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Travel Planning Page
Cataract Canyon Classic

Cataract Canyon Classic Travel Planning

  • BEGINS: [See email confirmation for departure time] - SpringHill Suites, Moab, UT
  • TRIP LENGTH: 3 or 4 days, 100 miles
  • MINIMUM AGE: 12 (May - June) 10 (July - Sept)
  • FEATURING: Canyonlands National Park
  • RAFTING: Class III-V whitewater combined with calm stretches
  • BOAT TYPE:Western's J-Rig, Oar Boat, Paddle rafts
  • HIKING: Short walks & longer hikes over moderate terrain (all optional)
  • CAMPING: Cots, tents, sleeping bags, chairs & water-resistant bag
  • MEALS: All meals are prepared for you between departure & return
  • TRANSFERS: Bus transfer to the river from Moab, Utah, and flight return
  • ENDS: Approximately 3:00 PM - SpringHill Suites, Moab, UT

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Cataract Canyon Classic Travel Route

Cataract Canyon Travel Route

Physical Requirements on a Cataract Canyon 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.

Read More about Physical Requirements

Itinerary & Travel Details

Just south of Moab, Utah where the Colorado River and Green River meet in a majestic setting called “The Confluence,” Cataract Canyon begins. Bolstered by the Green River, the Colorado River doubles its force and carves a deep 100-mile-long chasm through the heart of Canyonlands National Park. Here you’ll experience the total thrill of class III-V Colorado River whitewater. Discover absolute relaxation on calm stretches of river that wind through soul-stirring canyons and dazzling geologic formations. Go back in time as you explore ancient Native American ruins and fascinating pictographs. Western’s Cataract Canyon 4-Day rafting trip offers the perfect balance of adventure, discovery and relaxation in an unbeatable setting.


You may purchase last-minute retail items at Western River’s Moab Adventure Center located at 225 South Main Street (sunscreen, clothing items, hats, etc.)


Check out of your hotel, and meet in the lobby of the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Moab the morning of your trip, ready to depart. [CHECK CONFIRMATION FOR EXACT DEPARTURE TIME]. You’ll take a short bus ride to the launch site for Cataract Canyon. After meeting your guides, you’ll set off onto the Colorado River. Leave all the busyness of life behind as you glide along smooth-flowing currents winding through Canyonlands National Park where sculpted sandstone, isolated buttes, and red rock castles offer unparalleled vistas for picture taking. Hike to ancient Indian ruins, pictographs and a magnificent outlook high above the mighty Colorado River.


As the canyon deepens to 2,000 feet, the mood of the river changes drastically. Here you’ll experience over 30 thrilling whitewater rapids! In one of the Colorado River’s most notorious whitewater stretches called the “Big Drops,” your raft plunges 30 feet in a matter of minutes through rapids that can match those of the Grand Canyon in power and difficulty. Loosen your grip after Imperial Rapid and reminisce over your unbelievable journey. Relish one more night camping on the river’s edge. Watch the final rays of sun paint the canyon walls as your guides prepare delicious appetizers, barbeque dinner, and Dutch-oven dessert. Fall asleep under one of the world’s most astounding views of the night sky.


After a delicious breakfast, you’ll savor a soothing morning winding through towering, sun-drenched canyons as you make your way downriver towards Lake Powell. Enjoy a final lunch along the river before bidding farewell to the legendary Colorado River and your many new friends. Climb aboard a Cessna 5-7 seat or Kodiak 9 seat aircraft and experience a spectacular 1-hour scenic return flight over Canyonlands National Park and back to Moab, Utah (arriving approximately 3:00 PM).

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Moab Marriott Entrance

Meet at SpringHill Suites »

LOCATION: 1863 N. Hwy 191, Moab, UT
Early on the morning of your river trip, you'll meet in the lobby of SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Moab.

Departure Time: Boarding begins at 7:15 AM and bus departs at 7:30 AM
A thirty minute (and scenic) drive will take you to the Potash Boat Ramp on the Colorado River where your trip will begin.

Return Time: approximately 3:00 PM

NOTE: For those choosing to stay somewhere other than SpringHill Suites, it is your responsibility to arrive at the designated time and place mentioned above.

Staying at Springhill Suites

Located 5 miles from Arches National Park and 2.5 miles from downtown Moab, Springhill Suites by Marriott is the meeting location for your expedition.

SpringHill Suites & Western River Block Reservations »

TIP: Plan at least 1 night before and after your trip. See section "While in Moab..." for more reasons to stay a bit longer.

Western River has secured a certain quantity of rooms at special rates for our guests. Rooms and rates are available up to 45 days prior to trip departure; after this date, discounted rates may be offered based on availability. Please make your lodging reservations online as soon as possible. If you experience any difficulties using this link, please call Springhill Suites at 435-355-0042 to reserve, and mention the Western River Expeditions code AEPK.

