A rafting vacation in Cataract Canyon often entails many questions. What type of boats are used? How does camping on the river work? What is the food like? What do I need to bring and what is supplied by Western River Expeditions? You'll find answers to all these questions and many more in the categories below.
Physical & Dietary Requirements
What are the physical requirements for this trip?
A whitewater rafting trip can be both thrilling and challenging. Participation requires an appropriate mind set. The same qualities that make a river trip appealing to most people can present real difficulties to others. We desire to strike the appropriate balance between encouraging our guests to stretch themselves and making sure they are protected from harm.
The remoteness of the location, rugged terrain, and being outdoors 24 hours per day are a major part of the appeal. We take pride in our ability to accommodate a variety of disabilities and strive to make our trips as accessible as possible. However, a river trip is not for everyone. The last thing we want is for you to be miserable or to get injured. Your decision to participate should be carefully evaluated.
What about hiking?
As we travel down river, we make occasional stops to lead “side hikes” which can be either very short and relatively easy, or longer, covering some distance and elevation. We hike over uneven, rocky, and sometimes steep surfaces. Hiking is encouraged but optional.
Do I need to know how to swim to go on this trip?
You need to be comfortable floating in water while wearing a lifejacket and you need the ability to propel yourself through the water to assist in your own rescue should you fall out of the raft. Falling off the boat into the river, or having your boat capsize is one of the inherent risks associated with whitewater rafting. If this happens, you will need the ability to self-rescue by swimming to the boat or to shore.
Each guest wears a lifejacket and the lifejackets, if worn properly, are very effective at keeping you above water, but if you are unable to swim, it can still be a threatening situation because the waters are turbulent.
A river trip is a participatory experience and requires each guest to be reasonably self-sufficient. Our guides will look after the safety and welfare of all the participants on the trip, but you are also responsible for your own safety! Our guides will provide you with the information and tools you need to participate; however, they already fill nearly every minute of their day performing their duties on behalf of the group. They will not be able to devote a lot of extra time to any one individual on the trip.
Our trips are operated in the “backcountry.” At any given time, you will be a minimum of several hours away from medical help. Our guides are all trained in wilderness first aid and some have even higher levels of emergency response training (e.g., EMT), however, sometimes injuries or the aggravation of pre-existing medical conditions are severe enough to require evacuation from the trip. We carry satellite phones but they are not 100 percent reliable in all locations. Most evacuations require transportation via helicopter which presents many challenges such as appropriate landing zones, inclement weather, or darkness.
On the same trip, you may experience extreme cold, heat, wind and perfectly comfortable conditions. For this reason, we encourage our guests to bring everything from shorts to substantial rain gear. Because our trips are in the Desert Southwest, shade is often scarce, so adequate sun block lotion and sun protective clothing are a must.
We camp and eat lunch on sandy beaches and on areas where the ground is mostly dirt and rocks. You must also be capable of safely walking across slippery, rocky, and sandy areas as you climb on and off the boat and walk along the beach to your personally selected campsite each night. Guests are required to carry their own waterproof bags with personal gear and the additional 15 pounds of camping gear (cots & tents) to their individual campsite. This can be very difficult for some guests due to the uneven terrain, deep sand, and steep beaches.
Getting on and off the
boats can be challenging. We park the boats against a variety of terrain such
as rocks, steep sandy beaches, and flat locations. Boats may also be slippery
and they have uneven surfaces.
Toilets are available only in camp and are usually located down a narrow trail, well away from the guests in a secluded location. We do our best to mark the trail, even at night, but it is always necessary to take a short hike to access the toilets. The where, when and how of going to the bathroom during the day will be explained by the guides on your trip.
Falling Off The Raft
Falling off a boat into the river, or having your boat capsize is one of the inherent risks associated with whitewater rafting. If this happens, you will need the ability to self-rescue by swimming to the boat or to shore. If you end up on shore, you will need to traverse a rocky shoreline to rejoin the boat which cannot maneuver upstream.
For those participants who have heart conditions or who are very overweight, falling into the river also presents the possibility of a “cold-water immersion heart attack.” This is caused when the person swimming cannot calm his/her breathing within a reasonable amount of time (generally 60 seconds).
Each guest wears a lifejacket and they are very effective at keeping you above water, but if you are unable to swim, it can still be a threatening situation because the waters are turbulent. The lifejackets we use are certified by the United States Coast Guard and are approved for use by our managing agencies (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management & Utah State Parks & Recreation). They are classified as “Type V Whitewater” jackets, and they come in two basic sizes “Youth” and “Adult Universal.”
