Endless discovery and diverse landscapes engage the entire family’s outdoor experience.

Families looking for a vacation full of outdoor diversity, intrigue, activities and just plain fun should look to eastern Utah’s Tavaputs Plateau where they can begin a seven or four-day ranch and raft combination adventure with Holiday Expeditions.

Tavaputs Ranch, a century-old working cattle ranch, welcomes guests to its tranquil alpine setting at 10,000 feet. The whole experience invokes a true sense of how the West was won … through hard work and a love of the land. Here parents and children can enjoy unlimited Western activities, from horseback riding to four-wheeling, together. Day hikes and opportunities to learn ranch folklore (Butch Cassidy made horse trades here) let each guest, young or old, take a step back in time and enjoy the pace of a calmer era.

“I grew up on this ranch, watching my dad and grandfather working cattle and making a good life for our family,” explains ranch owner and hostess Jeanie Wilcox Jensen. “Now, my husband Butch and I enjoy having families from every walk of life come to Tavaputs to experience the place we have been so lucky to be surrounded by our whole lives.”

These first few days of the trip provide a glimpse at true Western family living. Walking out on to the porch of the private cabins, guests wake to sunrises glistening on the horses’ backs and fresh cowboy coffee. After a few days of restful ranch living, a private airplane swoops guests down more than 7,000 feet from the alpine plateau to the desert canyon beaches where their next mount is waiting at the “hitching post”- a Holiday oar-powered raft.

A Canyon of Choice

On the seven-day Desolation Canyon trip, families, with children ages five and up, float the Green River for five days. This gorge, deeper than the Grand Canyon and full of ancient history, affords families the freedom to learn and share together. For the shorter ranch/raft trip, guests (including children eight years and older) jump on the rafts on the Colorado River just above Westwater Canyon. This grand river of the West takes guests through millennia of geologic history and ancient civilizations in just two days.

Through either canyon, Holiday guides help everyone understand the magnificent stories embedded in the rock history of the canyon walls. True stories of the canyon hideouts used by Butch Cassidy and other Wild West outlaws are also told, while river-side hikes reveal petroglyphs that tell their own stories of ancient Indian civilizations. In between playful rapids, inflatable kayaks let guests, young and old, experience the river independently, on a more personal level.

After a big day on the river, guests are treated to freshly cooked, delicious meals. The “Kid Kit” – a magical box that continuously turns out beach volleyball, horse shoes and other family games provides before-dinner entertainment for everyone.

Family Values

Perhaps because Holiday River Expeditions is a family-run business with more than 43 years of experience, they have a better idea of what makes for a great family getaway. Dee and Sue Holladay, Holiday’s founders, brought their four daughters up on the river and now they make sure every family has a wonderful wilderness experience together. Up at the ranch, Jeanie and Butch welcome everyone into their western family heritage. “This trip is the essence of Holiday’s beginnings,” explains Holiday partner John Wood. “We have designed our trips so that families, couples and individuals come together. The different experiences and settings give people plenty of opportunities to share.”

At once simple and complex, the desert canyons and alpine ranch let families come together and explore new ideas, activities and sides of each other for the first time. No matter which phase of the combination trip, the variety of activities and striking scenery keeps young eager minds engaged in an ever-changing experience.

“We came on the ranch/raft trip with our teenage son and younger daughter,” says Vicki Gaylord, a mother who brought her family on Holiday’s ranch/raft trip. “It was really a perfect combination of activity and locations. Even though our kids have different interests, we were able to enjoy horseback riding, swimming and rafting together, as a family. We had fun together, and found activities that we enjoyed individually.”

Holiday River Expeditions can be reached at 801-266-2087 inside Utah, or toll-free from outside Utah at 1-800-624-6323, or check out Holiday’s web site at www.HolidayExpeditions.com for a complete trip listing.