Desolation Canyon Youth Trips

About This Trip

This canyon is the perfect location for Youth Groups, where kids of all ages will enjoy the beauty of colorful canyon walls and natural rock sculptures created by Mother Nature. Many of the rapids on the Green River through Desolation Canyon are perfectly suited for young hands to get in the ‘driver’s’ seat in an inflatable kayak or stand-up paddleboard.  With nearly 60 exhilarating rapids, they will have plenty of time to get into their own unique rhythm with the river.


  • Deeper than the Grand Canyon at the Bright Angel Trail
  • White sandy beaches, shimmering side streams and abundant wildlife
  • 60 easy rolling rapids makes this trip great for kids
Starting at Sand Wash put-in in the center of the Tavaputs Plateau, this 84 mile white water rafting trip into Desolation Canyon takes us on the ride of a lifetime and we will encounter over 60 rapids! The whitewater builds in intensity each day and finally leads you out of the Plateau at Swasey’s take-out, just north of our Green River headquarters.

One of the advantages of a river trip is the flexibility of the daily itinerary. It can vary widely from one trip to the next based on group desires, Mother Nature, and courtesy for other groups on the river. This typical itinerary illustrates a five-day trip through Desolation and Gray canyons. In August, we lengthen the Desolation Canyon trip by one day and follow this general itinerary; an addendum below digs into the variations to expect.

Day One: 
Fly into Sand Wash put-in from Green River.  There is a 30-minute downhill hike from canyon rim to the rafts waiting at river bottom.  Plan ahead to wear appropriate shoes for the hike.  Guests who are apprehensive about the hike can be transported by vehicle to the river.  View a historical marker at head of Desolation Canyon before entering the desolate canyon passing Sumner’s amphitheater with incredible natural acoustics. Camp that night near Jack Creek.

Day Two:
Hikes to Fremont cultural or an abandoned moonshiner’s cabin interspersed with sections of playful whitewater.  Encounter Steer Ridge and Surprise rapid, some of the more memorable thresholds.  Camp in a cottonwood grove or on a mile-long sandbar.

Day Three:
Enjoy a tour of abandoned Rock Creek and later McPherson Ranches, where Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch slept. End your day with the wildest rapid in the canyon, Cow Swim. Born of a recent 2008 flash flood, it marks the former location of historic cattle ford.

Day Four:
Today brings continued whitewater fun with Wire Fence, Three Fords, and Coal Creek rapids. You will also cross over from Desolation to Gray Canyon.

Day Five:  
We will run a half dozen more exciting rapids before lunch and then take out near Swasey’s beach.  Short trip back to Green River and our headquarters.

If you are on a 6-day Desolation Canyon trip, you can expect a similar itinerary to this 5-day.  However with lower late-season river flows and an extra day to play, you can expect to see a whole new set of campsites than your 5-day counterparts. Day 1 could leave you near Gold Hole, across from a historic Powell campsite where wild horses often play; night two could find you settling in bellow massive cottonwoods at Cedar Ridge; Day 3 typically brings you back to a more typical camp schedule seeing similar camps to the 2nd day of a 5-day trip.  
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 Trip Meeting Options:

  1.   FLYING:  The group will meet in Green River, Utah where we provide a shuttle to the airport, and then our group flies to the embarkation point. Cost for this charter flight is $133 per person. Meeting time is at 6:00 a.m. At the end of the trip we can shuttle your vehicles to Swasey’s ($45 per vehicle), which is the take-out point.
  2.   Groups who are providing their own transportation can drive into Sand Wash (between Duchesne and Roosevelt on Highway 40). This will require two-hours of driving on dirt roads, and should be done the day before the trip. There is a campground (pit toilets, no water) at Sand Wash, where the party can sleep the night before the trip. Meeting time is at 8:00 a.m. At the end of the trip, drivers can pick up the group at a pre-arranged take-out upstream from our Green River, Utah headquarters. This is a good option and the cheapest. If the organizers choose to arrange their own car shuttles for transportation, they will need our detailed map.
  3.   Groups can drive their vehicles to Sand Wash, and we can provide a shuttle to the take-out near Green River, Utah for $195 per vehicle. The vehicles will be waiting for you at Swasey’s (the take out point). Your vehicles should be filled with gas along with spare tires for the shuttle.