Youth jackets fit someone weighing between 50 and 90 pounds (23-41kg). An Adult Universal Jacket is rated “for persons weighing more than 90 pounds (41kg).” They are highly adjustable and fit a range of chest sizes from 30 - 58 inches (76-147 cm). Body shape can also affect the proper fit of the jacket. If you are unsure, call and speak with us. If necessary, we’ll mail you one of our jackets and you can try it on.
The Importance of Full Disclosure
We don’t want to be overly discouraging, but it is important for your safety and comfort that we be forthcoming about the specific challenges presented on a river trip. It is also vitally important that you disclose any and all physical, emotional, and mental conditions, limitations, or challenges you or your children may have. Likewise, it is important to be completely honest about the age and weight of children. Undisclosed medical or physical conditions might affect the safety and well-being of you and/or other participants on the trip. It is critical that you share this information with us in advance so that we can help keep you safe.
We cannot absolutely guarantee your safety, or the suitability of a trip like this for you. For a participant who is not capable of meeting these criteria, a river trip, particularly a multi-day trip, can be unpleasant, dangerous, or even fatal. For those who meet these criteria, these trips are often the best experiences of their lives. The difference is in determining your suitability for a trip, then selecting the right trip for you, and arriving physically and mentally prepared to actively and joyfully participate in the experience.
We encourage you to carefully evaluate your overall physical, mental, and emotional condition in relation to these environmental challenges. If you have concerns or questions about your physical condition, we recommend you also consult your physician. If you have questions about the specific parameters of a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, please contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669. We would be happy to provide any other information you need to make this decision, or to discuss any of this information in detail.
Reservations & Cancellations
What deposit is required?
An initial deposit of $300 per person is required to secure your space. Deposits may be made by check or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express).
Can I hold space without a deposit?
We offer a 48 hour courtesy hold, no deposit required. Exceptions to this standard courtesy hold time are evaluated as to how many seats are still available and how close the actual travel date may be. An email reminder is sent prior to expiration of the hold.
When is final payment due?
Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable. Payment may be paid by check (preferably) or credit card.
How can I make payments?
For your convenience, we offer an automatic payment service to charge the balance due to your credit card 90 days prior to trip departure or you may make partial payments by credit card or check providing the full balance is paid 90 days prior to your trip. We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by the due date. You may also make payments towards your balance prior to the final due date. These payments may be made online or by phone. Installment payments can be scheduled to run automatically if requested. For payments over $10,000 and for large international payments, a check or wire transfer is preferred.
What is the cancellation and refund policy?
Your initial deposit of $300 is refundable less a $100 per person cancellation fee for cancellations 90+ days prior to trip departure. Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable.
Our cancellation policy applies in every instance and there will be no exceptions for any reason. Western River Expeditions will not issue any refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early whether voluntary or caused by other circumstances. Western River Expeditions is not responsible for any expenses incurred due to travel delays, flight cancellations, or illness. Western River Expeditions assumes no financial responsibility for personal injury, emergency evacuation, or personal equipment lost or damaged in any way.
In the event that we are forced to cancel any portion of the direct services provided by Western River Expeditions or contractors due to unsafe water levels, wildfire, flooding or other unforeseen circumstances, Western River Expeditions will refund the portion of the unavailable services. However, in these cases, refunds will not be given for flights or other travel expenses related to the trip.
Depending on availability and advance notice, you may have the option to transfer your reservation to another date or trip for a transfer fee. This is not guaranteed, and availability and transfer policies vary between trips.
Some of the most difficult situations occur when a guest needs to cancel a few days before a trip because of an injury, a family illness, or some other catastrophic event. In these situations, we generally do not have time to refill the space. Yet, we have already spent considerable time, money, and energy preparing for your trip: scheduling vehicles, flights, drivers, guides and equipment, purchasing food, etc. Because of our short season and very limited number of available seats, we cannot afford the financial loss that cancellations cause. Therefore, consider the investment you are making in your vacation and whether or not you could afford the loss if you did have to cancel.
What about tips and gratuities?
Your guides will make every effort to see that your trip is enjoyable and successful. Gratuities for guides are appropriate, greatly appreciated and at your discretion, as a gesture of thanks for their professionalism and service. A suggested guideline is 10 percent of the trip cost. The common practice is to give the gratuity to the trip leader on the last night. It will later be divided equally with the rest of the crew. Paying in cash is the most common form of payment though you can always bring along a check and make it out to the trip leader.
Are departures guaranteed?
Two launches of 36 guests are available most weeks for our Cataract Canyon 4-Day Expeditions. Final guest count prior to the trip determines how we balance the launches, and how many boats and guides will be needed. Because the water in the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon is free flowing snowpack melt and not regulated by a dam, water levels may vary considerably during the rafting season. We are able to match the best rafts to whatever the water conditions may be at any given time. If we cancel a trip for any reason, a full refund will be provided - excluding external travel expenses (flights, hotels, etc)
What if the date I want is sold out?