Book Your Room

Notes from SpringHill Suites »

  • COMPLIMENTARY PARKING for all guests of Western River - even for guests not staying at SpringHill Suites.
  • BAG STORAGE Guests of SpringHill will receive complimentary storage for up to two bags per room. Additional bags may be stored at the hotel for $10 per bag per day. Non-SpringHill guest bag storage is available for $10 per bag per day.
  • HOT BREAKFAST BUFFET is complimentary only for overnight guests of SpringHill Suites. Other guests may purchase breakfast at the front desk.
  • RENTAL CAR CONVENIENCE When you rent a car with Canyonlands Jeep & Car Rental (Moab Airport), you may leave your rental at the SpringHill parking lot for pickup while you are on the river. Leave keys with front desk, or Western employee at check-in.

Welcome to Moab! What you Need to Know...

We can't wait to get you here. Here are a few things that will help you make the most of your time in Utah, especially in our beautiful (big) corner of the state: Moab, Utah.

Getting to Town from the Airport »

No Taxi Moab

Free hotel shuttles are still not available in Moab. Taxis, ubers and shuttle services are pricey in groups, and not fully reliable.

Canyonlands Jeep and Car Rental truly is the best way to get to town even if you're leaving first thing in the morning for a rafting trip. Canyonlands will pick your rental up from the Marriott! You just park it at the Marriott, go rafting, and voila!

NOTE: The Marriott is 2.5 miles north of town.) You will still want a car to grab dinner or last minute items before your river trip in the morning.

Reserve Canyonlands Car Rental

Get Thyself to Moab, Thyself!

In any big city airport, you may expect to hail a taxi, or text an Uber. Not so in least not yet.

Your overnight chariot awaits!

Canyonlands Jeep & Car Rental

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While You're in Moab

Moab Marriott Room

How Many Nights Should You Plan to Reserve? »

Minimum 1 Night Before - Plan to arrive at least the day before your Cataract Canyon rafting trip because departure times are early the next morning.

Minimum 1 Night After - Plan to stay at least one night AFTER your river trip. Here's why: a shower. Rafting expeditions change your perspective, which is both exhausting AND refreshing, but so is the fresh shower and night's rest you'll get upon your return to Moab!

Westwater Multisport Hummer Tilt

Adding a Few More Days in Moab »

Add 1 or 2 days before or after - You may be surprised at how much more you can pack into your Moab vacation by adding just one or two days before or after your river trip. We are talking brag-worthy, adventure-extending itinerary additions like Arches National Park (that gives you two National Parks in one trip), Hell's Revenge 4x4 Hummer Safari, Canyoneering into hidden grottoes, hot air ballooning...

Glad we added it!

My family (2 adults and 2 children) took a Hummer safari into Hell’s Revenge. Our guide, George, gave us a great ride. He engaged our children with humor and facts about the landscape and made us feel safe throughout the excursion. He also gave us some thrills along the way. I definitely recommend this trip, our excellent guide, and Moab Adventure Center.

Jerry H.

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Top Recommendations to Add to Your River Trip

Arches National Park

Arches National Park »

Arches National Park is just three minutes from the Marriott Hotel. Because of the new timed-entry reservation system you can't drive yourself spontaneously into Arches. You can, however book a guided bus tour that will maximize your time (AM and PM departures). In most cases, you can be picked up right from your hotel.

Arches National Park Morning Adventure

Hummer Safari Hells Revenge Trail

Sunset Hummer Safari »

You may be able to book the "Sunset Safari" the evening before your rafting trip, depending on your arrival time in Moab.

Hummer Sunset Safari

Canyoneering in Ephedra's Grotto

Canyoneering »

Morning or afternoon departures take you deep into the landscape, literally. It's a half-day commitment, but worth the bragging rights, for sure. Imagine rappelling into a hidden grotto and then off a giant rock arch. The hike out is a delight by its own right.

Canyoneering Adventure

Hot Air Ballooning in Moab

​ Hot Air Ballooning »

The early morning start of these 3 hour balloon adventures may allow time for other adventures in the day.

Hot Air Balloon Sunrise Adventure

Full List of Moab Adventures »

Southwest Vacation Package Arches Window

Use the "Things to Do in Moab" page to explore the possibilities in Moab. Adding one or two more days to your stay and pack in so many more brag-worthy adventures to your itinerary!

Adventures in Moab

Expedition Guide

Expedition Guide & Packing List

Want to download (almost all) of this info?

The Expedition Guide for each trip contains the packing list, and most of the info seen on this page. Combine the "offline" handiness of the Expedition Guide with the online resources of this travel planning page.

Keep the PDF on your phone, or print it out for dashboard reference as you pull into town. See who else you spot with this handy guide on their dash around town. They're smart, cool, savvy travelers. Just like you!

Download Guide

How to Pack for your Cataract Canyon Rafting Vacation

Get a better idea of each of the items on your Cataract Canyon Rafting packing list. See an example of each item and understand why we recommend you pack it for the river.


Packing the Best Camera for Rafting

Choosing the right camera for whitewater rafting is an important decision. With so many options out there, we discuss the pros and cons of the more common cameras we see on the river.

Do you REALLY need "Quality" Rain Gear?

Western River Expeditions sent two of our intrepid guides to answer the question once and for all: "What is Quality Rain Gear and Why Do I Need it?"

The Morning of Your Rafting Trip

  • Check out of your accommodations & eat a good breakfast
  • Meet in the lobby of SpringHill Suites by Marriott
  • Check Confirmation for exact departure time
  • Come dressed and ready to raft (see diagram on Packing List)

Items Provided by Western River Expeditions
  • Transportation from Moab, Utah to the river
  • Professional, licensed guides
  • All meals between trip departure and return
  • All eating utensils and souvenir insulated bottle
  • Unlimited water and lemonade
  • Freshly laundered sleeping bag and sheet
  • Cot (28” x 74”)
  • Tent and ground cover
  • Water-resistant dry bag for sleeping gear and personal duffle bag
  • Custom rafts
  • US Coastguard approved whitewater life jackets
  • Wilderness First-Aid kit
  • Sanitary Facilities
Get the Gear with Redrock Outfitters

Through several decades of experience on the river, Western knows what clothing and gear will keep you smiling every second of your adventure. Specifically, we’ve bundled “The Works” for him, for her and one for gear in general. For your convenience, you can order all these items online with Western’s retail division Red Rock Outfitters.

Things to Bring on the River
  • Duffle bag (approx. 12”x13”x24”), packed with clothing, toiletries, personal items outlined on the Cataract Canyon packing list
  • Extra drinks, if desired. No glass containers. Water and lemonade are provided.
  • Utah State Liquor Store (beer, wine) – 55 West 200 South (closed Sundays)
  • City Market (beer, soda, etc) -- 425 South Main Street
  • Extra snacks, if desired. (Snacks will be provided during the trip)
  • Photo ID, a major credit card, and cash for gratuities.
  • Camera(s) - Phones as cameras in waterproof cases/sleeves (Cell service unavailable)
Things NOT to bring on the River
  • Car keys can be left at your hotel front desk, or with stored luggage while away
  • Unnecessary electronic devices (game devices for kids, etc.)

You will want to have photo ID, a major credit card, and some cash for gratuities. All other valuables and jewelry should be left at home or in a safety deposit box at your hotel. In addition, as a safety precaution we suggest that you not wear rings on the river. Also, each year a few of our guests traveling on airlines arrive without luggage. With this in mind, we suggest you carry with you medications, prescription glasses, and anything you may not be able to replace the evening before your trip departs.

Extra Luggage

Transfer all your personal clothing and gear which you will need on your rafting trip to a small, lightweight duffle bag. Identify duffle bag with label, and leave any extra suitcases or luggage in your vehicle or at the hotel. Marriott SpringHill Suites provides complimentary parking and luggage storage upon request. Please DO NOT BRING SUITCASES on your river trip. As part of your camping equipment package, we provide a water-resistant bag in which you will place your duffle bag as well as the sleeping bag that we provide.

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Camping with Western

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Rafts on the Cataract Classic

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 water levels change in June and through July and August, we switch 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 you travel 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.

Western's J-Rig

Named after Western’s founder, Jack Curry, the “J-Rig” is a patented craft offering the most flexible and comfortable ride on the river. If you’re a thrill seeker, you can sit up front where the waves hit hardest, or ride aft for more protection. There are plenty of calm sections along the river where you can move freely around the boat and trade seating positions throughout the trip.

Western's J-Rig Raft
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Paddle Raft

In conjunction with our Oar rigs, Western also offers paddleboats which provide“hands-on” excitement in conquering the waves with a spirited team of 6 to 8 rafters. Paddlers need not have any prior experience as Western’s guides will provide ample instruction and ensure everyone’s success.

Paddle Raft
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Cataract Canyon Oar Rig

As the water levels change during the season, Western’s guides adeptly maneuver four to six passenger oar rigs. These specially designed 18-foot boats offer a comfortable ride and are “self-bailing” which means that any water that comes into the raft immediately flows back out. These boats carry the camping and cooking comforts necessary for nights along the Green or Colorado Rivers.

Oar Rig in Cataract Canyon