Put-in: Westwater Ranger Station
Take-Out: Cisco Landing
Trip Length: 1-3 days
Mileage: 53 Miles
Class: Up to IV
Come and experience the exciting rapids of Westwater Canyon. On this segment of the Colorado River, the river winds through uniquely colored black rock cliffs and red sandstone walls. Experience the waves and rapids on a guided oar trip or challenge your endurance in a paddleboat. You are guaranteed to get wet when you drop down Funnel Falls or hit rapids like Skull or Sock-it-to-me. There are great hikes, petroglyphs and caves to explore on multi-day trips.
One-day Trips | westwater canyon guides |
One day trips down Westwater generally utilize classic paddle or oar boats. Guests run the entire stretch in one day, generally returning to Moab in the early evening. Lunch and all necessary gear is included on most trips.
Multi-day Trips | westwater canyon guides |
Most multi-day trips down Westwater utilize oar-boats, with the guide doing the oaring for the duration of the trip (typically two or three days). The popular 17-mile rapid-packed section is run, in addition to another 15 - 25 miles of river. These longer trips generally allow time for hiking and sightseeing into remote canyons, and swimming at secluded swimming holes. And time permitting, favorite rapids may be run several times. Nights are spent camping along the river beaches. All meals and some snacks are included with most trip packages. Some guides include the cost of renting sleeping equipment in their price; others charge an additional fee. Be sure to inquire about what equipment you should plan to bring or rent. Trips generally have a van waiting at the take-out point, ready to drive guests back to Moab.
Family Trips | westwater canyon guides |
Families with small children should not consider a trip on Westwater. Though guide policies vary, most companies will not take children under the age of 10 on this trip; some won't take children under 12.
Families with older children will find this a perfect trip. Kids enjoy all the action on the water; parents appreciate the breathtaking scenery.
Groups/Corporate Trips | westwater canyon guides |
Westwater is excellent for small groups or companies. However, to minimize impact on this fragile environment, the Bureau of Land Management permits only a small number of people on the river each day; large groups are not permitted. With this in mind, if you have a group you would like to take down Westwater, it is important to make reservations well in advance to guarantee space availability. Many companies offer discount rates to groups on multi-day trips.
By Thomas Kleinschnitz
Nestled deep in the sandstone cliffs between Grand Junction, Colorado and Moab, Utah, Westwater Canyon provides a marvelous introduction to whitewater rafting and is ideal for adventures who have only a few days in which to experience a whitewater excursion.
As the Colorado River descends into Westwater Canyon, the walls begin to close in, while rising to 1,200 feet in height. Due to the narrowness of this rock strewn channel with its fast water and high canyon walls, the rapids in Westwater Canyon are challenging at anytime during the boating season. And they build in excitement as the raft trip progresses through the canyon. Marble Canyon Rapid, the first in the inner gorge, gets the action started. The waves rock the rafts from side to side as they try to fill them with water. Then as Marble Canyon ends, the rafts enter Staircase Rapid for a series of deep, trough waves that leaves the river enthusiast wet and smiling from ear to ear. A short distance downstream is the entrance to Big Hummer Rapid, one that delivers a wild splash and a big hole that guides must maneuver through or around. Of all the reasons to make it through big Hummer Rapid upright, the most important is to be ready for Funnel Falls Rapid, a truly breathtaking drop that offers the best of adrenaline rushes every river runner is looking for. The pace of the river runs even faster now, as the next two rapids Surprise and No Name go flashing by. Now it's time to regroup and prepare for the one everyone talks about...Skull.
Skull Rapid is formed as the river makes a tight, hard turn to river left. The rapid has a narrow entrance or approach with large and powerful waves that try to wash everything over the top of Skull Rock and into the monstrous hole at the bottom of the rapid. Being in the bottom of the hole is not so bad, it's trying to climb out that causes all kinds of problems. The Rock of Shock is a solid rock wall dead ahead of Skull, flanked on river right with a powerful back eddy that flushes everything into the Room of Doom, a large cavern scoured out of the rock. Sounds exciting? It is! A successful run through this rapid takes some precise maneuvering and leaves every river runner exhilarated! The river still offers three more major rapids, before exiting the canyon - Cross Bones, Sock-it-to-Me and Last Chance. In certain water levels, these last three rapids offer fantastic runs that rival the run through Skull.
The flexibility of trips in Westwater make this canyon a very attractive excursion for people with only a few days to devote to river running.
Information courtesy of Utah Guides & Outfitters Association.
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