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.
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.
If you or any of the participants in your party have special dietary requirements, 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 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 number of pots and burners.
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 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.
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 bar 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 to 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 the first day of the trip. Items to watch and avoid are:
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.
All lunches include peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, chips, cookies and a variety of condiments.
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.
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. 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 grip simultaneously. You might as well do some curls with those hands 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 heavy 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 that 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 lotsa 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.
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.
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 cpap machine on your trip. 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.
An initial non-refundable 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.
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.
You may make payments by mailing in a check, credit card, or online 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. For payments over $10,000 and for large international payments, a check or wire transfer is preferred.
Your initial deposit of $300 is non-refundable. Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is also 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.
If you are concerned about the possibility of having to cancel, you will find information about cancellation coverage at https://www.westernriver.com/cancellation
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 30 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.
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 a year in advance. We suggest reserving early, to guarantee date of choice.
Thirty 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. Group size = 30 people
Trips may be chartered for your exclusive group with less than 30 guests (at a full charter trip price). Contact us for pricing details.
There are no group rates.
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.
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.
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.
Hard 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.
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 (link is from our sister site, moabadventurecenter.com):
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:
This comprehensive PDF guides include river maps, overview, full itineraries, camping and weather information, details on physical requirements, packing lists and more.