Watershed Specialty Trip in Desolation Canyon

Water is Life!

This truism has flash-flooded its way into our cultural lexicon and for good reason. Nowhere is that more apparent than here in the arid West. With dizzying layers of policy, power & politics involved, conversations around water in the West are often difficult to navigate. That is why we are taking two brilliant organizers and river lovers down the Green River through Desolation Canyonone of the most threatened sections of rivers in the Westto demystify the world of water and its role in shaping our connection to land, life, and each other. Desolation Canyon provides a breathtaking backdrop. With more than 60 rapids,  back eddies, and life-giving side canyons, it cuts a ribbon of life through the Tavaputs Plateau. Join us on this 6-day expedition to learn more about the challenges of water resource management, climate aridification, and a restorative path forward for the Colorado & Green River watersheds. Learn more about the interpreters on this watershed specialty trip below!


Colleen CooleyColleen Cooley

grew up wandering the washes, mesas, and sandstones in Shą́ą́ʼtóhí, a small community located on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. Her curious mind and innate connection to the lands and waters led her to earning a Master’s Degree in Climate Science & Solutions from Northern Arizona University in 2012. Colleen is passionate about the protection and conservation of the diverse landscapes, cultures, and waters that she is surrounded by.  It is part of who she is and where she comes from. She is an advocate and raft guide, a community organizer, a skilled facilitator, an amateur photographer, and a volunteer for Navajo YES, the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival, and Colorado River Days.


Rica-Fulton-HeadshotRica Fulton

lives in Grand Junction, Colorado and is enamored with all things water in the desert. Introduced to rafting and rivers at a young age, the love of flowing, muddy water drove her to a career in river restoration and water policy. Primarily, Rica works with a regional non-profit coordinating watershed partnerships on the Dolores and Colorado Rivers that are focused on riparian restoration. Additionally, she works with the Colorado Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance in an advocacy role; working towards an equitable and resilient water future in the Colorado River Basin.

(Rica also guest blogs for Holiday & authored a four-part series on water: a good pre-trip read for anyone looking to join this watershed specialty trip! Part 1: Prior Appropriation and Water in the West; Part 2:  The Law of the River; Part 3: Native American Water Rights; Part 4: Water Rights for Rivers)

Green River, Utah: Things to Do and Places to Explore

The Green River through Desolation Canyon flows through the traditional homeland of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) people. Today, the Uintah and Ouray Reservation borders the east side of Desolation and Gray Canyons, and the Ute people continue to protect the river. Holiday acknowledges and respects the long history of these traditional inhabitants. We appreciate our own long-standing relationship with the modern-day tribe. Learn more about our land acknowledgments here.
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Trip Overview

  • Type:


  • Location:

    Desolation Canyon - Green River Wilderness

  • Length:

    6 Days

  • Dates:

    August 8–13, 2022

  • Meet at:

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

  • Difficulty:


  • Min. Age:


  • Deposit:



  • Get a primer on critical conversations around water in the West
  • Try an inflatable kayak and play in the rapids!
  • Dine with a killer view in the middle of nowhere
  • Enjoy some of the best dark skies in the Western Hemisphere
  • Unplug and reconnect to what truly matters: love, water, & life!
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

6 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,395
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,395
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,395
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,395
Book This Trip
Check Availability
  • August
  • 8-13


This Watershed Specialty trip embarks from 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 snakes southwest for 84 miles through this beautiful wilderness. The trip ends near Swasey’s Beach, eight miles north of our Green River headquarters.

Sample Itinerary

The night before your trip:

Plan to arrive for a pre-trip meeting at our Green River, Utah, warehouse at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time. A Holiday guide will give you your waterproof bags, an 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 (please look over our packing checklist to see what we keep in stock).

Day 1:

Meet back at our warehouse bright and early for the quick ride 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 interpreters will meet you at the airstrip and lead you on an moderate, 45-minute hike down to the river and the rafts.  Now your real adventure begins! Enjoy a day of calm water getting to know the canyon, your fellow trip-mates and Colleen & Rica’s unique knowledge of the riverways you float on.  Camp nestled under an increasingly deep pair of canyon walls.

Day 2:

The morning will welcome a few more miles of calm water as we row around Peter’s Point. Lighthouse Rock, named by John Wesley Powell, clues us in to the whitewater just around the corner. Hop in an inflatable kayak to splash through our first rapids. Hike to one or more ancient Fremont cultural sites or explore a side canyon. Enjoy dinnertime talks on water issues facing the region.

Day 3:

Wander around the historic Rock Creek Ranch, where Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch slept, and try to spot granaries (ancient food-storage structures) on the canyon walls. Hold on tight (or paddle hard!) through punchy rapids like Chandler Falls. Dive deeper into the complicated history of energy & water projects built to suppourt Western expansion & their intersections with climate & water rights.

Day 4:

The morning will have you facing Cow Swim Rapid, the biggest yet!  Born of a flash flood in 2008, it marks the former location of historic cattle ford.  Desolation’s walls soar, red and rugged, into the sky, a colorful finale as we transition into Gray Canyon.  Learn about Native American water rights and the way water policy informed by colonization has led us to such a precipitous moment in the history of the watershed.

Day 5:

Today brings continued whitewater fun with Wire Fence, Three Fords, and Coal Creek rapids. Look for evidence of a planned dam site on the hike to scout Coal Creek Rapid, and poke around in the ruins of a surveyor’s cabin just downstream.  This final evening brings us to the critical conversation around what should be done about this critical issue? Rica and Colleen both bring hope in the darkness for the possibility of restoration of communities and a beloved watershed.

Day 6:

Several more rapids to go, and a few more hours to listen to the song of the canyon wren as we approach the end of the canyon. We’ll have lunch and maybe squeeze in one more cultural site before arriving at the take out at Swasey’s Beach. We will return you to Green River, Utah (20-minute van ride). Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

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 rafting Desolation Canyon!

Watershed Desolation Boat

If you’re looking to dive into the water wars and hopeful solutions before the trip, check out this four-part blog series written by Rica Fulton on water in the West:


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