Learn to Row through Desolation Canyon

Learn to row on the Green River through Desolation Canyon – a perfect training ground for novice and intermediate boaters. Gain experience at the oars of one of our 18′ maravia rafts. Over 60 Class I – III rapids provide ample opportunity to learn how to read water and row downstream!  Participants should have some basic rowing experience, or have been a guest on a trip and be physically and mentally prepared to learn skills quickly. With the support of Holiday’s professional river guides, you’ll have hands-on learning opportunities in a fun and supportive environment.

In addition to learning how to maneuver a raft, Desolation Canyon is one of the most remote regions in the continental US. The history of this remote canyon is rich! The indigenous Fremont Culture called the Tavaputs Plateau home; as we traverse these canyons, you’ll have opportunities to visit cultural sites over a thousand years old. Around the turn of the 20th Century, ranchers and homesteaders settled along the river, oftentimes playing neighbors to some of our most notorious “Wild West Outlaws,” who used these isolated canyons as their hideouts. Today, Desolation Canyon is home to the Ute Indian Nation. In addition to the anthropologic history, the geology and animals will keep your head spinning! At one point, we’ll be deeper inside the canyon than we would if we were at the bottom of Grand Canyon! Keep scanning and you may see beavers, bald eagles, wild horses, and even a bear!

Our Desolation Canyon trip departs from Green River, Utah, and starts with a scenic flight over the Tavaputs Plateau – showing you a preview of the canyon you’ll be traveling through. As you look down, you’ll see groves of cottonwoods providing shade on sandy beaches. When you’re not on the water, relax under a shady grove of cottonwood trees, or take an exploratory hike up a side canyon.

What you can expect to learn:

The primary outcome will be to provide participants with the opportunity to gain rowing experience and individual feedback with the support of our guides. Additional topics you may learn include:

  • appropriate boat spacing and sequencing
  • basic boat loading strategies and considerations
  • river etiquette with other river users
  • camp set up and break down
  • commonly used knots
  • concepts around river safety such as scouting rapids, reading currents, and using a throw bag


Please note – guides will work with participants to maximize rowing skill development; participant rowing of class II+ and III rapids is up to the guides’ discretion.

Curious about what might be in store for you? Check out our Insider’s Guide to Desolation Canyon!

Got some extra time in town? Check out our favorite spots! Green River, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore

The Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) people’s traditional homeland encompasses the Green River as it flows through Desolation and Grey Canyons. The east side of Desolation and Gray Canyons is bordered by the Uintah and Ouray Reservation as the Ute People continue protecting the land and river. Holiday acknowledges and respects the long history of these traditional inhabitants. We appreciate our own long-standing relationship with the present-day tribe. Learn more about our land acknowledgments here.
Book This Trip

Trip Overview

  • Type:


  • Location:

    Desolation Canyon - Green River Wilderness

  • Length:

    6 Days

  • Dates:

    August 19-25, 2024

  • Meet at:

    Green River, Utah @ 7:00 pm (night before the trip)

  • Difficulty:

    Beginner, Intermediate

  • Min. Age:

    16 w/ adult on trip

  • Prices:

    $1,673 + $40 BLM fee

  • Deposit:



  • Learn a new skill and stay active on vacation
  • Professional guides provide tips and tricks to improve your rowing
  • Learn to read the river's currents and rapids
  • See wildlife such as bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and bears
  • Hike to see indigenous cultural sites and homesteads
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates


Your trip starts in Green River, Utah with a scenic flight into the heart of the Tavaputs Plateau, the largest roadless area in the continental United States. The Green River flows southwest for 84 miles through this same wilderness, and more than 60 Class I–III rapids provide plenty of opportunities to practice rowing. The trip ends near Swasey’s Beach, just a 20 minute drive from our Green River Headquarters.

Sample Itinerary

The day before your trip:

There are a few considerations when planning your arrival in Green River, Utah ahead of your river trip departure. If you have any bulky gear beyond our standard large and small river bags, please drop that gear and any personal beverages off at our headquarters no later than 12 PM Mountain Time the day before your departure.  The scenic flight to our remote put-in, while striking, has limitations for extra baggage. Rest assured your belongings will be safely shuttled to the put in with your river guides.

Please plan to attend the pre-trip meeting at our Green River, Utah warehouse at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time. An Holiday employee will give you your waterproof bags, a brief orientation on how to pack and prepare for the flight, and let you know what time to meet in the morning (typically 6:15 a.m.). You can also pick up any last minute items from our store at this time (look over our packing checklist to see what we carry).

Day 1:

Meet back at our warehouse bright and early for the quick drive over to the Green River airstrip. Planes from Red Tail Aviation will be waiting to fly you up the river to the remote airstrip. Your guides will meet you at the airstrip and lead you on a stunning 45-minute hike down to the river and the rafts. From there, it’s river time!

On the first day, your guides will orient you to the rafts, and we’ll set off on our trip! Guides may introduce different methods of rowing: the Galloway, Powell, and Flavell strokes. Take turns trying out rowing, and learn how to keep an eye out for sandbars! After a floating lunch and swim break, we’ll continue downstream until we see a nice sandbar or beach for camp. Learn how the guides organize unloading the boats before taking a break from the day’s hard work! Enjoy a river front dinner before settling in for a night under the stars.

Day 2:

If the orange sunlight hitting the canyon walls doesn’t wake you up first, your guides’ “HOT COFFEE!” call will signal that it’s time to wipe the sleep from your eyes and start another exciting day of learning and rowing! We’ll keep floating downstream and hit the first few rapids of the trip. We may stop and check out a scenic side canyon or petroglyph panel. Keep developing your skills, enjoy lunch by the river, and row in to one of Desolation’s famous cottonwood groves for our evening camp.

Days 3, 4, and 5:

The scenery and the rapids just get better as we go. Explore an old homestead and look for more archaeological artifacts left behind by the Fremont Culture. Learn how to identify features of a rapid while scouting, take opportunities to stretch the legs, and continue to stay well-fed and energized for the rowing to come! Camps these nights will depend on river mileage but will have nice beaches for swimming and relaxing. Spend time at camp reviewing knots, practice throwing a throw rope, and learn the nuances of setting up and breaking down camp.

Day 6:

One more day to hone your skills and soak up the magic of the river. In addition to playing in the rapids and going over items learned throughout the trip, we’ll get to explore one last cultural site before taking out at the base of Gunnison Butte at Swasey’s Beach. Our vans will be waiting to carry you and all the gear back to our Green River warehouse, a 15-minute drive. Except to arrive back at the warehouse between 3:00 and 4:00pm.


This is a sample itinerary intended to give an idea of what the trip will be like. Kayak instruction will be a top priority; campsites, hikes, and cultural sites may vary. Keep an open mind, be flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy rafting Desolation Canyon!

Please note that this is a sample itinerary. Trip itineraries vary depending on availability of campsites, weather, group desires, and other unpredictable elements. That’s why we love to say, “go with the flow!”


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