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?
Please consider carefully any medical or health condition that would endanger yourself, or others on the trip, or diminish the enjoyment of an adventure vacation such as this. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remote distances from a hospital, and physical challenges of a rafting adventure. It is critical that you are in reasonable health and physical fitness at the time of departure so that our staff can focus their attention equally on all trip participants. If you are taking any medications, we should be made aware of these and what these medications are treating. If you have any questions or concerns please talk with us and we can help you consider your options.
Fit into our Type 5 Life Jacket (maximum chest size is 52 inches and minimum weight is 50 pounds) required by the National Park Service.
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 supply 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 lifejackets fit those 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 - 52 inches (76-132 cm). Body shape can also affect the proper fit of the jacket. If you are unsure, call and speak with us. If unsure, we’ll mail you one of our jackets and you can try it on.
Securely grip ropes provided for handholds while running the rapids.
Gripping the ropes on the raft is the only way to ensure you stay on board. Factors such as where you sit in the raft in relation to where the waves crash can be a factor, but whitewater rafting can give an unpredictable ride.
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).
Traverse and navigate uneven terrain over sand and rocks on hikes and in camp.
Getting on and off the boats can be very challenging. We park the boats against a variety of terrains such as rocks, steep sandy beaches, and flat locations. Boats may also be slippery.
As we travel downriver, we make occasional stops to lead 'side hikes' which can be either very short and relatively easy or much longer, covering significant distances and elevation. We hike over uneven, rocky, and often steep surfaces. Though all the hikes are not mandatory, Guests cannot be left on the rafts due to safety concerns. Reasonable mobility is important. If you have questions about your limitations, please call.
In camp, you will need to have the same mobility over uneven terrain and be able to carry your personal bags to your campsite while doing so. Also, keep in mind that paths from your campsite to the toilet facilities would not be classified as 'easy' to navigate at night.
We camp and eat lunch on sandy beaches and in 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 at night.
Carry your own dry bag which will include your 20-pound duffle bag along with the sleeping bag and ground cover we provide.
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.
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.
The nature of an outdoor adventure includes exposure to weather conditions such as heat, sun, wind, or rain - sometimes in the extreme. With proper preparation procedures such as applying sunscreen, wearing the right clothing, etc., many of these factors of weather (even in the extreme) can be mitigated, and do not have to be a negative factor. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other diseases can become exacerbated by the environment, remoteness, and physical requirements of a rafting adventure.
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, darkness, or delays.
Dietary Requirements & Menu Substitutions
If you or any of the participants in your party have special dietary requirements, or severe or life-threatening allergies of any kind, a multi-day rafting trip may not be a suitable trip for you. Due to space limitations and the nature of our buffet-style meal service, we are unable to accommodate dietary requests such as Kosher and Vegan. If you are unable to find options on our standard meal service (see below) that meet your dietary needs, you may supplement the existing meals where necessary with some of your own food, as long as it does not require cooking on our limited stove and cookware surfaces.
Substitutions for guests with SEVERE ALLERGIES We take allergies very seriously at Western River Expeditions. It is important that you describe to us the exact details of any allergies you may have, including symptoms and severity. If you have an allergy that may cause difficulty breathing, anaphylaxis, or other severe and life-threatening reactions; please read the following points carefully. We want to make sure you are familiar with what we can and can't do for you in a wilderness setting. If you have a severe allergy you will be required to bring at least two Epi-pens on your trip. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office at 1-866-904-1160.
All reasonable efforts will be made to avoid cross-contamination. We cannot guarantee that any of our products are free from allergens (including dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and other allergens) as we use shared equipment to store, prepare and serve them. For this reason, allergies to commonly used products such as onions, bell peppers, black pepper, garlic, or corn may not be possible to accommodate as most of these are present in the pre-made products we purchase. Please inform us as to the exact severity of these allergies, and whether it is anaphylactic or gastrointestinal.
Peanut butter will be served on a separate table with disposable utensils. Guests with severe allergies may go through the line first, before cross-contamination may occur. When preparing something like a salad with nuts, part of the salad will be set aside and covered for you before the nuts are added.
It is our policy not to remove an ingredient from a trip when a guest has an allergy to the ingredient.
You are welcome in the kitchen during meal preparation to read food labels and check if you are allergic to any meal items.
