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The Best in Family Vacations &
Adventure Vacations
Colorado River through
Cataract Canyon, Utah

Colorado River through Cataract Canyon, UT

Four Days, Class III

Tuesdays, April through October

4-Day Value Departures: April 17; May 29; June 19, 26; July 10, 23; August 21; September 18

$1476 adult / $1378 youth
Special Value Departures! $1295 adult / $1095 youth


Six Days, Class III

Sundays, April through October

$1574 adult / $1475 youth

The Colorado River defines much of America's desert southwest. It is born of snow pack high in the Rocky Mountains, and cuts its courses south and then west into the state of Utah, becoming both a creator and characteristic of the impressive Colorado Plateau scenery. This region is known for its impressive collection of national parks, including Bryse, Arches, Zion, and Canyonlands – all of which boast huge, rugged terrain of deep red and tan rock cliffs, naturally sculpted canyons and spires. The area brims with Old West and Native American history, all in addition to the scores of adventure opportunities: horseback riding or hiking, rafting the Colorado, mountain biking across Moab's infamous Slick Rock; 4x4 touring in Utah's isolated backcountry, and much more.

No matter what sort of adventure you’re looking for, Canyonlands National Park has a bit of everything: big – beach camping, exhilarating whitewater; phenomenal side-canyon hikes to explore the history and geology of Cataract Canyon; and the astounding back road views of the Needles region. Prehistoric Puebloan ruins, pictographs and petroglyphs are also common along the shores of the river - inspiring visions of a much wilder North America. The many fossilized remains found in former seabeds also speaks to the areas richness of ancient history. Numerous species of wild animals are drawn to the major water source in the area, making it an ideal place for wildlife viewing. Finding shelter in cottonwoods and willows, riverside tamarisks, bighorn sheep, great blue heron and deer can be seen, as well as beaver, fox, ring-tailed cat and bobcat.

The Cataract Canyon rapids are rated Class III during the months of April, September and October, Class III+ in August, Class III+ to IV in July, and IV to V with peak water usually occurring during the last week of May and the first week of June when there is maximum snow melt.

Why Cataract Canyon?
Not quite as famous as the Grand Canyon, and just a few hundred miles upstream, Cataract Canyon is, indeed, a foremost southwest destination, without the crowds. Come experience with us the finest points of Canyonlands National Park with O.A.R.S. and you'll soon understand why we are so excited to offer this trip.

•  There is no dam on the Colorado River above Cataract Canyon, and its seasonally varying water levels promise a whitewater experience for everyone. During May and Junes high-water season, seasoned whitewater enthusiasts will delight in the massive waves and the celebrated “Big Drops,” which can make even the Lava and Crystal Rapids of the Grand Canyon seem tame. This is often considered the greatest navigable whitewater in the U.S. Later on in the season, from July through to October, the water levels drop and the river becomes an outstanding waterway with slightly less intimidating rapids suitable for all levels of experience and ages.

•  Cataract Canyon is known as a geologic wonder, a true to life classroom where we can see millions of years of natural history up-close. The extraordinary coloration in the Canyonlands region— whites, reds, grays and multiple shade in between— are real indicators of how these rocks were formed. Bent or broken, sometimes rippling like waves on the ocean, the many colored striations of the rock layers bear testament to the powerful forces at work deep below the earths surface.

•  Once the spring high water run-off subsides, Cataract Canyon mellows into an endless natural playground for groups with children as young as 8 years old. Several family-focused trips are offered throughout the season, which boasts activities designed specially for younger children and a “Fun Director” to both educate and entertain. Whether it's rafting, hiking, or relaxing at the campsite, you’ll find no better opportunity to share quality time and favorite activities as a family.

Sample Itinerary
We pride ourselves in running both a flexible or relaxed schedule. Every trip varies depending on the group, the weather and other trips on the water. Read on and see what a sample of your trip may include.

The Day Before Your Trip…
We'll meet at 7:00 pm in the conference room of the Gonzo Inn for a pre-trip meeting. This allows our guests to meet one another and our guides and ask any last-minute questions. Your guides will give you a thorough trip orientation, and provide you with any extra gear you may need.

Day 1

•  The first day will see us move south of Moab to our Colorado River launch at Potash. The scenic 40-minute drive follows the route of river into Meander Canyon where the canyon walls rise regally into the air, and serve as a backdrop for countless petroglyphs. Upon our arrival at Potash we will receive a thorough safety talk from our guides as well as an orientation to our boats and gear. As we push off from shore, we are leaving the familiar behind as we begin our adventure through Canyonlands National Park.

•  You will become oriented to a land nothing like your urban environment as you move along the first 50 miles of your river trip, taking in the rivers rugged and peaceful beauty. Out gusts are continually astounded by the beautiful deep red colours of the sandstone looming above you, by the bright willows found at the rivers edge, and by the desert blue skies. The inviting cool of the Colorado will calm, relax and invigorate you. At a pace so agreeably different from our daily lives, geologic panoramas will slowly change and develop and change before you.

Days 2 – 6

•  Depending on what time of the year we enter Cataract Canyon, the pace of our trip may vary. From Moab to Hite Marina, the same 100 river miles await, whether your goal is to experience the thrilling spring run-off , or the more subdued September waters. Canyonlands is best explored by foot, allowing you to explore spectacular side canyons, prehistoric natural features, impressive vistas and seasonal waterfalls.

