a remarkable array of flora and fauna in this area accented by tall rainbow colored cliffs sculpted by centuries of wind and water.

Desolation Canyon is actually anything but desolate. Instead, this amazing area is teeming with Bighorn Sheep and Birds of Prey. As the Green River flows through Desolation Canyon, it is surrounded with groves of cottonwood trees and white sand beaches. These canyons abound with caves and ancient petroglyphs, and archaeologists have been visiting the area for many years uncovering it’s amazing history.

Starting at Sand Wash put-in in the center of the Tavaputs Plateau, this 84 mile white water rafting trip into Desolation Canyon takes us on the ride of a lifetime and we will encounter over 60 rapids! The whitewater builds in intensity each day and finally leads you out of the Plateau at Swasey’s take-out, just north of our Green River headquarters.

One of the advantages of a river trip is the flexibility of the daily itinerary. It can vary widely from one trip to the next based on group desires, Mother Nature, and courtesy for other groups on the river. This typical itinerary illustrates a five-day trip through Desolation and Gray canyons. In August, we lengthen the Desolation Canyon trip by one day and follow this general itinerary; an addendum below digs into the variations to expect.


Day One: 
Fly into Sand Wash put-in from Green River.  There is a 30-minute downhill hike from canyon rim to the rafts waiting at river bottom.  Plan ahead to wear appropriate shoes for the hike.  Guests who are apprehensive about the hike can be transported by vehicle to the river.  View a historical marker at head of Desolation Canyon before entering the vast canyon passing Sumner’s amphitheater with incredible natural acoustics. Camp that night near Jack Creek.

Day Two:
Hikes to Fremont cultural or an abandoned moonshiner’s cabin interspersed with sections of playful whitewater.  Encounter Steer Ridge and Surprise rapid, some of the more memorable thresholds.  Camp in a cottonwood grove or on a mile-long sandbar.

Day Three:
Enjoy a tour of abandoned Rock Creek and later McPherson Ranches, where Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch slept. End your day with the wildest rapid in the canyon, Cow Swim. Born of a recent 2008 flash flood, it marks the former location of a historic cattle ford.

Day Four:
Today brings continued whitewater fun with Wire Fence, Three Fords, and Coal Creek rapids. You will also cross over from Desolation to Gray Canyon.

Day Five:  
We will run a half dozen more exciting rapids before lunch and then take out near Swasey’s beach.  Short trip back to Green River and our headquarters.

If you are on a 6-day Desolation Canyon trip, you can expect a similar itinerary to this 5-day.  However with lower late-season river flows and an extra day to play, you can expect to see a whole new set of campsites than your 5-day counterparts. Day 1 could leave you near Gold Hole, across from a historic Powell campsite where wild horses often play; night two could find you settling in below massive cottonwoods at Cedar Ridge; Day 3 typically brings you back to a more typical camp schedule seeing similar camps to the 2nd day of a 5-day trip.  
As mentioned earlier, this is a sample itinerary and should not be thought of as the trip you will experience. It is intended to give an idea of what the trip will be like. It could also be exactly what you do. Keep an open mind, be flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy!
We meet for your trip in Green River, Utah at Holiday River Expeditions headquarters (located 1/4 mile east of the Green River Bridge, across the highway from the Motel 6 and behind the Comfort Inn). If you arrive in Green River by shuttle, bus, Amtrak or plane, call our headquarters (435-564-3273) upon your arrival to make arrangements to have you and your gear transported to our headquarters. If you are driving, your car can be left at our headquarters. Departure time can vary from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. (Mountain Time), depending on your flight. For this reason it is imperative that you attend our pre-trip orientation the night before your trip to finalize your departure time.

When you arrive in Green River the day before your trip, there will be a pre-trip orientation meeting at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time).  A Holiday representative will give you a short orientation on all aspects of river travel.  At this time we will issue your waterproof bags, answer any questions you may have, and finalize your flight departure time for the trip. If you plan on buying any last minute items from our accessory’s store, please plan to do so at this time see our packing check list for a list of items you can find at our store).  Special Note:  Due to the limited space and weight on the aircraft.  If you have any specialty sodas, beer, wine or other extra heavy items, please bring items to our headquarters by 2:00 p.m. the day prior to your trip (see beverages).

Beginning of the trip: On the morning of your trip, plan to arrive promptly at the pre-determined time established at the pre-trip orientation meeting. We will then take you to the local airstrip. Our pre-scheduled flight will be waiting to take you to the embarkation point (30 minutes). The flight is on a small single engine type aircraft.

After the trip: We will return you to Green River, Utah (30 minute van ride). Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Medical emergencies: Our guides are trained in first aid and carry first aid supplies only. REMEMBER to bring your own prescription medicines. ALERT our guides to any medical problem you might have such as diabetes or allergic reactions. Wilderness expeditions are a long way from hospitals, doctors, and pain-relieving medicines. Evacuations to modern medical care are uncertain, and protracted. In case of evacuation and/or medical treatment beyond first aid, expenses incurred are the responsibility of the participant.

Cancellation Policy: If cancellations are made prior to 90 days before the trip, monies will be refunded less a $50.00 service charge per person. If cancellations are made within 90 days and outside of 45 days of the trip date monies will be refunded less a $100.00 service charge per person. Cancellations made within 45 days of the trip date are non refundable. Prior to 45 days to the trip date we will transfer reservations to another trip in the same year with a $25.00 service charge per person. All policies will be enforced and we strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance. Cancellation of a trip is very unlikely, but we reserve the right to cancel any trip due to river or weather conditions or the lack of sufficient reservations. A full refund will be made if such is the case.

Insurance: Medical Evacuation and cancellation insurance on a vacation plan can be obtained from numerous insurance companies. You should be aware that medical evacuations in the backcountry can easily cost $10,000 and up.  You are responsible for these potential expenses and we strongly encourage all guests to have this coverage. We offer plans by TRAVEL GUARD that cover evacuation, baggage and cancellation claims. It is available to American and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of another country as long as you have a U.S. address. For a quote or questions give us a call or include Your Names, Birth Dates in an Email and we will send a quote.  Also, if you are bringing expensive cameras, binoculars, or other items we suggest you have insurance coverage for them (commonly available through Homeowners Policies). In the event of a loss, our insurance will not cover those items.

Tipping the guides: If you feel the guides have been instrumental in your enjoyment of the trip, you may choose to direct a gratuity to the trip leader in the form of cash or check.  He/She will then distribute it evenly to the other crewmembers.  The average contribution amount ranges between $20.00 and $30.00 per guest, per day. Cash is the preferred method of tipping.

Beverages: We provide ice water, lemonade, one soda per day per person and ample cooler space. If you choose to bring any specialty sodas and/or alcoholic beverages, we have no problem taking whatever you want to bring – within reason. However, because of the limited space on the charter flight we must control the amount of extra beverages you carry with you on the plane. If you intend to bring 1 case or less, then please bring the beverages with you the morning of the trip and carry it onto the plane. For quantities greater than this we request that you contact our office three weeks prior to your trip to make arrangements in getting your beverages to the river. Don’t bring beer, wine coolers or sodas in glass containers. Wine packaged in a box is ideal. Mark beverages that you bring so they are packed on your boat. The liquor store in Green River, Utah is located in the back of the West Winds restaurant. In Utah, wine or liquor is not sold after 7:00 p.m., before 11:00 a.m., or on Sundays and holidays.

If you have any questions prior to leaving for your trip, we welcome you to call our Salt Lake City office, Monday through Friday at 800-624-6323 (outside Utah) or 801-266-2087 (inside Utah). We’re happy to take the time to answer your questions. You may also contact us by email at [email protected]

IN THE EVENT OF EMERGENCY CIRCUMSTANCES THE NIGHT BEFORE THE TRIP, OUR GREEN RIVER HEADQUARTERS NUMBER IS 435-564-3273

Desolation weather:  In May and early June temperatures average 70 to 80 degrees during the day and 50 to 60 degrees at night.  In late June through August the daytime temperatures are 80 to 100 degrees, with nighttime temperatures 60 to 70 degrees.  Light rain showers occasionally occur in this area, and it can cool temperatures considerably.  With this in mind we recommend you have a poncho or rain suit, long underwear, fleece, and a light tent.  If you reserved a rental kit with us when you booked your river trip, we will have a tent and rain gear for you.  There will also be an abundance of sun, so bring a hat and plenty of suntan lotion and/or sunscreens. *Please avoid spray on sun-screen for the health and safety of your guide and fellow-guests.

Bugs, snakes, etc. are generally no problem.  In fact, the lack of pesky insects is one of the reasons wilderness camping on the river is so pleasant.  Any river trip, however, is subject to an occasional localized insect hatch.  During these hatches (most common in June to mid-July) mosquitoes can be bothersome.  Be sure to bring long sleeve clothing and a generous supply of repellent.  Insect repellents that contain “deet” are by far the most effective during heavy hatches.  Citronella-based products work only in light hatches.  We rarely see any snakes, but if the thought of them bothers you, try sleeping on the beaches or in a tent instead of rocky or bushy areas.

Hiking is a highlight of the trip, however, it is strictly an optional activity. There are many interesting short hikes available. Hiking can be done in durable sneakers or lightweight hiking boots. Remember that hiking and other activities vary widely pending time, and what other plans are ahead for the day on the river.

The best place to eat in Green River is Ray’s Tavern. Ray’s is a true small western town bar rich in atmosphere and good food. They serve incredible hamburgers, pork chops, small salads and steaks. The Tamarisk Restaurant offers family dining with riverside seating.

Things to see in the area: John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, Utah. Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Fisher Towers, Colorado National Monument, Goblin Valley State Park, San Rafael Swell, Capitol Reef National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, and the La Sal and Henry Mountains.

Reading material, you may enjoy:

Exploration of the Colorado River – Powell…………………………………………. $12.95
Desolation River Guide – Belknap (waterproof)…………………………………… $19.95
Life in Stone – Christa Sadler……………………………………………………………. $11.95
The Educated Outlaw Harvey – Lay Murdock (Grandson)…………………….. $10.95
The River Knows Everything  –  Aton/Miller………………………………………… $34.95
Desolation and Gray Canyons-  Felix E. Mutschler………………………………. $10.95

These books can be ordered online at www.bikeraft.com, or by sending the appropriate amount listed above plus $5.60 priority shipping to Holiday River Expeditions, 544 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84107. This is available within the U.S. only. If outside the U.S. additional shipping and handling charges will be added. You can call 801-266-2087 for rates. These books can also be purchased at our headquarters in Green River.

 

If you are flying, you can fly to Salt Lake City located 180 miles northwest of Green River, Utah.  From there you can rent a car or take a shuttle with Moab Luxury Coach (call 435-940-4212 or www.moabluxurycoach.com) to Green River.  If you need assistance with your travel arrangements, please ask your Holiday River Expedition reservation agent.

Lodging before and after your trip can be booked at one of six locations:

  • River Terrace Inn  435‑564‑3401 (locally owned, pool, hot tub, full breakfast, riverside rooms available) *10% discount
  • Comfort Inn  435‑564‑3300 (inside pool, hot tub, continental breakfast – in front of our headquarters) *10% discount
  • Holiday Inn Express  435-564-4439 (inside pool, hot tub, continental breakfast – west of our headquarters)
  • Super 8  435-564-8888 (inside pool, hot tub, refrigerator, microwave)
  • Motel 6  435‑564‑3436 (pool, kids free, lower rates)
  • Sleepy Hollow  435-564-8189 (clean with lower rates)

*When making advance reservations at the River Terrace Inn or Comfort Inn, mention that you are on a Holiday River Expedition trip and you will be extended a discounted rate on your room (see above). You will need a trip invoice at check-in.

BE SURE TO MAKE ADVANCE RESERVATIONS!

If you are camping out, there are two campgrounds in Green River:  the Green River State Park (no pool, lower rates and may have mosquitoes – call 435-564-3633 to make reservations), and the KOA Campground (435-564-8195 – across from our headquarters).

Air Service to Salt Lake City (SLC) 

Transportation Options from Salt Lake City to Green River, Vernal or Blanding, Utah:

Rental Cars

Once in Salt Lake City most of our guests rent-a-car and drive to our meeting points.

All rental cars are located in both terminals of the Salt Lake City Airport.

  • Salt Lake City to Green River 180 miles
  • Salt Lake City to Blanding 300 miles
  • Salt Lake City to Vernal 180 miles

Bus
To Green River Only 
(Bus has limited schedule and is not as convenient as rental cars) 

Shuttle Service to Green River or Blanding, Utah from Salt Lake City or Moab (Vernal is on a Charter basis only)

Trip Overview

Location: Green River Wilderness
Type: Rafting
Length: 5 and 6 Days
Dates: May – August
Meet At: Green River, UT 6:00 AM
Rating: Beginner
Age Min: 5
Deposit: $300

Trip Prices

5-Day
Adult – $1,150
Youth – $950 (18 & under)
Senior – $1,055 (65 & up)
Group – $1,055 (10 or more)

6-Day
Adult – $1,225
Youth – $1,025 (18 & under)
Senior – $1,130 (65 & up)
Group – $1,130 (10 or more)

*Plus $25 BLM fee per person

Departure Dates

2018 Trip Schedule

5 Day Trip Dates

May 7, 14, 21, 28
June 4, 11, 18, 25
July 2, 9, 16

6 Day Trip Dates

July 23, 30
August 6

Check Availability

What’s Included

Life Jacket
Large Waterproof Bag
Day Bag
Camp Chair
Eating Utencils & Plates
Full Course Meals: Lunch the first day through
lunch the last day
Drinks: Ice Water, Lemonade, Juices, One pop/person/day-mix of regular & diet

The day bag 8″ diameter x 20″ high is for items you will need access to during the day. For your sleeping gear and clothing, we will furnish you with one bag 16″ diameter x 2 feet high. When properly sealed, bags are usually waterproof. Once in a while, one could develop a leak, so we always recommend packing important items in ziplock bags and leaving expensive electronics at home. Separate storage is provided for tents and beverages. Please remember to keep your gear light and compact. The less you bring, the happier you will be. Please limit gear to no more than 15-20 lbs.

What’s NOT Included

Cup
Plastic mugs work well
Water Bottle
Not included in the rental kit
Sleeping Bag
Compact and warm
Poncho/Rain Suit
high quality important for Dinosaur & Desolation trips.
Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress
Compact, must fit in the provided bag
Light Tent:
Back packer style, not the bulky, heavy types

You can rent most of the items listed above in our sleeping rental kit. We offer two varieties, our basic sleeping kit which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain gear and cup for $40.00, or the same basic sleeping kit with a two-person tent for $65.00. Rentals must be reserved in advance, especially on the San Juan trips where we meet away from our headquarters. Rentals requested the morning of the trip are subject to availability. Cups and water bottles available for purchase at our stores in Green River and Vernal Headquarters, or online.

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by Janet Sargent on Blank Product Name

This trip exceeded all of my expectations. The guides, equipment, food and overall experiences were more than I dreamed of. I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. I can't wait to join the Holiday family again.

by Chet Morris on Blank Product Name

Guides and all staff at the warehouse were friendly and helpful. The guides had very positive dispositions and took all challenges in stride. I don't know who was in charge of the weather but they too should be commended. The food was excellent throughout the trip. The baked goods were fabulous as well.

by Ron Moss on Blank Product Name

Desolation canyon is a beautiful trip and the experience was most worthwhile. I really enjoyed all aspects of the trip and plan to do so again.

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