When searching availability online, “Add To My Itinerary” indicates there is space available; “Contact Us” indicates the date is either sold out or has less availability than the number of seats requested in the search process. Please call us with questions or for clarification. We can put guests on a waitlist for a sold out date in case seats become available due to a cancellation. Also, we can suggest similar trips that may be excellent alternatives.
How far in advance should I make my reservation?
Cataract Canyon 4-Day Expedition trip dates begin on a Tuesday and end on Friday. Trips run from late May until late August each year. The following year trip dates are available to book at the end of the current season. We suggest reserving early, to guarantee date of choice.
Groups & Charters
What is the maximum number of guests on this trip?
Thirty-six is the maximum number of guests on a trip. Because we offer two trips per week, we will balance guest numbers between the two trips if they are both not completely sold out.
How many guests per raft?
During May and June when water levels are the highest in Cataract Canyon, Western uses its patented J-Rig raft for the most secure, comfortable, and thrilling ride on the river. As the water slows its pace later in June and through July and August, we change from 37’ J-Rig rafts to 18’ oar rigs, and smaller paddle rafts. These smaller boats make these later trips more suitable for teens or active adults looking for a more “hands-on” experience. Whether travelling aboard the larger rafts earlier in the season or the smaller rafts later in the season, the legendary whitewater in Cataract Canyon provides plenty of fun and excitement. Note: The date in June or July at which we switch to smaller boats is determined by water levels which are difficult to predict before spring.
Guests per raft type:
J-Rig accommodates up to 18 guests, with 2 guides
Oar boats accommodate 4-6 guests, with 1 guide. Guide paddles
Paddle boats accommodate 6-8 guests, with 1 guide. Guests paddle with guide direction.
Through calm water sections prior to and after exiting Cataract Canyon, we lash all the rafts together, attach to a motorized raft, and travel as a "flotilla” Great fun.
We are able to accommodate most private charter trip requests. These requests are evaluated individually by Operations and require consideration of date, type of rafts to be used, number of guests, etc. For smaller groups, a fixed charter price may be offered.
What about group discounts?
A group leader, who puts together a group of 18 total guests receives 1 free fare. For at least 10 guests in a group, ½ fare is credited to the group leader.
What is the easiest way to get my friends booked on the same trip?
After a reservation is made, we can email the guest a direct booking link to his/her trip, which can be shared with others. We also offer a courtesy hold option, which allows the guest to request a specific number of available seats to be held for designated time period (automatically 48 hours) to allow others to then call in to join the trip.
What if I’m traveling solo?
Cataract Canyon trips have no single supplements for solo travelers. The dedicated group of guests on each trip travel through the canyon together, rafting, hiking, camping, and enjoying meals together. A multi-day rafting trip offers a wonderful group travel environment.
Traveling with Children
What is the age limit for this trip and is it flexible?
For May-June trips, guests must be age 12 at time of travel. For July-Aug trips, guests must be age 10. There are no exceptions to these age limits. Youth should weigh no less than 75 lbs. There is no maximum age limit, but guests will want to consider the physical nature of a river trip in a remote location.
What if my kids are picky eaters?
Big ‘Western style” breakfasts begin the day with a variety of items. Food items include bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, french toast, fruit, etc. Various salads and sandwiches, including peanut butter and jelly are lunch offerings. Fruit, chips, and cookies are also served at lunch. Dinners will include steak, chicken, side dishes, along with an appetizers and dessert.
We are happy to email the menu to guests who have questions about food served on the trip.
Is this the best trip for younger children?
For guests as young as age 5, our Southwest Sampler and Green River trips in Moab, Utah are excellent choices. For guests who are at least age 9, our Grand Canyon 3 & 4-Day trips are age appropriate.
Preparing & Packing
What should I bring?
Guests should bring clothing items, toiletries, a refillable water bottle, and headlamp or flashlight in a soft-sided duffel bag, weighing 20 lbs or less. Weather and water temperatures will vary throughout the season, so being prepared for a variety of conditions is important. It is better to take something and not use it, than not have it and need it. Carefully following our packing list will assure that guests will be prepared.
The following video offers several suggestions on how to pack:
Do I need a wetsuit?
We recommend a two-piece rainsuit that can be used as needed. A wetsuit is cumbersome to take on and off when rafting. In Cataract Canyon, water temperatures are cold early season and will continue to warm as the season progresses, so this extra layer is not always critical to protect against cold water temperatures. But, weather conditions vary, and even in warm summer months we have had guests grateful they had the extra layer to put on during inclement weather.