•  In addition to the time spent rafting, our tours provide ample opportunities to participate in a variety of additional activities. Spend a morning kayaking, or perhaps lounge in the shade with a fresh pita in one hand, and a book in the other. Others may spend the afternoon hiking to ancient Indian dwellings.

•  Perhaps you’d prefer to take a walk to Lathrop Ruin and explore ancient pictographs of what archaeologists believe is a solstice calendar, and the painted outlines of timeless Anasazi hands. Another day provides the opportunity to investigate Indian Creek Canyon where more fascinating Anasazi ruins and a spectacular seasonal waterfall await you. Rest assured that whichever hikes your group takes, the views will inspire and excite you. The first invigorating days on the river will carry us past Dead Horse Point and the great Goose Neck.(Dead Horse Point was immortalized in Ridley Scott's Thelma and Louise).

•  After the powerful Colorado winds us downstream through The Loop we soon reach The Confluence. This is where the waters of the Green River flow to meet us and Cataract Canyon begins, giving us a taste of the whitewater to come. As as it leaves Stillwater Canyon, the Green River merges with us and shortly ends its 300+-mile journey that brought it from Wyoming. It’s a slow process for the clear waters of the Green to give in to the browner Colorado.

•  About three miles past the Confluence is Spanish Bottom, the threshold of the rivers first major rapid. This also where we find an all but faded 1893 inscription from the Major Powell, a steamer that turned around twice, daring not to attempt the rapids in their sights below. We are now in the Maze District, and rock formations nearby are begging to be explored. We may take a hike 1,500 feet up to the Doll House, with a vista that boasts astounding views in every direction. Moving amidst the huge boulders and worn rock wonders places our guests in a vastly different scale of surroundings. A look back to the Needles region across the Colorado, or a climb to the Beehive Arch introduces us to two more intriguing examples of geology in action.

•  During the spring runoff at Cataract Canyon some of the largest whitewater on the continent is ors to explore. Summer and Fall trips are quite a bit less harrowing, but with rapids the likes of Capsize, Mile Long, and the renowned Big Drops, this section of the river still has an abundance of excitement to offer. The next morning begins with a drop into Brown Betty Rapids, and the anticipation of Cataract explodes with cool water and intense smiles. Whatever type of boat you’re in or the day’s water level, the frequent rushes of adrenaline brought by every new rapid are tempered with your guides' experience and focus on safety. Perhaps now is the time for your guide to tell tales of the likes John Wesley Powell's historic 1869 first descent through these redoubtable rapids.

•  The last day sees our arrival at the end of Cataract Canyon just near Lake Powell. As we travel toward Hite Marina, it is hard to keep from wondering about the wonders drowned below us in Glen Canyon. Thankfully, the scenic trip to Moab grants time to reflect, as we follow our path back through Cataract Canyon from high above, looking down on the landscape through a birds-eye perspective.

What's Included with the Cataract Canyon Trip?
•  All meals from dinner Day 1 through lunch on Day 5, excluding alcoholic beverages
•  Activities Day 1 through Day 6
•  All transportation from Day 1 through Day 6, including flight back to Moab from Hite Marina
•  Excellent and knowledgeable professional guides

What's Not Included?
•  Personal items, which will be listed in a complete packing list
•  Transportation to and from Moab
•  Pre- and post - meals and accommodations

Why Visit Utah?
Utah is where travelers will find some of the most diverse culture, history and scenery located anywhere in the country. There are numerous state parks and a dozen national parks. Here are some highlights we suggest that you check out:

•  More than 150 years ago, Brigham Young and his followers set off west in their search for religious freedom, they soon found themselves to the Great Salt Lake. Determination and hard work turned the desert they found into the now productive heartland for the Church of Latter Day Saints. Today Salt Lake City stands along the eastern shores of the largest inland salt water body in the country and is commonly referred to as the “crossroads of the West.” The downtown quarter of the city is home to Temple Square where you’ll find the Visitor Centre, Mormon Temple and Tabernacle, providing some insight to the regions Mormon heritage. The State Capitol building is also found downtown and is worth a visit. Salt Lake City also boasts museums History and Fine Art, rounding out an incredible outdoor experience with historic and cultural perspectives of the city.

•  Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parksare located off Interstate 15, just 4 hours south of Salt Lake City. These parks highlight the fascinating geologic formations that Southern Utah is so famous for. Bryce Canyon in particular is well - known for its display of rich colors, boasting browns, yellows are reds not typically seen in stone. A visit to Zion is truly out of this world as you view seemingly impossible rock formations and hanging gardens that frequent the many canyons available to explore.

•  The base for our operations in Utah is Moab ,it is a great starting point for trips into both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and also provides us with some of the best mountain biking, 4x4-touring, and hiking found anywhere in the country , not to mention the whitewater!

•  While here, be sure to visit Dead Horse Point , just nine miles from Moab. Here you can see first - hand one of the most spectacular vistas in the United States. The best time to see the park is at sunset when you can watchthe changing colors of the countless buttes, spires, and cliffs fade into the night.

•  Moab is flanked on either side by Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park Arches name comes from the high concentration of naturally formed arches it boats, over 2,000 arches, interspersed spires, with balanced rocks, and fins of sculpted sandstone. The incredible panoramas of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains form the backdrop to an already remarkable foreground. Canyonlands is divided up into 3 regions: The Needles, Island in the Sky, and the Maze. Expansive and memorable views exist around every turn of each of the parks. Just off the highway is actually where the best views are , featuring seemingly endless landscapes of some of the most impressive backcountry on Earth.

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