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.
An adventure vacation such as a river trip down Cataract
Canyon can provide experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. We want
you to enjoy your river trip as much as possible. In order to do this, it is
necessary that you understand the physical requirements of the trip. Health
determinants such as age, weight, lack of physical conditioning, degenerative brain
disease, and diseases or conditions associated with the heart and lungs may
become intensified due to the unpredictable environment and distance from
hospitals. Understanding these risks along with the possible strenuous physical
activity that accompanies whitewater rafting trips of this nature will help you
be better prepared for the trip of a lifetime.
· Balance Caloric Expenditure with Caloric Intake
· Be Self-Sufficient & Responsible
· Carry Your Personal Gear Bag
· Wear Your Life Jacket
· Grip Ropes & Paddles
· Navigate Uneven Terrain
Most guests find that that joining the guides and other guests on occasional “side hikes” as we head down river greatly improves the overall experience of their river trip. Cataract Canyon has a couple side hikes that vary both in length and difficulty. The trip leader will determine which hikes the group can do, depending on water levels, weather, and timing. These hikes may require walking over various surfaces including large and small rocks, sand, steep inclines and declines, and through some vegetation on a narrow path. Hiking is not required, but it is encouraged!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.
It is possible that you could fall out of the
boat or that the boat could capsize. In the event that this happens, you will
need to be able to have the ability to self-rescue by either swimming back to
the boat or to shore. If you swim to shore, you may have to traverse over
rocks, tree limbs, and other natural obstacles to get to the boat downstream.
Life jackets are required to be worn while on the river. These are very effective at keeping your head above water, but you will still need to know how to swim. Your guides will carefully explain all safety instructions during your rafting trip, including instructions related to life jackets, and what to do during the rapids.
A river trip such as this requires active participation from each guest. Our wonderful guides will do their best to ensure the safety and welfare of each guest on the trip, but you are also responsible for your personal safety. The guides fill their long days with varying responsibilities, so they will not be able to devote a lot of extra time to any one individual throughout the trip.
Because our trips are located in the back country, be aware that at any given time you may be hours away from medical aid. All of our guides go through an extensive training and are certified properly to perform their responsibilities. Some guides choose to pursue even higher levels of emergency response training than required. However, in the event that an evacuation is necessary, challenges such as finding a sufficient landing zone, inclement weather, darkness, and other factors may delay a needed evacuation by helicopter. Our guides do carry satellite phones, but they are not always reliable due to the remote location of our trips. If you are currently taking medications, we should be made aware of what medications you take and what they treat when you make your reservation.
It is important to keep in mind that extreme weather conditions may heighten sensitivity to certain health conditions. While on a river trip with us you may experience extreme heat, wind, rain, and other severe weather conditions. You may also experience any combination of extreme weather throughout your trip, and even in the same day (i.e. very rainy and cold in the morning and hot and sunny in the afternoon). While on the river trip, your guides will remind all guests to apply sunscreen frequently, stay hydrated, and take other precautions. It is your responsibility to make sure you follow through with their guidance.
Prior to leaving on your trip we invite you to thoughtfully read through the packing list to ensure that you are prepared for a variety of weather changes. Preparation and prevention will lead to the best possible outcome while on your trip.
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.
The nature of this trip requires you to get on and off boats regularly. You may be asked to get on or off the boat on a flat, sandy beach or you may be asked to step onto boulders or a beach with a steep grade. It may take as much as a 2-3 foot ascent to climb onto the rafts. Also, the boats may have slippery and sandy surfaces at any time. The boat may be tied off in swift water, which means it could be swaying or rocking as you board or exit the raft. Keep in mind you may be holding your personal day bag and water bottle when getting on and off the rafts.
When you arrive to camp on the first evening of your trip, the trip leader will explain the setup of the camp. This will include details about the toilet. We provide a comfortable place well away from the group to ensure privacy while using the toilet. The guides will mark the trail at night to help you find it. Getting to the toilet usually involves a short hike. The trip leader will also explain the protocol for what to do when you need to use the restroom during the day when a toilet is unavailable.