Can I bring my own lifejacket or PFD?
Guests are not allowed to bring their own lifejacket or PFD. Western River Expeditions is subject to regulations promulgated by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and State Parks. All three of these agencies require that guests of commercial outfitters wear Type V Whitewater lifejackets. Personal life jackets are usually meant for lake sports and even Type III jackets, meant for kayaking or canoeing, are not acceptable for use by our guests.
Fortunately, the newer generations of Type V life jackets are very comfortable. They also have a lot more floatation than the typical personal jacket.
What about fishing on the river?
Though not particularly notable, fishing through Cataract Canyon is allowed and requires a Utah State fishing license. Fishing must be from shore while in camp, and is catch and release.
How should I be dressed the morning of my rafting trip?
Guests should be dressed, ready to raft! Meeting place is our Moab Adventure Center, 225 S Main. Swimsuit (or sports bra and quick dry underwear for women) under quick dry shirt and shorts, water shoes or sandals, then brimmed hat and sunglasses with retention device. Don’t forget a water bottle with carabiner, sunscreen and lip balm to go in the day bag.
What about sun protection?
Cataract Canyon is located in beautiful Canyonlands Natl Park. The combination of sun and water demands adequate skin protection from sunburn. Plan to bring a plentiful supply of sunscreen, and 15+SPF lip balm to be reapplied throughout the day. A brimmed sun hat or baseball cap should have a retention device. Clothing items to consider include quick-dry long-sleeved shirts and long pants for additional coverage. Sarongs or bandanas (dipped in the river) provide sun protection and evaporative cooling effects. Plan to drink lots of fluids to keep hydrated.
Can I bring a camera on the river? What about charging it?
Cameras can be charged if guests bring a portable charging device. Alternately, cameras can be charged if guests bring a portable charging device. We recommend bringing extra batteries or a battery pack, rather than relying on a solar charger. If a cell phone is used for picture taking, it should be in airplane mode to conserve battery life, and be in a waterproof case.
This video features some excellent camera tips:
Guidelines for camera use on the river:
You are free to film and shoot photos during our trips, however, we ask that you consult with your guide before doing so. We have some guidelines you will be asked to follow. These include:
Shooting from an appropriate location - Wearing a camera in certain locations could endanger yourself or others around you. If your guide feels that your use of a camera may put you or another guest in danger, you may be asked to put the camera away or move to a safer location for filming.
No pole mounts or extension devices on rafts - Cameras cannot be mounted to poles or other extension devices while on rafts as this may endanger you or other guests.
Shut down cameras in emergency situations - For the privacy of those involved and your own personal safety, you will be expected to shut your camera down if first aid is being rendered or in an emergency situation. We need all guests to remain alert and undistracted from filming or taking pictures in such situations.
Anticipate battery or card change necessities - If you see your card getting full or battery getting low, change them ahead of time during an appropriate moment. Rafts or vehicles cannot be stopped to change batteries or memory cards.
Cameras may be damaged or lost - We cannot guarantee the safety of your camera. It may become wet, sandy, lost in the river, dropped on a hike, etc.
Respect the privacy of others - If someone does not want to be filmed or photographed, please respect their privacy.
If you’re wondering what type of camera is most suitable for the river, here are a few thoughts.
Waterproof/Shockproof Digital Cameras - These cameras are perfect for everyday use and have become very affordable with most at $100 to $300. They’re rugged and waterproof, but also elegant and trim like any other digital camera.
GoPro and Similar Cameras - Together with their durable waterproof cases, these cameras can take some nice shots while on and off the water. Generally, the wide angle zoom cannot be adjusted so this should be taken into consideration. We ask that you plan to mount these cameras only with the head strap or helmet mount options (bring your own helmet). You will not be allowed to mount the cameras anywhere on the rafts during travel on the river.
Larger SLR Cameras - It is possible to bring a larger SLR camera, but be sure to have something sturdy to protect it. We recommend a hard-shell Pelican Case if you’re planning to bring a more expensive camera. Space is limited on the boats, so we try to keep additional camera equipment minimal.
Aquapac - This is a good solution if you aren’t in the market for a brand new camera, but just want to protect the one you have. It is a flexible waterproof housing to fit a number of camera types -- including video cameras. You do need to make sure the plastic housing stays clean as you’re shooting through it, but a lot of our guests find this to be a nice solution.
Batteries and Cards - While your are in remote areas during your trip, there will not be any location to charge your batteries or devices. Consider bringing extra batteries and memory cards and don't forget to charge your extra batteries before you get to the river.
