Cataract Canyon Riverkeeper Trip with John Weisheit

Cataract Canyon is the king of Utah river trips. But dynamic geology, massive canyon walls, and big whitewater are only part of the story. This year, we’re excited to invite you to join us on our special Cataract Canyon naturalist trip with John Weisheit, the man who (literally) wrote the book on Cataract.

A Lifetime Studying the Colorado River

John began his career as a river guide and gradually evolved into a passionate advocate, dedicated student, and tireless steward. He founded Living Rivers, a Moab-based non-profit that promotes river restoration. He’s also the official Riverkeeper for the Colorado River. There’s no one better to answer questions—any questions—about Cataract Canyon. If John doesn’t know the answer, you can bet he’s in the process of trying to figure it out!

Paddle a stand-up paddleboard through the calm water, and learn why the approach to Cataract Canyon is so mellow. Hang on tight through the Big Drops (the biggest rapids of the trip), and learn why they’re so big. Look for flood deposits high (really high) along the river banks, and learn about Pleistocene flooding events. Every lunch is an opportunity for an informal seminar. Discover a new way to see the landscape on every hike. Become immersed in your surroundings.

Not only has John written the book, he’s probably read every book about western rivers that there is. John learns by doing, gets into the fieldwork, consults with the experts, and learns from his mistakes; this humility has made him an understated expert of all things river-related. What are the mistakes that scientists, lawyers, and politicians have made concerning the management of the Colorado River? The answers will enthrall you and are the reason why you should join us on our Cataract Canyon naturalist trip. Listen to John tell his story of great floods, ancient canyons, and dedicated titans who have fought (and still fight) to save these magical places.

Learn more about John in his recent interview with Holiday! 

And read about why Cataract is king in our Insider’s Guide.

Book This Trip

Trip Overview

  • Type:


  • Location:

    Canyonlands National Park

  • Length:

    5 Days

  • Dates:

    July 5–9, 2021

  • Meet at:

    Green River, Utah @ 8:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:

    Intermediate, Advanced

  • Min. Age:


  • Deposit:



  • A 5-day riverside seminar with the Colorado Riverkeeper and Cataract Canyon expert
  • Motorless, oar-powered rafts
  • Inflatable kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on flat water sections
  • Dramatic Colorado Plateau geology
  • Float through hard-to-reach corners of Canyonlands National Park
  • Perfect balance of calm water and rapids
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

5 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,250
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,250
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,250
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,250
Book This Trip
Check Availability
  • July 5-9


Approach the remote depths of Cataract Canyon via the Colorado River. Launch just south of Moab, Utah, and float 47 miles to the confluence with the Green River in the center of Canyonlands National Park. The geology changes dramatically as we descend into Cataract itself, through more than 30 rapids. The trip ends in the northernmost reach of Lake Powell. Our take out is at North Wash, just downstream of the mouth of the Dirty Devil River.

Sample Itinerary

The night before your trip:

Please meet at our Green River, Utah, warehouse for an 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time pre-trip meeting. You’ll meet your guides, receive your waterproof bags and instructions on how best to pack them, and have time to purchase last minute items from our store (look over our packing checklist for a list of such items). Please consider dropping off any personal beverages (specialty sodas, beer, wine, etc.) at this time so that we can pack them into our coolers.

Day 1:

We’ll meet you back at our Green River headquarters the next morning at the time determined during the pre-trip meeting. It’s a 90-minute ride to the put-in, first east along the base of the Book Cliffs, then south toward Moab. Hop in an inflatable kayak or onto a stand-up paddle board for some exercise, or settle in on a raft. We’ll lunch on a sandbar and maybe take a short hike to an exposed petrified wood boneyard. Look up high to wave to visitors at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Day 2:

Morning sun makes the walls glow like red gold. Listen for the descending song of the canyon wren, or paddle your stand-up paddle board along the shore in search of otters and great blue herons. The Colorado meanders peacefully in this section. Swim alongside the rafts or lounge under an umbrella; the afternoon may provide the opportunity to hike to thousand-year-old rock structures built by the Fremont Culture. Learn to spot granaries (ancient food storage structures) on the cliff walls as we continue downstream.

Day 3:

Today we’ll reach the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers, believed by some cultures to be the center of the universe. Swim through the line where the two rivers meet and buckle up your personal flotation device! Rapids are just a few miles ahead. Just below the confluence, enjoy a view of the Doll House, a collection of freestanding, sandstone columns: one of the remotest regions of the Maze District of Canyonlands.

Day 4:

Conditions permitting, ambitious hikers may start the day with a hike into the Doll House. Ascend steeply to the canyon rim in the Maze District to explore the red and white red rock formations and prehistoric artifacts. Below, the rapids of Cataract Canyon await. We’ll stop and scout a few of the big ones, giving plenty of time for the suspense to build. Hold on for the the Big Drops: Little Niagara and Satan’s Gut!

Day 5:

After a few last rapids, the water calms again, and the canyon walls rise, smooth and majestic. We’re now officially in Lake Powell, although depending on the reservoir level, it may still feel like a river for a long distance. When the reservoir is high, we’ll get an assist from our “Seldom Seen” motorboat. We’ll float under the Hite Narrows Bridge and pull over just beyond the mouth of the Dirty Devil River. A two-hour drive brings us back to Green River. Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Wilderness river trips are changeable by nature. Please understand that this is only a sample itinerary, intended to give an idea of how your time will be spent on the river. You may have the opportunity to do all of the above activities, or you may have a variety of other memorable and exciting experiences. Holiday’s motto is “Go With the Flow”, and we encourage you to arrive with an open mind, a flexible attitude, and an appetite for adventure!

Please keep in mind that this is a sample itinerary. Cataract trips can vary depending on weather, the interests of your group, campsite availability, and river flows. It’s best to arrive with an open mind and a willingness to go with the flow!


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