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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, All -

I'm hoping to do Cataract Canyon as a 2015 goal. Looks like Potash to Hite Marina on Lake Powell is the preferred run. I think I saw somewhere that above 30k it gets pretty knarly, but not sure what that means exactly.

What time of year / CFS do you guys like the best?

Do you run your own shuttle? Looks to be about a 3.5 hr proposition one way. Any recs for outfits the run a reliable shuttle service?

I have a 6 HP motor. Do I need to register that thing? I just got it last year and am not clear how to register it for rivers. Who manages that stuff - NPS? If my motor is registered in CO, can it cross into UT legally?

How many miles / hours of flat water is there where we'd likely run the motor?

Is it true that anyone who applies for a permit gets one? They mention Canyonlands specifically as a given, but do we need two permits - one for Cataract Canyon AND Canyonlands?: River Permits - Canyonlands National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

How's the camping?

Any other pointers?

Thanks very much and Happy New Year!
-Fin
 

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i would be interested in joining you! i plan on heading down a few times this year, but like you i have never been down.
 

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Cataract is great at any level. 30K is where it begins to come more of a class 4 run in my opinion. It starts to get really mean at 80K. I really like April, May, June, Sept, Oct & November in Cataract.

You can run your own shuttle or consider hiring Redtail Aviation to fly your shuttle. I can't say that I agree that the Potash side is the preferred run, its just easier. Launching at Green River at Mineral Bottom is my personal preference. Add 4 hours of shuttle to your original time.

Yes, you need to register your motor. Go to your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office and bring your HIN (Hull Id number from your boat) Its around $35-40 for the year. You will also need to display the 6 or 8 digit number they assign you on a set of placards which could be make of plexiglass, wood, or could be applied directly to the vessel. You also need a fire extinguisher. If you don't have those things, the NPS rangers will shut you down, ask me how I know. If its registered in CO, then you are set for Utah.

Hard to say how much you would need the motor. If its super windy, I use it. When I want to make camp, I would use it. Always use a motor on the lake. With that in mind, its a quiet and peaceful place, use it with discretion.

The camping is great, but limited above the confluence at high water.

You only need one permit, a river permit for the group size. It is all on the website. The folks at the permit office in Moab are very helpful.
 

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sweet deal!!! by June i should have been down at least once maybe twice, should be able to help out with logistics.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
sweet deal!!! by June i should have been down at least once maybe twice, should be able to help out with logistics.
Very good. My only reservation is that the levels seem to be pretty widely variable May/June. Maybe we push to mid July? Maybe the bugs won't be such a potential factor then? Still lot's to learn :)
 

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I prefer the Green side as well but both have campsite issues above the Confluence depending on level.

We have always run our own shuttle or paid for a truck shuttle from the put-in. Prices change each year and hopefully they will stabilize now that gas prices have dropped precipitously.

Season? Depends on what you want to experience. Can be cold and rainy in the spring or t-shirt warm. Summer is bloody hot but allows for more swimming and getting away with less gear. I would love to see it in October but not viable for most of my friends and I will never likely do a single boat trip in there.

Enjoy.

Phillip
 

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I'm aiming for an Oct or Sept. launch myself. Never been down, so this is a great topic. How does Redtail work, drive your truck to the takeout and hitchhike to the landing strip (where?) If launching from Moab or Potash will they give you a ride to the launch?
 

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Redtail works best for a Green River trip. Drop off your gear at the put in (Mineral Bottom) then drive vehicles to the take out. The plane meets you where you typically park for the takeout at North Wash, very steep tight now. They fly you back to the put in, where you walk about 500 yards back to your friends and cold beer.
 

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Never flown with Redtail but did with my boss when I worked in Moab and the flight path is obviously stunning. None of my friends have ever wanted to be in such a small plane though. Would love to see it again.

The one down side to the Green River stretch is the put-in....it just plain sucks as a "ramp". And some people don't like the drive down the switchbacks but I haven't used that put-in since the big rains so I have no clue what the exposure on the new road is like.

Phillip
 

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Hmm... I have never seen the road or ramp in a condition that I didn't believe was suitable, especially considering the remoteness of the run. The Grand County and the NPS have a lot of interest in maintaining the road and I have always thought they did a good job maintaining access.
 

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I've run it higher, but typically reserve Cataract for late August or September once miserably low water sets in everywhere else. I love cat that time of year. Its hot, but bring the flip flops, wide hats, sunscreen, cold drinks, sun shades/umbrellas, water guns, and a good book to read and its a great time. There are beaches galore, until you get to the end of the rapids.

The rapids at lower levels are distinct pool drop, but still plenty of fun and some seem to get bigger the lower it gets (a la Westwater) and will still flip a boat. Great surf in a few spots (5 & 10, etc.) if thats what you're in to. Big Drop 2 is relatively easy line to either side of the center rock but worth scouting. Last run I did around 9K, we took it lightly and ended up with 3 upside down boats and passengers on both sides of the river above Big drop 3. Big Drop 3 is a technical rock garden class IV at low flows--definitely the must-scout crux and a totally different character than during run off and you have to be on your game to hit the few slots that are available. IMO, #15 - "Hell to pay" is the only other rapid approaching IV and worthy of a scout if you don't have some baseball diamond analogy to go by (who's raft is on second?). Interesting story about #15 that I just found.

To each his own, but we use the motor top and bottom since a 4 day trip works better for more of my group than a 6-7 day trip would, but I'd like to paddle the whole thing some time (or at least down to the lake). I can't remember ever seeing a ranger at the put-in--but I almost always encounter one in a motorized J-Rig around Spanish Bottom, checking motor registrations, fire extinguishers, groovers and other regulated stuff as well as making sure you signed up for camps. (And wear your life jackets after the confluence or get yelled at!)