Small Float - You might consider attaching your camera to a small float that may save your camera if you happen to drop it in the river. GoPro sells a small, attachable float that fits on the back of the camera housing that many of our guests find useful.
How do I protect my belongings from getting wet?
Each guest is given a personal day bag (approx. 7”x13”) and water resistant gear bag. Items for day use should be put in the day bag, which is then rolled down and the straps clipped to keep contents dry. The gear bag accommodates a sleeping bag (we provide) along with the guest’s personal duffel bag (which should be no larger that 12”x13”x 24”). The gear bag is then rolled and clipped, and secured away on the raft during the day, available again in camp.
What gear is provided with the trip?
We provide all camping equipment (tents, cots, sleeping bags with sheets, camp chairs) for our guests to set up their personal campsite. We also provide a large gear bag (that carries the sleeping bag and duffel bag together and is inaccessible during the day) and a small day bag for items guests would like access to during the day (lip balm, sunscreen, camera, rainsuit, etc). Plates and eating utensils are provided for meals.
What do I do with extra luggage?
Extra luggage may be left in your vehicle, in a secured, complimentary parking area minutes from our Moab Adventure Center. The morning of the trip, guests with vehicles will follow the bus taking guests to the river, leave their vehicles in the designated parking area, then board the bus to continue on with all other guests. Keys may be left with the bus driver. For items that may be heat sensitive (electronics, etc), complimentary storage is available at our Moab Adventure Center.
What if I need to take medications?
Guests should bring an adequate supply of all necessary medications. They will be accessible during the day when stored in a day bag or if needed, in cold storage on the raft. A list of medications should be provided to us, along with any related medical conditions. Keep in mind that Cataract Canyon is a remote section of the Colorado River, and emergency medical attention may be hours away.
On the River
What is a typical day on the river?
A typical day on the river begins with an early coffee/hot chocolate call, with breakfast to follow about 30 min. later. During this time, guests will also be getting dressed and ready for the day and disassembling their campsites. All equipment and gear is then repacked on the rafts, and we’re off for a day of adventure!
How much time is spent on the raft?
Each day is a combination of rafting, hiking, exploring, free time and delicious meals. Guests are generally on the rafts an hour to an hour and a half at a time. There are bathroom breaks along the way. Depending on time of year, weather, and guide itinerary, each trip will vary, and determine what hikes are offered and which campsites will be used. Generally, guests would expect to be enjoying these activities for about 6-7 hours per day.
What about rapids and water levels?
Because the Colorado River flow through Cataract Canyon is not controlled by a dam, water levels vary throughout the season. Higher, faster water occurs earlier season (May, June), and begins to slow the rapid pace in July and August. Depending on precipitation amounts and particularly snowfall in the Colorado River basin that feeds the Colorado through snowmelt, water levels continually change. Rapids in Cataract Canyon are classified using the traditional class I-V rapid rating scale, which factors in not only water levels, but navigational difficulty. Typically, May -June rapids are class IV-V; July-Aug rapids are class III-IV.
What type of raft can I expect?
For higher, faster water conditions, our motorized, patented J-Rig is the raft of choice. 37’ feet long by 15’ wide, this raft offers a variety of seating options, and allows guests to sit facing forward. When the switch is made to oar boats and paddle boats, guests have the opportunity to let the guides do the rowing (oar boats) or be part of the paddling crew (paddle boats). Oar boats hold 4-6 guests; paddle boats 6-8 guests.
What is the water temperature on the river?
Because the water feeding into the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon is primarily melted snow from winter’s Colorado River basin snowpack, the earliest trips will likely have water temperatures in the 55 degree range (guests are grateful for their two-piece rainsuits!) As the season progresses, both the sun and warmer air temperatures affect the water temperatures, which may reach 70 degrees or above.
What about swimming?
Warmer water temperatures accommodate fun swim breaks, when guests can float along or swim near the rafts in calm water sections of the river. Some hikes may include waterfalls and pools of water to enjoy off the river.
What bathroom facilities are available during my trip?
Because our trips operate in remote, backcountry settings, there are no permanent bathroom facilities. We use portable toilets that we haul with us. We’ve prepared a video describing toilet facilities on the river.
Watch the video and then call us if you have more questions.
The portable toilets described in the video are available shortly after we set up camp late afternoon until we leave camp the next morning. During the day, the guides will make frequent stops at which you can go to the bathroom if needed. During the day, urination is done into the main river channel, but if you need to do more than this, just ask your guide and he/she will introduce you to our daytime toilet system.
What do I do about feminine hygiene during the trip?
If you expect to be menstruating during your trip, we recommend the use of tampons rather than pads. During the day, you will constantly be getting wet, so pads are not ideal. If you choose to use pads, we recommend wearing a good pair of waterproof rain pants.
