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EXPEDITION GUIDE
Cataract Canyon Classic 4 Day
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Cataract Canyon Classic Travel Route

Cataract Canyon Travel Route

Quick Facts »

  • BEGINS: [Departure time on Trip Confirmation sheet] - SpringHill Suites, Moab, UT
  • TRIP LENGTH: 4 days, 100 miles
  • MINIMUM AGE: 12 (May - June) 10 (July - Aug)
  • 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 transfers to river from Moab, Utah and return
  • ENDS: Approximately 4:00 PM - SpringHill Suites, Moab, UT

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 trip offers the perfect balance of adventure, discovery and relaxation in an unbeatable setting.

​DAY PRIOR »

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.)

DAYS ONE & TWO »

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.

​DAY THREE »

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.

​DAY FOUR »

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 aircraft and experience a spectacular 1-hour scenic return flight over Canyonlands National Park and back to Moab, Utah (arriving approximately 4:00 PM).

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WHERE/WHEN TO MEET

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 4:00 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 email- Carla.Gregory@Marriott.com and mention the Western River Expeditions Block.

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.

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 Moab...at 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 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

Southwest Vacation Package Arches Bus

Arches National Park »

Arches National Park is just three minutes from the Marriott Hotel. You can drive yourself, or take 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

Southwest Vacation Package Hummer Range

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

Moab Canyoneering Alli

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

Moab Hot Air Ballooning

​ 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 Express packing list. See an example of each item and understand why we recommend you pack it for the river.


PACKING LIST

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. Get a FREE item with a “Works” purchase. 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.)
Valuables

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 4 Day

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

General Information & FAQS

A Typical Day on the River

After meeting your guides you will be given a trip orientation that will include how and where you can sit on the rafts, how to hold on, and safety precautions while on the river.

A typical day will include rafting for a few hours at a time, stopping for scenic side-canyon hikes, bathroom breaks, and lunch. Visiting with new-found friends and learning river lore and geology from our well-trained guides add to the enjoyment of each day.

After a full day of learning and fun we arrive in camp. Guests will be allowed to find their favorite campsite and then return to the rafts for the famous “fire line” - the way we load and unload rafts. Your help in passing the gear off the boat is greatly appreciated; however, if you have physical restrictions or limitations that would prohibit you from participating you are not required to help.

The first evening in camp, the guides will give a demonstration on how to easily assemble the cots and tents and will be available to help you if you need additional assistance. Western River provides cots, tents, sleeping bags, sheets, camp chair and water-proof gear bags for all guests. You’ll have no need to worry about bringing any of your own camping equipment.

While you relax at the river’s edge, your guides will prepare dinner. Every night is different, but the menu may include items such as grilled chicken breast, steak with sautéed onions, pasta or fresh fish.

At night, whether you choose to sleep in your tent or under the vast canopy of stars, the fresh night air and the rhythm of the river will lull you to sleep.

Each morning, your guides will prepare a delicious breakfast. You’ll have a chance to enjoy eating before returning to your campsite to take down your tent and cot and pack up your belongings in your dry bag. After bringing your bag down to the boats, guests participate in the fire line once again and you are off on another fun-filled day of adventure.

Rafting vs Other Vacations
The setting and pace of a rafting adventure gives you something you don’t find in other vacations. On a Western River Expedition, you will quickly discover why so many are calling this “the best vacation of their lives.” It’s the combination of drifting over tranquil pools of water under the shadows of towering rock formations, the exhilaration and thrill of rolling waves and crashing whitewater, the exploration of seldom-seen waterfalls and Native American history, the peaceful moments of reflection as you gaze up at the star-studded sky and the fresh feeling of renewal as the morning sun slowly filters through winding canyons. All this provides an indescribable sense of belonging. A sense of oneness with yourself and those around you. A sense of adventure, reflection and renewal. Come discover the difference.
Physical Requirements & Dietary Restrictions

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.


PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS:

  • Fit into our Type 5 Life Jacket (maximum chest size is 52”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 terrain such as rocks, steep sandy beaches, and flat locations. Boats may also be slippery.
      • As we travel down river, 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 on 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.

    • WEATHER:
    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 disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remoteness, and physical requirements of a rafting adventure.


        REMOTE LOCATIONS: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.



      Payment & Cancellation Policies

      Paying your balance

      Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and may be paid by check (preferably) or credit card. We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by the due date.

      Cancellation & refunds

      The cancellation policy applies at the time of deposit. Details regarding cancellations and travel changes for each trip can be found at WesternRiver.com or on your reservation confirmation. If you must cancel any reservation, the cancellation policy applies in every instance and there will be no exceptions for any reason. Western will not issue any refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. Western River Expeditions is not responsible for any expenses incurred in preparation for any cancelled trips or for costs incurred due to travel delays, flight cancellations, or illness. If you are concerned about the possibility of having to cancel, you may find information about cancellation coverage and policy details at: westernriver.com/cancellation

      Beverages

      We have water and lemonade on the trip for you. However, if you would like to buy beer, wine, liquor, etc. you should purchase those prior to the trip departure. Please try to avoid bringing glass containers as broken glass can be a hazard on a boat.

      • Utah State Liquor Store Full strength beer, wine, and liquor | 55 W 200 S, Moab, UT 84532 ---- 11 AM - 7 PM (closed Sundays)
      • City Market Soda, juices, kombucha, domestic beer, etc. | 425 South Main Street, Moab, UT 84532 | 6 AM - 12 AM (7 days a week)
      • Moab Brewery For a local selection of beer and liquor | 686 South Main Street, Moab, UT 84532 ----- 11:30 AM - 10 PM (7 days a week)
      Other Questions

      If you have additional questions, our friendly staff is available Monday – Friday from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM Mountain Time.

      Call: 800-453-7450

      Also, visit us online at westernriver.com for more information. Be sure to see ALL our “FAQS & POLICIES” section for this trip.

      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.

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