Substitutions for VEGETARIAN GUESTS Western River Expeditions can provide vegetarian alternatives for many items. Please see the list below and compare it with the standard meals for your trip. If you feel that this will not be sufficient, you are welcome to bring additional options. Your guides will store any food that you bring but will not be able to prepare it for you due to limitations of the kitchen facilities such as the number of pots and burners.
Black bean veggie burger patties or Portobello Mushroom (available by pre-trip request) - Replace dinner protein such as steak, chicken, and fish
Dishes such as green beans almondine and chicken salad can be prepared without meat. Peanut butter is always available at lunch and hummus is also provided for vegetarian guests. Whenever possible meat will be served separately from other items to maximize options for vegetarian guests. For example, the chicken for the chicken fajitas will not be mixed with the peppers and onions. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office at 1-866-904-1160.
Substitutions for GLUTEN-FREE GUESTS Western River Expeditions will provide gluten-free alternatives for many items. Please see the list below and compare it with the standard meals for your trip. If you feel that this will not be sufficient, you are welcome to bring additional options. Your guides will store any food that you bring but will not be able to prepare it for you due to limitations of the kitchen facilities such as the number of pots and burners. The backcountry often does not provide ideal conditions to avoid cross-contamination. All reasonable efforts will be made to keep foods separate but if your sensitivity is severe, we may not be able to accommodate you. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our office at 1-866-904-1160.
Gluten-free bread- Replaces lunch bread, dinner bread, and bagels
Can also provide lettuce wraps for all lunches instead of gluten-free bread.
Substitute granola and yogurt in lieu of pancakes.
Gluten-free pancakes- Replaces blueberry pancakes
Corn tortillas- Replace flour tortillas used for lunch wraps and chicken fajita dinner
For our gluten-free guests (GF), we have a packet of gluten-free items we provide upon request. If you would like the GF packet brought for you, please let us know. If there are items in this packet you do not need, please let us know and we will not pack them. Also, if you prefer to not eat gluten-free processed foods, we are happy to provide other options (i.e. lettuce wraps instead of bread, chocolate bars instead of gluten-free brownies, etc.)
Specific DAIRY information Many of our meals have alternative options for avoiding dairy. Depending on your sensitivity, make sure to consult with your guides, and review the labels of the brands that are on your trip. Because of the remote location of our warehouse, we source products from different vendors each week. The only time we serve milk is the continental breakfast one morning. We can provide Rice Milk for this meal. We generally avoid cooking with butter, and your guides will be happy to accommodate this if you check with them on the first day of the trip. Items to watch and avoid are:
Most cake and muffin mixes contain dairy or whey.
French toast mix has evaporated milk in it, which can be left out upon request
Some of our bread contain whey, but many do not.
Several desserts are cakelike products that contain dairy.
Dinner dutch oven potatoes contain dairy.
Some of our snacks.
If you are highly sensitive, we strongly advise that you bring supplemental snacks, desserts, and other foods to make sure you have adequate products to eat. We always have fresh fruits and vegetables available, but with the additional energy expended during an active trip like this, it is important to have an ample supply of alternative products you are comfortable ingesting, primarily snacks and desserts. We will have ample storage, dry or refrigerated available. We hope that this will help you plan accordingly and that you have a great trip with us!
Specific Nut information For our nut free guests, we will be able to make the meal without nuts and set aside a portion for you, and then we will add nuts for the rest of the guests. Please consult your trip leader at the beginning of your trip to address the severity of your allergy.
PB&J will be served at the table for every lunch. If you have a severe nut allergy please consult your trip leader and we will set a separate table that the peanut butter will be placed on. Chicken salad contains cashews, which can be left out of a portion for guests with nut allergies.
Many of our snacks are made in a factory where they could be contaminated by nuts. We will also provide a small stock of nut free bars. This, however is an area that it might be good to bring some supplementary snacks that you like for us to store.
French toast with assorted syrups, Canadian bacon, fresh fruit and OJ
Coffee, hot tea, and cocoa are available in the morning
Lunch meats (turkey, ham, pastrami and roast beef), assorted breads, assorted cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, olives and red onion. This lunch is served twice.
Chicken pita salad sandwiches with chicken, red onion, lettuce, tomato, cashews, mayo and spices. Assorted cheeses, pickles, red onion and olives.
All lunches include peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, chips, cookies and a variety of condiments.