A good strategy is to bring several sandwich-sized zip-lock bags pre-packed with individual tampons. The same bag can then be used for disposal after use. Toilet facilities will always be available while in camp and the guides will stop as often as is necessary during the day to accommodate your needs. We will always provide a means for discreet disposal of feminine hygiene items. It is best that you bring your own supplies, but we also carry a supply of feminine hygiene products.
Additional tips that have come from previous guests:
Bring a sarong that can be used for additional privacy. It also helps when changing clothes.
Wear a two-piece swimsuit such as a tankini with swimsuit bottoms covered by shorts. This is most comfortable for wearing lifejackets, sitting on boats and going to the bathroom.
Bring hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and non-applicator tampons.
Can I be contacted while on the river?
Once you are on the river, there is no way for you to be contacted. Messages left for you on your personal cell phone will be the best way for friends and family to reach you, once you have cell service again some time after exiting the canyon.
Can I contact others while on the river?
There is no cell service while on the river.
What if there is a medical situation on the river?
All of our river guides are certified with a minimum of advanced first aid and many hold more advanced certifications such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). We carry multiple, well stocked first aid kits on every trip and the guides will provide any “first aid” level care that is needed or you have the option of using our first aid supplies to treat yourself.
If the injury or illness requires medical attention beyond what is possible on the river, we evacuate the affected guest. The most common means of evacuation is via helicopter. However, on some river stretches, evacuation may occur using a high-speed boat or even a vehicle. We carry satellite phones that allow us to communicate with emergency medical professionals.
Because we are in remote, wilderness settings, it may take a while for more advanced medical help to arrive. Please note that the satellite phones are only used during emergency situations. Because they have limited battery life, we do not leave them on at all times and it is not possible to call the satellite phone to deliver a message from off the river. There is no cell phone reception in the remote canyons in which most of our trips are conducted.
The Great Outdoors
What can I expect at camp?
Prior to reaching the first camp and while on the river, guides will give a camp orientation. Late afternoon, they pull into camp and guests choose a personal campsite area, relative to the bathroom and kitchen areas which will be set up by the guides. Guests are then called back to the rafts to help unload gear and some supplies via a fireline. Guides give a tent and cot set up demonstration, then guests take their personal gear bags and other gear to their chosen campsite and get set up. While the guides prepare first appetizers and then dinner, guests may clean up for the day, rest and relax, explore the immediate camp, and visit with other guests. When dinner is served (about 30 minutes after appetizers), guests are given a plate, utensils and mug to use, then wash and keep in a provided plastic zip lock bag in the gear bag for use during the trip. If time permits, guides may have games or activities available. If a musical instrument has come along on the trip (guitar, ukulele, etc), musical performances are likely! Most guests go to bed not long after the sun goes down, ready to recharge from a busy day of rafting and exploring. Coffee/hot chocolate call comes at dawn, with breakfast about 30 minutes later. During this time, guests will be getting ready for the day, disassembling their personal campsite, and taking gear back down to the rafts to be loaded in a reverse fire line. Portable toilets and handwash stations are first items set up in camp and taken down the following morning by the guides. Guests will be asked to use the handwash station and hand sanitizer after bathroom visits in camp and before all meals. Even though our river trips are in wilderness settings, personal hygiene is a top priority and helps keep guests healthy and able to participate. Departure from camp is usually about 7:30 - 8:00 AM.
What are the sleeping arrangements during the trip?
All guests receive a sleeping bag with fresh sheets, a cot, and camp chair for use in camp each night. Additionally, 3-man tents are available that accommodate two cots and gear with a walkway in the middle. Many guests choose to sleep under the stars on their cots and set up a tent for privacy while changing, store gear, or in case of rain. Be sure to keep gear bags inside the tent, and possibly supplement with a heavy rock in each corner of the tent in case of wind. Tents sit on top of the sandy campsites and are not designed with stakes that would be pounded into the ground for stability. Solo travelers would be given their own tent and not expected to share. Tents and cots will be loaded back on the rafts each morning with all the other gear and re-distributed again when a new campsite is reached the next day.
Can I bring a CPAP machine on the river?
If you require a CPAP machine, please carefully evaluate your decision to participate on a river trip. The primary question to ask is, “Am I physically fit enough to handle the physical demands?” More information is found under the section titled “What are the physical requirements for this trip?”
The next question to ask yourself is, “Can I complete the trip if my CPAP machine fails or my batteries don’t last?” Medical evacuation is only available for severe injury or an imminently life threatening condition. You need to be able to safely complete the trip without a working device!
