Desolation Canyon Rafting Trips

Desolation Canyon Rafting trips on the Green River offers an unforgettable family trip. Experience a thrilling adventure through one of the most remote parts of the continental United States: The Tavaputs Plateau. This region was home to the indigenous Fremont Culture more than a thousand years ago, and is still home to the Ute Indian Tribe. Later, homesteaders and ranchers made a life along the river, and some of America’s most notorious outlaws used its rugged depths as a hideout. You’ll find a remarkable array of history as well as wildlife among the tall, rainbow-colored cliffs sculpted by millennia of wind and water. 

This trip begins with a scenic flight over the Tavaputs Plateau and the river canyon, giving you a bird’s eye view of the region that explorer John Wesley Powell called “a region of wildest desolation”. As the Green River flows through Desolation Canyon, it is peppered with groves of cottonwood trees and white, sandy beaches. Countless side canyons create endless hiking opportunities, and there are over 60 rapids to test your inflatable kayaking skills and keep you cool. Fun, fascinating, and wild, Desolation Canyon is truly one of Utah’s best-kept secrets.

Featured Review:

The guides were all excellent. They worked from sun up till sun down. The food was much better than I expected! The hikes were educational and a good change of pace as well as a form of exercise. The flight to the starting point was breathtaking. We are fortunate as a family to have traveled to Europe, Mexico, and Hawaii and this was certainly one of our best and most fun family vacations! Enjoying nature in the company of family and friends is hard to beat! Thank you for an experience we will never forget! (Marty Allison)

Read more: Insider’s Guide to Rafting the Green River through Desolation Canyon

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 acknowledgements here.
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Trip Overview

  • Type:

    Rafting

  • Location:

    Desolation Canyon - Green River Wilderness

  • Length:

    5 and 6 Days

  • Dates:

    May–August

  • Meet at:

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

  • Difficulty:

    Beginner

  • Min. Age:

    5

  • Deposit:

    300

Highlights

  • Scenic flight over the river corridor to remote wilderness put-in
  • Pristine beaches with shady cottonwood trees
  • Consistent and lively Class I–III rapids
  • The best trip for inflatable kayak enthusiasts
  • Rich folklore about notorious outlaws
Getting Here Before You Go Packing List FAQs

Rates & Dates

5 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,320
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,120
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,225
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,225
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Check Availability
2022
  • May
  • 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
  • June
  • 6, 13, 20, 27
  • July
  • 4

6 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,395
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,195
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,299
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,299
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2022
  • July
  • 11, 18, 25
  • August
  • 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

Itinerary

The Green River flows through eastern Utah at the bottom of the Tavaputs Plateau, one of the largest wilderness areas in the Lower 48. Beginning at the Sand Wash boat ramp, a 25-mile bone-rattling ride from the closest pavement, Desolation Canyon is a true wilderness destination. The river travels southwest for more than 80 miles through some of the youngest rocks on the Colorado Plateau, finally emerging from the canyon just upstream of the town of Green River, Utah.

 

Sample Itinerary

The day before your trip:

Desolation Canyon trips begin with a scenic flight to the remote put in. Because of the flight logistics, we ask that (if possible) you plan to stop by our Green River, Utah, warehouse before 2:00 p.m. Mountain Time on the day before your trip to drop off any excessive or bulky gear as well as any personal beverages. These will travel to the put in by road, with the guides and all the gear.

Otherwise, please plan to attend the pre-trip meeting at our Green River warehouse at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time. A Holiday staffer 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.). This is the best time to purchase last minute items from our store (look over our packing checklist to see what we carry).

Day 1:

On the morning of your trip, please arrive promptly at the predetermined time established at the pre-trip meeting. We’ll load up in our vans for the 15-minute drive to Green River’s small airstrip. You’ll travel in small, four- to nine-passenger planes, and fly directly up the Green River, over the Tavaputs Plateau and Desolation Canyon. It’s about a 35-minute flight, and it is spectacular! Your guides will be waiting to greet you at the airstrip, and they’ll lead you on the first hike of the trip, a 45-minute descent to the rafts waiting at the river bottom. Guests who are apprehensive about the hike can be transported by vehicle to the river. Talk to the river rangers about the significance of the wilderness you are about to enter, and then start floating! Watch cliff swallows explode out of their nests as the walls rise around us. Take a short hike to see a turtle fossil, and make camp on a sandbar or in a grove of cottonwood trees.

Day 2:

Enjoy 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.

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 rapids such as Chandler Falls and the biggest of them all, Cow Swim. Born of a flash flood in 2008, it marks the former location of historic cattle ford.

Day 4:

Desolation’s walls soar, red and rugged, into the sky, a colorful finale as we transition into Gray Canyon. 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.

Day 5:

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!

Wildlife Desolation Canyon

Note: If you are on a 6-day Desolation Canyon rafting trip, you can expect a similar itinerary to this 5-day trip. However, with lower late-season river flows and an extra day to play, you will most likely see different campsites than you would on a 5-day trip.

Reviews

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Holiday River Expeditions
Average rating:  
 44 reviews
 by MaryAnn Sargent

Many thanks to the extremely experienced, well-informed and good-natured staff. They work tirelessly at their job to maintain the integrity of the sensitive river environment so that we visitors can have the comfort to re-energize in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in Utah. Much love and gratitude to Holiday River Expeditions!

 by Kevin Bowman

Excellent trip. Beautiful scenery, good food, and guides were all great. Special thanks to Liz for being so amazing with the kids. We had a wonderful week.

 by Eve Smyth

All aspects of the trip were beyond my expectation. We were originally booked on the Yampa, but were switched to Deso. Lauren communicated very clearly about the options and details around this change, so reassuring. She was great! She was able to address our concerns (mosquitos!) and was open to any questions we might have. The guides (Cloud & Brian) were AMAZING! Incredibly knowledgeable, great energy, impressive skills - from rowing and navigation to food prep, to information about the area, clear communication re: the camps and protocols, and just generally keeping the vibe good. The food was over-the-top fantastic. Each meal I would say "Really?! You made all this?!" Even lunch! The transportation was right on sched (and that plane ride!). The hikes were great. I didn't realize we'd get to see petroglyphs! The whole team, from our first contact to the last, was delightful. I want to run away and join Holiday when I grow up, except that I'm 58. So I guess, I'll just have to come back for another trip. I'm a huge Holiday fan.

 by Antoinette Mancini

Food was over the top. The five guides Liz, Tyler, Syd, Lucy, and Kyle were excellent, kind, thoughtful, professional, skilled in all tasks, knowledgeable, and wonderful to be around! This trip was fantastic. The guides were great: professional, knowledgeable, skilled in all their tasks, and went above and beyond duty every day. The food was out of sight!. The scenery was breathtaking. This was a family trip and we had great fun. I would go with Holiday again.

 by Rebecca Solnit

The guides were utterly wonderful, and I was a bit amazed when I contemplated the full range of things they each had to master--rowing, navigating, but also cooking, delivering natural history, protecting the environment (from us), patience and charm, and conversation and so much more. I was also deeply appreciative that Holiday is so committed to making the wilderness open to everyone, from specific trips for people with disabilities and medical conditions to an overall culture that is feminist, queer-positive, and generally committed to diversity and inclusion (and not extending the macho traditions of the past). And the food was nice!

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