New York strip steak, green bean almondine, house salad, broccoli and cauliflower
Fresh baked Dutch oven frosted cakes
During fire restrictions, dessert options may vary
Snacks may include: trail mix, granola bars, Chex mix, Ritz bits, Rice Crispy treats, candy bars and honey roasted peanuts. Fresh fruit is also available on request.
Again, if there is anything different that you would like to bring with you, please feel free to do so. We will have ample storage, dry or refrigerated available. We hope that this will help you plan accordingly and that you have a great trip with us!
Personal benefits of full (honest) health 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.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.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.
What's the best way to get physically fit for a rafting trip?
Physical fitness on a rafting trip is probably the very best way to get the most out of your adventure. Hiking to hidden attractions away from the river's edge, shooting rapids with anticipation rather than anxiety, and possibly even swimming in the river are among the more active things where being more fit will enhance your whitewater rafting vacation. Feeling confident with your abilities is always a great feeling, but the rewards you'll get from physically preparing your body for a rafting trip will pay off in numerous ways, possibly adding years to your life. Now THAT'S living! So, how does one best prepare physically for a rafting adventure? Great question. One of Western's river guides has created a wholeprogram called "River-Fit" to help guests make the most of their fitness preparations before a rafting trip. We encourage you to take advantage of his custom-fit knowledge and program at www.river-fit.com.
Below, we've made a list of simple exercises that can be combined together and are specifically applicable to a rafting adventure:
Strength: Gripping ropes (or paddles) is one universal constant for any rafting trip. Start squeezing stress balls or spring-loaded grip strengtheners. Keep these small items handy (pun-intended) while stopped at a red light, working at the desk, or while walking and talking. Legs are another key area to focus on - especially if you want to explore the side trips away from the river's edge. Start with walks around your neighborhood while gripping hand weights to strengthen your grip simultaneously. You might as well do some curls with those hand weights while you're at it! Some hikes require some (or a lot of) stair-stepping activity. To really get your legs ready, consider squats, burpees, jump rope, or jumping jacks. All the little muscles in your feet that give you balance will come in very handy (or is that footy)? while walking on uneven terrain.
Lungs & Heart: Breathing heavily is a sure sign your heart rate is up. You probably know lots of ways to get your heart rate up, but one of the best ways to work your entire body (muscles AND heart and lungs) is an exercise with a stupid name, called 'Burpees.' (No, that's not what you get from consuming a 7-11 Slurpee too fast). You can do burpees at any pace you are ready for, but do it long enough to get breathing hard, then catch your breath and repeat for, say 5 minutes a day. Add in walking your dog, using hand-grip weights, or anything else that also strengthens your grip to be more time efficient as you prepare.
Flexibility: Sitting in a raft is different from how we normally sit in a chair. Walking on uneven terrain is different than on a paved path. Flexibility may be more important than strength in helping prevent injuries. Consider that when you absolutely don't want to exercise, but you do have a minute to stretch. Always be stretching.
Balance & Mental Awareness: Of course knowing your own limits is vital for keeping yourself safer - and that responsibility can't be placed on anyone but you! While exercising and preparing for your rafting trip, pay attention to two things: (1) Your own sense of physical balance, and (2) how much harder you can push yourself than you initially may have thought. These two things will keep you safer, while also moving beyond self-imposed limitations and comfort zones. That's the definition of a great adventure!
Drink lots of water: Get used to drinking a lot of water as you exercise more. In the hot sun, even simply sitting on a raft, you will sweat and burn more calories than you may have thought. Hydration is not an area to 'push through' and 'be tough' about! Drink water! Reward that hard-working body!
Swimming skills are a plus! Swimming is a great way to prepare for a rafting trip too. You may (voluntarily or involuntarily) be doing some swimming on your rafting trip. Don't let that scare you. You've got a lifejacket (PFD) on at all times and may only need to do some strokes and kicks to get yourself back to the boat, or to shore.
Myth #9 on our 11 Myths of Whitewater Rafting page dispels the notion that you must be athletic to enjoy a rafting trip. Take a look there if you want to learn more about what to expect on rafting vacations.
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. 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.
If I'm pregnant, can I still go rafting?
If you are pregnant, you will not be permitted to go rafting. Our trips take place in remote wilderness settings where access to advanced medical care can be hours away (possibly overnight), and conditions such as extreme heat and vigorous activity can exacerbate discomfort and any known or unknown conditions.
Please remember that you will not always be pregnant, but the river will always be here. We do not believe it is worth the risk, no matter how early you are in your pregnancy. We think moms are special and hope you understand.