Sandbars on the top flats become more of an issue once you get below about 5000 (combined) but can be avoided if you have a sandbar prophet at the helm.

Camp at Spanish Bottom and hike up to the Dollhouse. Have passengers hike the Loop. Those are the two we always hit, but there are other good hikes if you have more time.

At any time of year, don't plan on camping once you get past the rapids unless you have fresh, firsthand knowledge that a few camps actually exist and will accessible down there. Well before you hit lake level, the silt banks will set in and they don't facilitate riverside camping. The few times we've gotten to the tail-end flatwater and expected or needed a camp have been "interesting" nights either on puny mud bars or sleeping on the boats.
 

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June!

Hell Yeah June should be Great! On average High water peak is June 5. I hope we have another good year. Last year Cataract peaked at 60k, YeeHa!
 

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Cat is a great Run. I prefer to run it in September and that is from Potash. The first 44 miles on the Colorado is flatwater. For our group, we love it. We float from morning to sundown. One time we clipped our boats all together and just floated all night on the rafts. We stayed on the Rafts for 28 hours and on the Start of Day 2 we were almost to Spanish Bottom. The stars in the middle of the night are amazing and will rival any place.

There are some amazing hikes and ruins to see. Everybody knows about Spanish Bottom but there are some more amazing hikes before Spanish Bottom that not a lot of people know about. A guide book has more beta, you should check them out.

In September, the Rapids are Pool Drop. 5, 10, 15 are great rapids at these levels. There is an awesome beach camp right next to #10 and it has great eddy service at around 8000 cfs. We did a lay over there last year and it was like heaven, just surfing a semi big wave and doing it over and over again.

If you are lucky enough get some rain, you will love it. The waterfalls that come off the top of the Canyon are Amazing. You will want to eddy out and just stare at them. It is something to see. Stay on the Opposite side of the falls because rocks have come down around us. The vibrations of the rocks are something to feel, even in your boat.

The Big Drops are pretty good to go. I always like to Scout #3. A lot of people at lower flows like to go right. I still like to go the standard left line. It is technical but the drop is better and it really is the last sort of rapid that has any moved left to make in it. There are a few more rapids starting to show up as the lake is getting lower.

I have always liked to take out at Dirty Devil. The hike for your gear is way easier and it is closer. At lower flows, you will not want to take out at Hite, it is a total bitch.

We always did our own shuttle. A caravan of people would take cars to dirty devil while the rest started getting their boats together.

Cat is an amazing stretch of water. I have way more beta with lower flows but High water is a different beast. Remember, win or loose , we booze.

Victor
 

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Hite has been closed for several years, although the store is open (check hours of operation first) and there is still a (seasonal?) ranger living there. Last summer NPS/Utah DNR staffed the mussel inspection facility there 9-5 but whether that will be open this year (and when) are good questions. If you park vehicle(s) at the Dirty Devil/North Wash takeout, or at Hite, you need to leave the mussel "self-certification" form on the dash according to NPS (form available through the permit link above, although whether it will continue to be is another good question...).
Lake Powell databases say Hite is "unusable" below 3645 (or 3650) feet lake elevation (full pool is 3700). The floating wharf was still in the water last Fall (2014) but not in use. The info is for power boaters, not floaters.
The last time I took out at Hite was October, 2012, lake elevation was 3620 and you had to row through a "picket fence" of brush to reach the ramp, which was high and dry. Half a dozen trips since and have never seen Hite viable as takeout - you'd have to walk your gear 500 to 800 yards minimum through muck and "quick mud."
Current reservoir elevation is just over 3597.
The Dirty Devil takeout was "improved" last year with road fill added to eliminate most of the "slip and slide" at riverside. It's a steep down for 4WD only but we could usually get a trailer down behind Tacoma and haul rafts up to parking area for deflation/loading. The bathrooms are gross, and the takeout adjoins an informal camping area that usually sees a fair number of campers/RV's, etc. in the immediate vicinity. There have been break-ins of vehicles left at both DD&Hite, but they're rare and we've had none in last 5 years spanning a dozen trips or so.
Camping below Waterhole is not as nice as above but there are more viable spots emerging with continued low reservoir levels. Couple of spots in vicinity of Dark Canyon (one above and one below, both on right) have always been available, the lower one you have to carry gear up to a pretty extensive shelf that can sleep big groups (20+). Most other sites are muck bars that are improving as they dry out, a few down towards Sheep Canyon (Mille Crag Bend) are pretty good with some slickrock access, but not great big camping areas.
If you're not comfortable in big, fast, very pushy water it's best to run after end of June or before early May.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks a million, you guys. Really helpful info all around!

Here' some more info from a dory boatman who ran Cataract not long ago:

"We did a 5-boat, hard-hull trip launching on April 1st a few years back (at Green River). It was a 10 day and wish we would have done 12 to 14..(Couldn't have done it with out rafting the boats together and motoring for most of the flatwater). Got slammed by a late winter storm or two, but the level was about right and predictable. (About 8k in Cat.) I think it's fairly predictable between 8 and 20k, and usually holds those levels into the first week of May. levels above 30 k can get pretty crazy for dories. May and June are too unpredictable and can go crazy with high flows, and best not to plan for then. July-Oct. are not bad times either, for the most part and easy to get permits. Bug season height tends to be June-first of July, but depends on how high the water goes."
 

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Got a trip at the end of June and looking for some thoughts as to the flows. Never done Cat before and am just trying to get some insight. I had the idea that somewhere around 25K would be the cutoff level for our group, based on what I have heard from other peoples experiences.
Any thoughts as to predictions and what some of the good levels are. Not looking for balls to the walls, but a good safe time with some pucker.
 
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