It is possible that you could fall out of the boat or that the boat could capsize. In the event that this happens, you will need to be able to have the ability to self-rescue by either swimming back to the boat or to shore. If you swim to shore, you may have to traverse over rocks, tree limbs, and other natural obstacles to get to the boat downstream.
For guests who have heart conditions or who are
very overweight, falling out of the boat during a rapid or other highly intense
situation may possibly result in a “cold-water immersion heart attack”. Such
attacks occur when the person swimming cannot calm their breathing and the
heart does not receive enough oxygen, causing it to fail.
In order to fit into this coastguard approved, National Park Service required, Type V Whitewater life jacket, you must weigh at least 50 pounds and have a chest size no larger than 52 inches. We have both “Adult” and “Youth” jackets. Youth jackets are for those weighing between 50-90 pounds (23-41kg). Both adult and youth jackets are adjustable in order to fit a range of chest sizes and body types. If you have any concerns regarding the fit of a life jacket, please contact our office staff. After a discussion, if you are still unsure about the fit for either yourself or a child, we’ll mail you a life jacket for you to try it on.
While on your rafting trip, your guide will fit you to your life jacket. For your safety, it is crucial that you wear your life jacket as instructed. These Type V life jackets are very effective at keeping you above water, but if you are unable to swim, a threating situation may ensue, especially during the rapid sections of the river.
Just as we do our very best to fully disclose what you need to know to make the most of your river trip, we hope you’ll provide us that same courtesy regarding your physical, emotional, and mental conditions for all members in your party. It is incredibly important that we know about any conditions, limitations, and/or challenges well in advance of your trip. Please note that in order for our guests (including you) to thrive in the isolated environment found on these river trips, we must know how any physical, emotional, and/or mental condition could potentially affect you and other guests. These crucial details affect how our guides prepare for each trip. Due to the nature of a river expedition, we cannot absolutely guarantee your safety or advise that you join us on one of our trips.
We invite you to consciously analyze and evaluate your physical, mental, and emotional condition in relation to a trip located in a remote area , exposure to sun, navigation on uneven terrain, properly gripping rope, and carrying your personal bag that weighs up to 20 pounds.
There are many excellent ways to prepare for a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions and the Moab Adventure Center. Physically preparing for a multi-day rafting trip and all the activities associated with it will ultimately benefit your life and make the river trips oh so much sweeter. Here are a few pro tips to keep in mind while you prepare for your upcoming adventure. You should consult with your physician to determine what type of exercise is most appropriate for you.
Balance: As stated, one requirement of our rafting trip is getting on and off the rafts. This requires some amount of balance. As stated in the video, “you don’t have to look pretty, you just have to be able to do it”. While navigating Cataract Canyon while in a paddle boat, you will need to use your abdominal muscles for balance while going through the rapids. A great way to prepare for these activities is to practice stepping on and off knee high-surfaces, such as a park bench. Start small by stepping off and on a small stool and then work your way up to a park bench. Use your arms to help you balance and practice until you feel comfortable holding something in your hand as you step up. If you pay attention, you will be able to notice how frequently you use your abdominal muscles. Pushing a grocery cart, scooting your chair under your desk, coughing, sneezing, laughing, and the list goes on. Make a conscious effort to recognize when you use your abs during a normal day. Make time to strengthen them by doing consistent abdominal exercises.
Cardiovascular Health: Your heart and lungs are very important while on a rafting trip. As you hike, prepare to go through the rapids, set up your tent, and eagerly wait for your gourmet dinner to be served, you may notice your heart rate going up. This is to be expected. As such, you should train your body to be able to handle these types of physical stressors. Walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, dancing, and many other activities can help you strengthen your heart and lungs. One great exercise to improve both cardiovascular and muscular fitness is called a “burpee”. These intense exercises can be modified to fit a variety of fitness levels. We suggest beginning with the most simple burpee modification and then progressing from there. Remember to start small and over time increase repetitions and modify the burpee to continue making it a challenge.
Flexibility: A majority of us spend our workday in a chair, often in front of a computer screen. Sitting on or straddling a raft will require you to use different muscles all throughout your body, including your back and abdominal muscles. Focusing on increasing your range of motion for your back, legs, and ankle joints will greatly help you prevent injuries both prior to and during your river trip. Take a minute long break here and there during your work day to stretch different muscles throughout your body.