**Hwy. 40, Duchesne to Sand Wash, turn off (Green Sign) is 18 miles at US 40 5550 West.

**Hwy. 40, Roosevelt to Sand Wash, turn off is 11 miles at US 40 5550 West.

** Dirt roads to Sand Wash from Hwy. 40 are about 41 miles (two hours) . . . 5 miles of asphalt – 36 miles of dirt.

Beginning of the trip: On the morning of your trip, plan to arrive promptly at the predetermined time.

After the trip: The take-out point is Swasey’s and we should arrive there around 2 to 3 p.m. on the last day of our river rafting tour.

Medical emergencies: Our guides are trained in first aid and carry first aid supplies only. REMEMBER to bring your own prescription medicines. ALERT our guides to any medical problem you might have such as diabetes or allergic reactions. Wilderness expeditions are a long way from hospitals, doctors, and pain-relieving medicines. Evacuations to modern medical care are uncertain, and protracted. In case of evacuation and/or medical treatment beyond first aid, expenses incurred are the responsibility of the participant.

Cancellation Policy: If cancellations are made prior to 90 days before the trip, monies will be refunded less a $50.00 service charge per person. If cancellations are made within 90 days and outside of 60 days of the trip date monies will be refunded less a $100.00 service charge per person. Cancellations made within 60 days of the trip date are non refundable. Prior to 60 days to the trip date we will transfer reservations to another trip in the same year with a $25.00 service charge per person. All policies will be enforced and we strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance. Cancellation of a trip is very unlikely, but we reserve the right to cancel any trip due to river or weather conditions or the lack of sufficient reservations. A full refund will be made if such is the case.

Insurance: Medical Evacuation and cancellation insurance on a vacation plan can be obtained from numerous insurance companies. You should be aware that medical evacuations in the backcountry can easily cost $10,000 and up.  You are responsible for these potential expenses and we strongly encourage all guests to have this coverage. We offer plans by TRAVEL GUARD that cover evacuation, baggage and cancellation claims. It is available to American and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of another country as long as you have a U.S. address. For a quote or questions give us a call or include Your Names, Birth Dates in an Email and we will send a quote.  Also, if you are bringing expensive cameras, binoculars, or other items we suggest you have insurance coverage for them (commonly available through Homeowners Policies). In the event of a loss, our insurance will not cover those items.

Tipping the guides: If you feel the guides have been instrumental in your enjoyment of the trip, you may choose to direct a gratuity to the trip leader in the form of cash or check.  They will then distribute it evenly to the other crewmembers.  The average contribution amount ranges between $20.00 and $30.00 per guest, per day. Cash is the preferred method of tipping.

Beverages: We provide ice water, lemonade, one soda per day per person and ample cooler space. If you choose to bring any specialty sodas and we have no problem taking whatever you want to bring – within reason.

If you have any questions prior to leaving for your trip, we welcome you to call our Salt Lake City office, Monday through Friday at 800-624-6323 (outside Utah) or 801-266-2087 (inside Utah). We’re happy to take the time to answer your questions. You may also contact us by email at [email protected]


Desolation weather:  In May and early June temperatures average 70 to 80 degrees during the day and 50 to 60 degrees at night.  In late June through August the daytime temperatures are 80 to 100 degrees, with nighttime temperatures 60 to 70 degrees.  Light rain showers occasionally occur in this area, and it can cool temperatures considerably.  With this in mind we recommend you have a poncho or rain suit, long underwear, fleece, and a light tent.  If you reserved a rental kit with us when you booked your river trip, we will have a tent and rain gear for you.  There will also be an abundance of sun, so bring a hat and plenty of suntan lotion and/or sunscreens. *Please avoid spray on sun-screen for the health and safety of your guide and fellow-guests.