Guests who do bring these devices must bring a CPAP machine with a self-sufficient power supply. We have had guests surprised that the battery ran out the second night. The newer machines are amazingly compact with long-life battery technology, and some even have solar panels so you can re-charge while on the river.
Guests with older technology that requires 12 V automotive type batteries cannot fly the batteries to or from their river trip due to airline regulations. For guests with these machines, we will supply one long-life automotive gel cell battery, rated at 625 cranking amps, provided we receive the request at least 14 days prior to trip departure. It is important that the guest know how long one battery can power their specific machine, and they must be able to complete the trip without health risk based on the timed battery life. Guests are also responsible for bringing the right adapters and to check the compatibility at home. The battery we supply has top posts. All other connections are the responsibility of the guest.
Additionally, guests with this type of CPAP must be able to carry the 40 pound battery and the machine off the boat and across the beach to their campsite each night with their regular gear. This can often be up to 100 yards across moderately difficult terrain.
Thank you for carefully considering additional challenges that traveling with a CPAP requires on a multi-day backcountry camping and rafting expedition. It is important to us that you choose wisely, and come well prepared to self-sufficiently manage this need while camping in the backcountry.
How do I bathe while on the river?
The river becomes the destination of choice for cleaning up, hair washing, shaving, brushing teeth, and doing laundry! Taking a cot to a flat area along the shore provides a nice place to sit and to keep personal cleansing items out of the sand.
Cleaning up and hair washing: Earth friendly soaps and shampoos, washcloth, and thin towel (to dry more quickly) work well. Guests access the water close to the shore. Scrub up, rinse in the river, and towel dry. Because of the dry desert climate, hair conditioner is a must. Good time to apply lotion on clean, dry skin.
Shaving is personal preference, but would be done at river’s edge using river water.
Brushing teeth: Always use clean drinking water for brushing teeth, which is always available on and off the rafts. Toothpaste spit goes right into the river:)
Laundry: It’s easy to rinse clothing items in the river, then clip to a piece of thin rope rigged as a closeline or secure to a branch or bush (in case of wind). Without overnight precipitation, they’ll easily dry by morning. Plan to take fewer clothing items and wear them more than once.
Skin and lips: The desert is an extremely dry environment, and sunscreen, unscented lotions, and SPF 15+ lip balm should be applied generously.
What about bugs and other critters?
We recommend that you bring and use a good mosquito repellent. The kind containing deet works best. Mosquitoes are not much of a problem in Cataract Canyon, but they can be present on the first day of the trip. As we travel farther downstream they completely disappear. In high water years, they are more prevalent but in lower water years, they may not show up at all. The best plan is to be prepared for them.
Mosquitoes generally do not come out on to the water, so they are mostly only an issue while on shore. In camp, we provide tents so the mosquitoes won’t be a problem at night.
Other, non-biting, flying insects are present and mostly are an issue when they are attracted to your flashlight or headlamp. The way to solve this is to bring a headlamp that has the option of using a red light.
Many people worry about snakes and scorpions. Both are an important part of the desert ecosystem, but neither likes to be around humans very much. With proper precautions that will be explained by your guides, you can generally avoid them altogether.
While it is rare that we see snakes or scorpions, when we do, your guides are expert at moving them away from camp so they will not present a safety concern. We are respectful of these native creatures and we do our best not to harm them, but we also take all precautions to make sure they don’t bother our guests.
What do I do with jewelry while on the river?
It is best to leave your jewelry behind. Rafting is an active vacation and jewelry often gets in the way. Earrings and necklaces can get caught on lifejackets. Rings can also cause injuries when you are holding on tightly to ropes.
Food & Beverage
What meals are provided with the trip?
Lunch and dinner will be served the first day of your trip, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner days 2 and 3. On day 4, breakfast will be served as usual before breaking camp, then guests will enjoy lunch on the raft while traveling through a calm water section prior to the takeout.
What is the food like?
Delicious and plentiful! Fresh fruits and vegetable, meats, whole-grain breads, and desserts are presented in mouth-watering array. Hearty breakfasts fuel guests for the day’s start and dutch oven desserts give a sweet finish to day’s end. Snacks are offered between meals periodically throughout the trip.
What beverages are supplied and what can I bring?
Western supplies cold water and low-calorie lemonade, available both on and off the rafts. Guests are encouraged to drink plenty of liquids to stay well hydrated, and can fill personal water bottles as desired. Filling a water bottle with smaller amounts more frequently gives guests a cold drink every time, and discourages wasting precious water that has been left to warm up.
If additional beverages are desired (soda, beer, other alcoholic beverages), guests may bring up to 12 cans or the equivalent thereof. Containers should be unbreakable. They will be kept cold and accessible on the raft.
