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Old 04-01-2014   #1
bjsconstrux's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 10
Plan B options around Moab,UT/Late May Cataract trip

A group of PAC NWer's have a Cataract Canyon trip in late May and are wondering about some solid plan-b floats in case river conditions on the Colorado are a bit too grande for us at that time. We'd like to do some exploring of the area from boats hopefully. We're a fit group looking for some killer side-hike opportunities. Of course, we are hoping that Cataract is in a sweet spot when we go, but at this point, there is no way of knowing what the spring will bring down that drainage. Snow pack looks plenty good.

What do you guys think? We have an 8 day permit, and we'll most likely be bringing all of our own gear. We don't need our plan-b to be huge and adrenaline filled either.

Also, having a hard time finding any rapid descriptions/river maps on Cataract. I can only watch scary high water YouTube vids so much. Does anyone out there have some notes they'd be willing to share with us? Looking for some basic rapid info, campsite info and stuff like that.
Any ideas and info would be appreciated. Float on!

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Old 04-01-2014   #2
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 68
As for guidebooks, I just rowed down cat with this one

Belknap's Waterproof Canyonlands River Guide-All New Color Edition: Bill Belknap, Buzz Belknap, Loie Belknap Evans, Bill Belknap, Buzz Belknap, Loie Belknap Evans: 9780916370152: Books

Not great for rapid descriptions, but it is handy for river miles and is full of campsite locations.

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Old 04-01-2014   #3
Crested Butte, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1987
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 298
As far as Cataract up to 20,000 or maybe a little higher is pretty manageable. You may be able to secure a Westwater permit during that time period as a backup.
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Old 04-01-2014   #4
Salida, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 4
Go to the San Juan River beautiful great hikes there.
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Old 04-01-2014   #5
Salida, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 728
Fruita to Moab or the lower San Miguel to the Dolores thru Gateway to Dewey.
You could make a week long trip out of either of those.

As for Cataract, there should only be a couple rapids, though big ones, at the big drops, which I believe are numbers 21, 22, and 23. Don't blow by your scout, it comes quickly in spring. There is one more a little upstream that has caused a few folks some trouble, I want to say 18, but not sure. Regardless, flows will likely wash out almost everything but the big drops, right? What flows do most rapids disappear in cat?

I've only seen it at 70K once or under 11K lots of times, nothing between.

Camps at rapids 3 and 5 afford good access to surprise valley and the dollhouse. A layover for that hike is time well spent, you will want the whole day for it. But on that high water trip, the flow increased to the point where the river was flowing through our kitchen on the second morning, so keep the stuff up high if you leave camp all day.

We launched on 35K in Moab, did 20 miles in about 2 hours and layed over, repeated that 4 times total for the 8 day trip. By the time we got to rapids day, the flow doubled and we had the wildest day of our lives. You will really enjoy Cataract Canyon!
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Old 04-01-2014   #6
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
A long................ very long ................... shot is Dolores.

Since those buggers plugged it, it hasn't been runnable much at all, at least the significant parts, but with good snow pack and prayers to the river gods .............. maybe.

May is the prime season if it runs at all.

From McFee ranch to Bedrock is typically 5 days, good white water and incredible scenery.
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Old 04-02-2014   #7
beware209's Avatar
Englewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 30
Another option is to put in at Nefertiti on the Green (keep following the road north from Swasey's), run the Tusher dam (easy right side run at high water, scout right), pass Green River State Park (go there first to get your on-demand Labyrinth Permit and avoid check-in hassles with Barney the Ranger). From GRSP it's 30 miles to the beginning of the Canyon and 68 miles to your take-out at Mineral Bottom giving you 38 miles of gorgeous canyon with many hiking and camping opportunities. You can self shuttle this trip. No rapids once you get past the Dam. Around 88 miles total.

Then pack up and drive to Cisco Landing (Westwater takeout), do the Moab Daily, and you can go as far as Potash (Cataract put-in) permit free and another easy self-shuttle and quite scenic.

These 2 trips will easily consume a week to 10 days. Be aware that the Friendship Cruise ( can cause significant river motor boat traffic over Memorial Day weekend.
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Old 04-02-2014   #8
Hood River, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2163
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 295
Rubyhorse all the way to Moab would be a sweet 8 day trip that time of year as long as you are comfortable running Westwater, but that could be on the high side as well. Definitely doable.

You could also just do Ruby and then do Cisco to Moab as two separate trips if you don't want to row westwater with higher flows.

The Moab Daily and the stretch below Dewey Bridge are actually some of the best views on the Upper Colorado despite being semi-roadside. The camping is good too. Attached a picture from a trip on this section last fall. Combined with Westwater and Ruby, you have a really great river trip.

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Old 04-02-2014   #9
bjsconstrux's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 10
Awesome info folks! Thanks for all the helpful input. We all have the time off set aside, so we're making a road trip out of it and keeping our fingers crossed for Cataract to be at an agreeable level. I feel good knowing that we have options now. I should've asked sooner. Happy boating and keep it fur side up!
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Old 04-02-2014   #10
Bigdrops's Avatar
Moab, Utah
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 70
Cataract Canyon gets pretty rowdy above 50,000. Below that is still big water, but fairly manageable by experienced boaters. If Huge whitewater is not your thing go run the San Juan from Sand Island to Clay Hills. If that is not an option due to permitting issues, the run from Loma down to Moab should be doable.

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