If you think there is a chance that you may be pregnant after making your deposit you should take out cancellation insurance that would have coverage to cancel for any reason or plan to have someone take your place. We offer the name change option for you or anyone in your party for $50 per person.
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 is a must.
If you use a CPAP machine, please ensure that you can complete the trip if your CPAP machine fails or your batteries don’t last. Medical evacuation is only available for severe injury or an imminently life threatening condition. You must be able to safely complete the trip without a working device! Please contact our office to advise us if you will be bringing a C-pap machine on your trip. 1-801-942-6669
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.
Reservations & Cancellations
What deposit is required?
A non-refundable $250 per person deposit 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.
When is final payment due?
Payment in full is due 120 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable. Payment may be paid by check (preferably) or credit card.
How can I make payments?
You may make partial payments by credit card or by mailing in a check, providing the full balance is paid 120 days prior to your trip. These payments may be made online through the 'Manage Payments' link in your order or by phone. For payments over $10,000 and for large international payments, a check or wire transfer is preferred. We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by the due date.
What is the cancellation and refund policy?
Cataract Canyon 2-Day trips require a non-refundable $250 per person deposit. Payment in full is due 120 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.
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.
Trip or date transfers into the following season are not allowed.
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?
Gratuities for guides are appropriate and greatly appreciated as a gesture of thanks for their professionalism and service. The industry standard is 10% of the cost of the trip. Our guides will make every effort to see that your trip is enjoyable and successful. 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?
While we fully expect to operate each of our scheduled departures, there may be times when circumstances beyond our reasonable control cause us to be unable to operate a specific departure. These may include, without limitation, acts of nature, government restrictions, pandemic or illness, weather conditions, and other unforeseen circumstances. Please reference our full policy provided at the time of reservation.
What if the date I want is sold out?
When searching availability online, you will find sold out dates grayed-out. Available dates appear in green, dependent upon on 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?
Three trip dates are offered each week from mid-May until early July each year (M-T, W-TH, F-S). Dates are available at least a year in advance. We suggest reserving early, to guarantee date of choice.
Groups & Charters
What is the maximum number of guests on this trip?
12 is the maximum number of guests on a trip.
How many guests per raft?
Each custom Snout Rig raft comfortably seats 6 guests + 1 guide. For most trips, two Snout Rigs travel together.
Can I charter my own private trip?
The best way to charter a private trip is to reserve all 12 seats for the date of choice. Requests for custom dates are evaluated individually by Operations and require consideration of date and number of guests, etc. Dates prior to or just following our regular season offerings are easiest to accommodate. For smaller groups, all seats can be purchased to guarantee a private trip
What about group discounts?
There are no group rates.
What is the easiest way to get my friends booked on the same trip?
Arranging a group trip with Western is an easy task! Begin by calling our office at 801-942-6669 to make your own reservation or reserve online. We can then email you a direct booking link to your trip date that you can share. Conversely, members of your group may call in and mention that they are traveling with you. If group members are paying separately each can have their own reservation while still being tied together as a group.
Depending on availability, it may be possible to place a courtesy hold for a few days on your specific trip date to enable your friends to call in with their own deposit. Seats would then be released from that hold as they place their individual reservations within your group.
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 all Cataract 2-Day Express trips, guests must be age 12+ at time of travel. There are no exceptions to this age limit. Youth should weigh no less than 75 lbs. There is no maximum age limit, but older guests will want to consider the physical nature of a wilderness river trip.
What if my kids are picky eaters?
A big 'Western-style' breakfast begins day two with a variety of items, including breakfast meat, French toast, fruit, etc. Chicken salad and build-your-own sandwiches, including peanut butter and jelly are lunch offerings. Fruit, chips, and cookies are also served at lunch. Dinner includes steak, 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 Desolation Canyon 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. Our Cataract Canyon 4-Day Rafting Trip in July - Aug accommodates guests as young as age 10.
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 rain suit that can be used as needed, or paddle gear during unusually cold weather. 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. This extra layer protects against cold water and because weather conditions vary, 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 on the rafting trip?
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 Marriott SpringHill Suites Moab, 1865 N Hwy 191. 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. Rain gear goes on the raft with you, so keep it handy.
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?
For this 2-Day Expedition, camera batteries may not need to be charged while on the river if they are brought along fully charged. 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 inches x13 inches) 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 duffle bag (which should be no larger than 12 inches x 13 inches x 24 inches). The gear bag is then rolled and clipped and secured away on the raft during the day, available in camp late afternoon.