What about dietary restrictions or food allergies?
On multi-day river trips, our food service is limited by several factors:
We use a portable, camp-stove style, kitchen with a limited cooking surface and a limited supply of propane.
Our cold and dry food storage capacity is also limited because it all has to fit on the boats along with the camp gear and the guests.
Because we operate in remote, rural locations, many items are simply not available.
Our guides, who are also the cooks, are so busy with all of the tasks involved with running a river trip, that they do not have excess time to prepare special food requests. They strive to maximize the time spent hiking, rafting and enjoying the canyon with less time spent preparing food.
Within these limitations, we’ve crafted a menu that is designed to be prepared quickly and efficiently and to appeal to a large variety of tastes. All of our meals are served “buffet or family style” with any custom, per person preparation being limited to things like “how would you like your steak cooked” or “do you prefer your eggs scrambled or over-easy?”
While we try to accommodate some special dietary needs, we are not always able. If you have a specific food allergy or sensitivity, please let us know. If you have dietary restrictions based on a lifestyle choice or religious practice, please let us know. If your food allergy is severe, we need to have a more in-depth conversation about what can and cannot be done.
Please understand that we may not be able to completely meet your needs. However, we have found that most people find what they need from within our established menu.
The policy we have developed to maximize the common welfare of all guests on a river trip, and to allow our guides to focus their time and attention on critical aspects of a trip is that:
Guests may bring supplemental items if they do not require special preparation by our guides, or use of our cooking facilities. We will always have an ample supply of snacks, fresh fruits, vegetables, and side items from which to choose. While our storage space is limited, we have both cold and dry storage available on our boats for any supplemental products you may bring.
We cannot absolutely guarantee your safety if your food allergy is severe enough to cause anaphylaxis. You must bring an adequate supply of your own EpiPens to meet your needs. Please understand that one injection of an EpiPen will only last 10-20 minutes and that an evacuation from the river may take hours.
Please let us know of any special dietary needs well in advance. Special food requests made within two weeks of the trip launch date may not be able to be accommodated.
Can I bring my own food and snacks?
We bring a variety of snacks on every trip. As a general rule, snacks will be served mid-morning and mid-afternoon while traveling down river. If you would like to bring some of your own snacks, small, pre-packaged items are best. We can provide cold or dry storage. If you have special dietary needs, bringing some of your own snacks that work well for you is a great idea.
Travel & Logistics
When is the best time to travel?
Because the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon is not regulated by a dam, water levels are faster and higher early season, and lower as the season progresses. We match the type of rafts used to the water conditions, offering best rafting experience for each trip. Typically in May-June, our large patented, motorized J-Rig is the raft of choice. July-Aug, smaller oar boats and paddle boats provide a hands-on trip where guests can be part of a paddling crew through the rapids. Date we switch to these smaller boats is determined by water levels which are difficult to determine before spring. Whether traveling through higher water with bigger waves or lower water with technically challenging rapids, Cataract Canyon is always an exciting ride!
What weather should I expect?
Because weather can be unpredictable, we recommend guests be prepared for both warmer and cooler weather conditions that may occur on the same trip. Check area weather conditions prior to the travel date, but realize that weather may vary in the canyon from Moab or wherever the weather readings were taken. This link may give an idea of what to expect: http://www.westernriver.com/cataract-canyon-rafting/weather
How do I get there?
Driving directly to Moab, UT or flying into Grand Junction, CO (GJT) or Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) and then renting a car or catching a shuttle make getting to Moab easy. We offer plenty of free parking for vehicles. Here are helpful details about getting to Moab (link is from our sister site, moabadventurecenter.com, and the Moab Adventure Center is where guests meet for the Cataract Canyon 4-Day trip)
We provide transportation from our Moab Adventure Center to the river and back at the trip’s end. A 30 minute bus ride delivers guests to the starting point along the banks of the Colorado River just outside of Moab, where guides and rafts will be waiting! A return scenic flight to Moab over Canyonlands Natl Park (where guests have been rafting through Cataract Canyon) is included in the trip price. Guests who have left vehicles in the parking area will be delivered there, then the bus continues 5 minutes further to our Moab Adventure Center.
What do I do with my car keys?
Pack car keys in a zippered pocket in your duffel bag, or leave them with the bus driver after parking your car in the secured area and boarding the bus the morning of your trip. The bus driver will deliver you and your keys back to the parking area at the end of the trip.
What accommodations are recommended before and after the trip?
Moab offers numerous lodging options, which include hotels, motels, bed and breakfast properties, ranch resorts, condos, homes, and campsites. Because Moab is a popular adventure travel location, we encourage guests to make reservations early. This link offers a variety of lodging choices: