Deso/Gray or Cataract? - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 02-06-2014   #1
 
duct tape's Avatar
 
Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Deso/Gray or Cataract?

We're thinking of a family/ friends trip this mid August, either with a permit or cancellation or with an outfitter. We've been down Deso once several years ago and loved it. I think it was late summer and don't remember any bad bugs except at Sand Wash. Never been down Cataract.

So what do others recommend? I know it will be hot, prob a little more so in Cataract. I've read about the take out issues at North Wash / Dirty Devil but we'll have a big group and can deal with that. We'll take a motor for either of the trips so not a decider. Water will be low, so maybe Cataract rapids will be more fun, even if a lot fewer?

I'm leaning towards Cataract since it's new but would like to hear more about the trip esthetics. Many of the pics I've seen make the canyon look pretty plain and even ugly. For reference, I think Deso, Yampa and Lodore are all beautiful.

Would also like to hear more about Cataract camping, quality of side hikes, bugs, other critters (snakes, scorpions).

Thanks much for any advice.

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Old 02-06-2014   #2
 
cedar city, Utah
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Cataract in mid-August is much hotter. Desolation has the largest galleries of Cottonwood stands in all of the Colorado/Green system which provide immense shade in camp. A comparison would be using camps like Rattlesnake (or the bare ones in the last 15 miles of Deso) every day. Cataract is also a much shallower canyon by comparison.

Cataract will provide significant rapids in a compressed timeframe. Nothing in Deso compares to the big rapids in Cat. Cataract can actually be quite technical at low water (at least for Utah desert rivers). The Big Drops become easier at low water and Ben Hurt and others become harder.

Not nearly as many classic hike as Deso but there are options. The Doll House is a brilliant hike and quite unique for river hikes. There are a few archaeological hikes that vary by which river you launch on. Dark Canyon can be a great option for a hike if you can time it right and have the energy to hike a distance. Great swimming holes.

Camps on Cat are nothing like Deso. You will be on bare sand beaches most of the time and sometimes islands depending how low the water is this year. Wind is not as devastating as Deso so they can be quite pleasant. Definitely bring a shade shelter though. The last 1-2 days will be on funky beaches that show significant impact from Lake Powell; don't plan on them being pretty at all (from Ten Cent down) and just be happy that they provide the utilitarian purpose.

Cataract is best considered a flat water trip with a short, compressed section of great whitewater (compared to Deso's mostly consistently dispersed rapids). We attach most of our rigs together on the float in and out and viking ship it. We do floating lunches to make the slow miles go by faster.

If it was me and I was looking for a desert multi-day with great camps and hikes, and quality of whitewater was secondary, then I would do Deso. If you want challenging whitewater and new scenery then I would go with Cataract. Both are great floats. Given the chance I would recommend doing Cat in the Spring or Fall when the temps are more moderate and the hikes are less exposed ( I suffer from heat exhaustion though).

Phillip
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Old 02-28-2014   #3
 
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Having had some private discussions with several folks, I would appreciate any further comments about this trip choice. One of my main concerns is the difficulty of Cataract rapids at typical lower August flows. I've had people tell me it's easy Class II-III, and others who say it is highly technical, not at all easy, with lots of pin/wrap opportunities.

Most everyone agrees that after the confluence there are limited duckie opportunities, at least for the (low to intermediate) skills of my family.

Assume for the sake of this discussion I'll be with other rafters who will know, and show, the lines, and we'll scout where appropriate.

Thanks much.

- Jon
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Old 02-28-2014   #4
 
cedar city, Utah
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Quote:
Originally Posted by duct tape View Post
Having had some private discussions with several folks, I would appreciate any further comments about this trip choice. One of my main concerns is the difficulty of Cataract rapids at typical lower August flows. I've had people tell me it's easy Class II-III, and others who say it is highly technical, not at all easy, with lots of pin/wrap opportunities.

Most everyone agrees that after the confluence there are limited duckie opportunities, at least for the (low to intermediate) skills of my family.

Assume for the sake of this discussion I'll be with other rafters who will know, and show, the lines, and we'll scout where appropriate.

Thanks much.

- Jon
I would ignore the idea that Cataract at anytime is Class II. There are Class II rapids/riffles but the canyon itself has Class III rapids at any level. The Big Drops become easier as the water drops below 10k but there are still major holes and significant consequences if you miss the lines....which is really 1 line for Big Drop 3. Self rescue could be horribly difficult on Big Drop 3 (exceeds definition of Class III) if you miss the line and end up mid-river pinned (have seen it happen with experience boatmen). Mile Long, Ben Hurt and several others become more compressed and can be significant Class III or above at low water. Imperial and below have holes scattered throughout the rapids and some could easily be qualified as in the middle of the main run which places it squarely as a Class IV rapid by definition. Opinions can vary based on skills BUT....any opinion that Cataract is overall as Class II is dead wrong.

Duckies: You could use duckies in several of the rapids (its IK runnable all the way with proper skills) and they could actually be quite fun for running rounds on a few. That said, if you are concerned about your crews ability and its your first trip personally than I would go on the conservative side and not bring them this year. Cataract is an EASY permit to score (just call, unlimited) so you can bring them another time.

Hope that helps and you have a great trip no matter where you go.

Phillip
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Old 02-28-2014   #5
 
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Colorado Springs, Colorado
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Thanks for the informative reply Phillip. I think Deso's looking much more appealing for this family trip.
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Old 03-01-2014   #6
 
Orange, California
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I'm an intermediate rower and made my first trip down Cataract last August at typical lower flows. I think Phillip's description of what to expect in the rapids is very accurate. At Big Drop 3 the margin of error for hitting the right line is only a few feet left or right at the top of the drop.
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