Hydration: As you prepare for your river trip both physically and mentally, be sure to add extra water to your daily regimen. When you come to Utah for your Cataract Canyon trip you’ll find that the climate is *usually* very hot and dry. Your body will be sweating and you may not even realize it. The key is to drink water before you get thirsty and dehydrated. By building up a healthy habit such as drinking water throughout both your work day and your workout, you’ll be used to consuming water when your body needs it. Those who choose to drink soda and alcoholic beverages while on the trip will need to drink an equal amount of water to remain properly hydrated.
Mental Awareness: Self-rescue is the best rescue. This means that your safety is also your responsibility. Having the mental capacity to follow directions properly and quickly, make decisions based on good judgement, and avoid unnecessary dangerous situations is a vital quality we expect all of our guests to have and carry out. If you or a loved one is struggling with a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, dementia, or have any difficulty thinking and understanding, memory loss, etc. please contact our reservations staff. It is critical that we are made aware of these situations as soon as they are known.
Strength: While a rafting adventure such as this does not require solely athletic body types (see Myth #9 on our 11 Myths of Whitewater Rafting blog post), some strength is needed by all party members. Because you’ll be gripping the hand holds provided or paddles with your hands you’ll want to have a strong grip. You can strengthen your grip by squeezing stress balls or by using a spring-loaded grip strengthener. These can be found at most sporting goods stores and online.
To traverse successfully on uneven ground around camp and on hikes, you’ll want strong legs that know how to get the job done, even when they’re tired. There are many exercises you can do to strengthen your legs. If you’ve got a place you can go hiking at home, start hitting the trails! If you lack mountains or trails in your region, there’s lots of opportunities to strengthen your muscles at the gym or at home. If you can work up to 30 minutes on the stair stepper or put the treadmill on a good incline and power walk for a certain amount of time taking short breaks to let your heart rate decrease, you’ll be in great shape for the hikes. Strength training exercises such as squats and lunges are also exercises you can do at home, at work, and at the gym to prepare for your trip.
Swimming Skills: Developing and strengthening your swimming skills will make your trip both more enjoyable and safe. While on the trip you may voluntarily jump out of the boat to swim and float in the river, or you may involuntarily fall out of the boat during a rapid section. In both cases you’ll be wearing a life jacket, have previous instruction from your trusty river guides, and continue to receive instruction from said guides. In most cases you stay close to the boat and are able to return to the safety of the boat by doing a few simple strokes and kicks.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your physical condition, please consult your physician. You can contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669 for more details or any other information you need.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are concerned about the possibility of having to cancel, you will find information about cancellation coverage at www.travelguard.com/westernriver.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Because we value both your health and the health of your unborn baby, we do not permit those who are expecting to go rafting. Cataract Canyon is a remote back-country setting and access to advanced medical help is not readily available. We do not believe that rafting is worth the risk when you are carrying such precious cargo, no matter how early you may be in your pregnancy.
If you become pregnant after making your reservation, we strongly encourage purchasing cancellation insurance that covers cancellations for any reason. We also offer a name change option. This option allows you to find someone to take your place for only a $50 fee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
For guests staying at SpringHill Suites, complimentary parking and storage of 2 bags per room (if needed or for heat sensitive items) are provided. Additional bags may be stored for $10. per bag per day. For guests staying elsewhere prior to the trip, SpringHill Suites offers to store each bag for $10. per bag per day. Parking is complimentary.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
There is no cell service while 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On multi-day river trips, our food service is limited by several factors:
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:
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.
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.
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!
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
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. Marriott SpringHill Suites (where we meet our guest the morning of the trip) offers plenty of free parking for vehicles. Also, flights into Moab (CNY) are available through Skywest (dba United) from Denver International (DEN). Here are helpful details about getting to Moab:
We provide transportation from Marriott SpringHill Suites 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. After the flight, guests are then delivered by bus back to the Marriott SpringHill Suites.
Pack car keys in a zippered pocket in your duffel bag. Alternately, they may be left at the hotel desk or with stored luggage while you are away.
Along with Marriott SpringHill Suites (where you will be picked up the morning of your 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: