by Julie Trevelyan
Oars slip quietly into the water and pull, stroking and skimming and powering their craft through. Cheerful laughter echoes against the canyon walls, as does the harsh, inquisitive caw of a raven flying overhead. It is so quiet you can hear the flap of sleek ebony wings as the raven disappears behind cliffs colored deep copper, light cream, almost scarlet in places. The slide of the river over the tumbled rocks and through the rock chasms barely whispers now, later churns out with an imperious roar. For days on end, this is your wilderness landscape, undisturbed by mechanical sounds. This is Cataract Canyon river rafting with Holiday River Expeditions, where your mode of transport is human-operated oar boats.
One of the few river rafting companies that still concentrates on non-motorized trips, Holiday prides itself on the 1:4 guide to guest ratio and the peaceful serenity of these rafting vacations. You’re in nature, and you know it. Holiday guides gravitate toward this solid old-school aspect of the company, and their deep appreciation of and respect for the canyon translates well to our guests. They wield the oars with precision and grace—then teach guests how to do it too.
As the Colorado River twists its way through Canyonlands National Park to meet up with the Green River, it plunges into the famed chaos and drama of Cataract Canyon. As we say so eloquently in our trip description, “the roar of the cataracts will lull you to sleep and dance in your dreams.” Experiencing this granddaddy of whitewater rapids is a cherished once-in-a-lifetime goal for many of our guests, which is why our guides treat each trip as if it’s very special—because it is.
Besides the soothing natural rhythms created by an oar boat trip, other aspects appeal too. There is more time to explore the winding trails that snake up to the Utah slickrock canyon rims and shoot you out to sheer, breathtaking vista points. The Land of Standing Rocks and the Doll’s House are stunning trail possibilities. We almost guarantee they’ll put an amazed smile on your face as you explore the remote center of Canyonlands by foot, led by our trusty guides who know the trails as well as they know the river. The best part is knowing you’ll return to camp for a delicious dinner, fun company, and another day on the water tomorrow.
Our signature 5-6 day Cataract Canyon oar boat trips remain very popular with guests and guides alike. We invite you to join us on one and discover the magic, merriment, and relaxed pace of experiencing the Colorado River minus the distractions of our noisy modern world.
Of course, if you’re short on time, we do offer our 3-Day Cataract Canyon rafting trip, which zips you down the upper section by jet boat so you can devote the next two days to the thumping heart of the whitewater rapids by oar boat. But no matter which way you decide to explore Cataract Canyon, you’ll discover why it’s one of the great pinnacles of white water rafting.
Written by Julie Trevelyan.
Julie is a freelance writer and wilderness guide in southern Utah. She especially enjoys books, coffee, yoga, wild country, horses, and dark chocolate.
See more of her work at www.wildgirlwriting.com