Desolation Canyon Rafting Trips

Rafting the Green River through Desolation Canyon is 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 millenia 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

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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:
  • $1,265
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,065
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,170
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,170
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2021
  • May
  • 10, 17, 24, 31
  • June
  • 7, 14, 21, 28
  • July
  • 5, 12, 19

6 Day

  • Adult:
  • $1,340
  • Youth:
    18 and under
  • $1,140
  • Senior:
    65 and older
  • $1,245
  • Group:
    10 or more
  • $1,245
Book This Trip
Check Availability
2021
  • July
  • 26
  • August
  • 2, 9, 16, 23

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!

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:  
 32 reviews
by John Hayes on Holiday River Expeditions

Given the odd times, I really appreciated your fitting me in.

Should have an optional response for Exceeding Expectations, which applies in most categories. Even though the flow was very low, all the guides really made the most of this experience, working very hard to “Go with the flow”. It was amazing to be unplugged during these difficult times.

by Marcel Bibeault on Holiday River Expeditions

Excellent Deso trip. Especially enjoyed the plane ride to the put-in site and getting to know each guide on the river. Ellie was awesome.

by Lisa Madsen on Holiday River Expeditions

Lauren, Jesse and Karen were all so helpful! Everything was top-notch. Guides were friendly, accommodating, engaging, kind - food was delicious! We loved it all. This trip came at the perfect time, trying to survive Covid and getting through the summer! Our family had a blast, and would go again in a heartbeat. It was the perfect escape and a wonderful way for the whole family to “unplug” at the same time.

by William Kellogg on Holiday River Expeditions

Once again it was a great trip guided by Erika and Syd. This is my 3rd trip over the past 10 years and it is always over too soon. Thanks again Holiday, Erika and Syd,, Ziah says HI.

by Tracy Padilla on Holiday River Expeditions

The Guides were amazing! They were professional, accommodating, knowledgeable, skilled, nice, engaging, accountable, innovative and they were experts at managing all of the different people, groups, types, and needs. Most importantly they loved what they were doing. Hats off to all the guides.

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