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 duffle 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, rain suit, etc). Plates and eating utensils are provided for meals.
What do I do with extra luggage?
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.
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?
After a good night’s sleep (on a comfortable cot, under the stars or in a tent) day 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, 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. Guides 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 River 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?
Western’s motorized Snout Rigs offer both speed and comfort traveling through Cataract Canyon. Each raft comfortably seats 6 guests. Front seating offers the most adventurous ride, with more protected seating further back. Calm water stretches allow guests to move about and trade places as desired.
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 rain suits!) 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?
Depending on water temperatures, 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?
The portable toilet system we use in camp (as shown in the video) is NOT available during the day while rafting. During the day your guides will take 'pit stops' (also known as 'smile breaks') where boats pull ashore allowing guests to access the river’s edge and… smile... while discreetly relieving liquid waste (#1) directly in the river’s naturally flushing current, according to regulations. This is generally done by wading into the water in a calm location or by finding a more private location at the water’s edge.
While we won't have the toilet system available during a portion of each day, if you need to go #2 during one of our pit stops, we will provide directions to a private location and supplies for a clean and convenient way to collect and dispose of things.
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 sometime after existing the canyon.
Can I contact others while on the river?
While satellite phones can be rented, service may be limited and reception poor. There is no way to exit the canyon if a subsequent conversation relays concerning news from home.
Mandated by Canyonlands Natl Park Service, evacuations are only for serious on-river medical emergencies. A multi-day river trip is a wonderful setting for relaxation and time away from electronics.
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. Dinner is served about 30 minutes after appetizers. If time permits, guides may have games or activities available. 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 hand wash stations are first items set up in camp and taken down the following morning by the guides. Guests will be asked to use the hand wash station and hand sanitizer after bathroom visits in camp and before all meals. Even though our river trips are in remote settings, personal hygiene is a top priority and helps keep guests healthy and able to participate. Departure from camp is usually about 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. Additionally, tents are available that accommodate two cots and gear with a walkway in the middle. Solo travelers have private tents. 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. Tents and cots will be loaded back on the rafts on Day 2 with all the other gear.
How do I bathe while on the river? What about personal hygiene?
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?
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.
What weather can 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.
The Marriott property where we pick up for the trip, Springhill Suites Moab, has a complimentary breakfast buffet for guests who stay there the night prior.
What is the food like?
Delicious and plentiful! Fresh fruits and vegetable, meats, whole-grain breads, and desserts are presented in mouth-watering array. A hearty breakfast fuels guests for the second day’s start and a dutch oven dessert gives 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 6 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 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 to choose from. 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.
What about liquor and controlled substances?
Alcohol is allowed at your own discretion. Storage will be provided on the boats.
Note: Hydration (ie. drinking enough water to offset diuretics such as alcohol or even caffeinated beverages) is especially vital to your health and safety on the river in the hot desert sun. Also, be aware that intoxication on a rafting trip, along the river and in camp can be particularly dangerous, so we advise prudence!
Controlled substances, such as Marijuana, are illegal to possess in Canyonlands National Park.
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 during early season spring runoff. Faster water and smaller, motorized Snout Rigs facilitate these 100 mile 2-Day trips. Water temperatures will increase from May to late June as air temperatures warm. Typically, peak runoff occurs between late May and the latter part of June, so all trip dates offered are designed to give guests a big rafting experience in a short 2-Day time period.
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.
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 guests 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) or Skywest (dba Delta) from Salt Lake City International (SLC). Here are helpful details about getting to Moab (link is from our sister site, moabadventurecenter.com):
We provide transportation from the Marriott SpringHill Suites Moab to the river and back at the trip’s end. On Day 1, a 30 minute bus ride delivers guests to the trip start along the banks of the Colorado River just outside of Moab, where guides and rafts will be waiting. A return ground shuttle delivers guests back to Moab by or before 4:00 PM on Day 2.
What do I do with my car keys?
Pack car keys in a zippered pocket in your duffle bag. Alternately, they may be left at the hotel desk or with stored luggage while you are away.
What accommodations are recommended before and after the trip?
Marriott SpringHill Suites (where you will be picked up the morning of your trip at 7:15 AM and returned the last day), offers a discounted group rate to our Cataract Canyon guests. Link to make a reservation can be found in your personal trip order.