Bugs, snakes, etc. are generally no problem.  In fact, the lack of pesky insects is one of the reasons wilderness camping on the river is so pleasant.  Any river trip, however, is subject to an occasional localized insect hatch.  During these hatches (most common in June to mid-July) mosquitoes can be bothersome.  Be sure to bring long sleeve clothing and a generous supply of repellent.  Insect repellents that contain “deet” are by far the most effective during heavy hatches.  Citronella-based products work only in light hatches.  We rarely see any snakes, but if the thought of them bothers you, try sleeping on the beaches or in a tent instead of rocky or bushy areas.

Hiking is a highlight of the trip, however, it is strictly an optional activity. There are many interesting short hikes available. Hiking can be done in durable sneakers or lightweight hiking boots. Remember that hiking and other activities vary widely pending time, and what other plans are ahead for the day on the river.

Things to see in the area: John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, Utah. Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, Fisher Towers, Colorado National Monument, Goblin Valley State Park, San Rafael Swell, Capitol Reef National Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, and the La Sal and Henry Mountains.

Reading material, you may enjoy:

Exploration of the Colorado River – Powell…………………………………………. $12.95

Desolation River Guide – Belknap (waterproof)…………………………………… $19.95

Life in Stone – Christa Sadler……………………………………………………………. $11.95

The Educated Outlaw Harvey – Lay Murdock (Grandson)…………………….. $10.95

The River Knows Everything  –  Aton/Miller………………………………………… $34.95

Desolation and Gray Canyons-  Felix E. Mutschler………………………………. $10.95

These books can be ordered online at, or by sending the appropriate amount listed above plus $5.60 priority shipping to Holiday River Expeditions, 544 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84107. This is available within the U.S. only. If outside the U.S. additional shipping and handling charges will be added. You can call 801-266-2087 for rates. These books can also be purchased at our headquarters in Green River.

Trip Overview

Location: Green River
Type: Rafting
Length: 4 and 5 Days
Dates: May – August
Meet At: Sand Wash, Embarkation Point
Rating: Beginner
Age Min: 5
Deposit: $300

Trip Prices

Up to 50% OFF for Youth Groups of 14 or more.

Please call for pricing 800-624-6323

Departure Dates

Mondays May through August

Please call for availability 800-624-6323

Check Availability

What’s Included

Life Jacket
Large Waterproof Bag
Day Bag
Camp Chair
Eating Utencils & Plates
Full Course Meals: Lunch the first day through
lunch the last day
Drinks: Ice Water, Lemonade, Juices

The day bag 8″ diameter x 20″ high is for items you will need access to during the day. For your sleeping gear and clothing, we will furnish you with one bag 16″ diameter x 2 feet high. When properly sealed, bags are usually waterproof. Once in a while, one could develop a leak, so we always recommend packing important items in ziplock bags and leaving expensive electronics at home. Separate storage is provided for tents and beverages. Please remember to keep your gear light and compact. The less you bring, the happier you will be. Please limit gear to no more than 15-20 lbs.

What’s NOT Included

Plastic mugs work well
Water Bottle
Not included in the rental kit
Sleeping Bag
Compact and warm
Poncho/Rain Suit
high quality important for Dinosaur & Desolation trips.
Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress
Compact, must fit in the provided bag
Light Tent:
Back packer style, not the bulky, heavy types

You can rent most of the items listed above in our sleeping rental kit. We offer two varieties, our basic sleeping kit which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain gear and cup for $40.00, or the same basic sleeping kit with a two-person tent for $65.00. Rentals must be reserved in advance, especially on the San Juan trips where we meet away from our headquarters. Rentals requested the morning of the trip are subject to availability. Cups and water bottles available for purchase at our stores in Green River and Vernal Headquarters, or online.


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