Desolation Canyon

Put-in: Sand Wash Ranger Stations
Take-Out: Nefertiti or Swaseys Rapids
Trip Length: 3-7 days
Mileage: 54-74 Miles
Class: II-III

Once you enter Desolation Canyon you are there for the next 5 days. The Green River cuts through the Tavaputs Plateau, an area that is uninhabited and offers serenity and beautiful scenery of mountains, big cottonwood trees and wildlife. Sandy beach areas make great camping spots along the river. This 85 mile segment includes lots of flat water with over 50 class II-III rapids.

One-day Trips
Desolation and Gray Canyons are too extensive to be rafted in a single day.

Multi-day Trips | desolation canyon guides |
Rafting trips through Desolation Canyon section typically last between 4 and 6 days. These trips are great! Aside from the beautiful redrock Green River
canyon walls, Desolation Canyon also features amazing rock art sites. Numerous Native American ruins and historical sites are found along the way, and there is excellent hiking from many trails off the main river. Trips down Desolation Canyon typically allow a fair amount of time for hiking, and guides are generally prepared to share their knowledge about local landmarks and their significance. On this trip, rafters are often invited to help paddle. Meals and snacks are included on these trips. Camping equipment is necessary, and may be included in the trip cost, or rented for an additional fee.

Family Trips | desolation canyon guides |
Young children are invited on Desolation Canyon trips. Some guides take children as young as 5; others require children to be as old as 8.

Most of the water is calm, but there are several fun rapids along the way. This trip is often publicized as Utah's most popular family river vacation.

Groups/Corporate Trips | desolation canyon guides |
Group discounts are available to groups or corporations rafting Desolation Canyon.

Desolation [ Planning & Packing ]


Desolation River trips begin with a flight or drive to the Sand Wash ranger station in eastern Utah. Though commonly referred to simply as Desolation this trip actually travels through both Desolation and Gray Canyons. The ride to the put-in provides an introduction to the vast stretch of wilderness surrounding the Green River and its tributaries. From the put-in point on the river and for several miles downstream, the water is peaceful and quiet. First time visitors often find it hard to believe that this tranquil flow of water cut a river gorge that in places reaches deeper than the Grand Canyon. As the rafts proceed downstream, the calm slowly gives way to riffles and rapids. With each day of the trip, the whitewater continues to build in intensity. Rapids are rated on a scale of I to VI, with class I being considered the least difficult, while class VI is considered too dangerous to run. By trips end, you will have run over 60 class I-III rated rapids.

Whitewater is just one of many attractions in this region of the west. Desolation and Gray Canyons are rich with early American history. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, prospectors, homesteaders, farmers and ranchers came seeking a better life. Land was plentiful, but those that staked their claim in Desolation and Gray usually found it too wild to be tamed. The legacy of these early Americans can be seen throughout the river corridor. An abandoned wooden skiff can be found just upstream from Gold Hole. At Rock Creek, the remains of an abandoned cabin marks the end of a settlers dream. Soon after Powell's legendary trip through Desolation, a different sort of explorer ventured into these canyons. These were the outlaws of the old west, and they came to these remote regions not to chart maps or grow crops, but to hide out from the law. The weathered remnants of the McPherson ranch is a popular stop for river travelers. It was here that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid often hid out and traded with local ranchers for fresh horses.

Desolation Canyon - Western River

Prior to the arrival of settlers to the Colorado Plateau, this vast expanse of territory was occupied by a much older generation of people. Over 2,000 years ago, Paleo Indians inhabited these river canyons. These indigenous peoples gradually evolved into what we now know as the Fremont Indian culture which lived here about 800 years ago. Evidence of their existence is found in the stone ruins, arrowheads, pottery and petroglyphs they left behind. These revealing sites tell the story of an ancient culture that once flourished along the river. Although protected by federal law, these sites are accessible and readily viewed by river travelers throughout both of these canyons.Over the years, Desolation has become popular with families and first time river runners. The Desolation Canyon - River Running combination of whitewater, scenery and history is a great introduction to the sport of whitewater rafting. These rapids are challenging and provide plenty of excitement but are not overwhelming for beginners and most family groups. River runners interested in being more personally involved often request that their outfitter bring along inflatable kayaks. These one-man boats allow thrill seekers to challenger the rapids one on one.

Information courtesy of Utah Guides & Outfitters Association.

Back to top Print this page E-mail this page