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Colorado, Green, San Juan

Which rivers/sections are done in the winter months (Dec-Mar)? Looking for long trip alternatives for years we don't get a Grand Canyon permit. Guide books say many rivers in Utah run year-round, but wondering if anyone really goes or is it generally too cold (for most)?

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-Nate
 

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Anything can have iced on shores through the winter. I've run cat, Yampa, & San Juan in march, and had at least one day of snow on every trip. Lots of stories of people getting stuck at ice dams, so have hiking gear with you in order to self rescue your way back to your car

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Sounds cold

Nate,

As one who has had to hitch a ride off the Green River in a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter, I strongly advise you not to float the Green in December/January. Unless you feel like doing things like spending Christmas chipping your boat out of the ice.
 

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As one who has had to hitch a ride off the Green River in a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter, I strongly advise you not to float the Green in December/January. Unless you feel like doing things like spending Christmas chipping your boat out of the ice.
go on...
 

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I still can't figure out where that helicopter put down to pick you up......

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That is tiny and not flat. Too bad you didn't get video of them coming in and landing, that would have been epic!

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Colorado, Green, San Juan

Which rivers/sections are done in the winter months (Dec-Mar)? Looking for long trip alternatives for years we don't get a Grand Canyon permit. Guide books say many rivers in Utah run year-round, but wondering if anyone really goes or is it generally too cold (for most)?

Thanks-
-Nate
Most stretches of the Green and Colorado can and often do freeze over between December and early March. Deso is notorious for it freeze and Redtail Aviation often can provide the best ice break information; the biggest problem in there can be the shallows were broken ice gets stuck and refreezes. The flatwater sections of both rivers would not be advisable most years. There are several accounts of people abandoning all gear in Cataract due to the frozen river. I have seen ice shelves in Westwater in early March that discourage me from being in there during the worst of winter.

The Juan? Not sure. I have been there in Thanksgiving down to 3F and it didn't freeze solid but it warmed up to above freezing during the day. That isn't always gonna be the case. I would guess it might be worse in the slow and heavily channelized section after Government Rapid.

The entire region is rather high in elevation and gets a lot colder than most people realize. Best of luck and hope you snag a GC permit instead.
 

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Yeah, it may be the desert, but I think the most reliable winter river in the Utah is probably just south of Wyoming- the A section of the Green is generally floatable all year, but you probably aren't going to make an extended trip out of 7 miles of tailwater.
 

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Going anytime from Dec to Feb is very likely asking for more trouble than it's worth and maybe even dangerous on everything upstream from Lake Powell. Remember those canyons are deep, and many stretches of rivers don't see sun for a month or more.

Perhaps the Salt has runnable stretches in winter?

The best bet for winter may be the Rio Grande down around Big Bend, there are a couple legs that done consecutively can take from 3 to 10 days or more.

A good week of weather ahead will probably be your last chance on the Plateau rivers until spring, better hurry...
 

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I'm with DoStep and Nate. I knew some buddies once that tried to run Ruby Horsethief once in late December or early January. When they encountered a 6-foot high ice dam, the guys wound up de-rigging and caching all their gear in the sage brush. One of the guys had a tiny raft and they all portaged it around the ice dam and floated out the next morning after camping out (which they had the gear for). They went back and got all their gear when it warmed up enough around Valentine's Day.

It was all a fun adventure for them but I have to wonder what would've happened if the shelf ice along the shore had prevented them from landing.

Have fun & be safe, whatever you do. Big Bend sounds better to me...

-AH
 

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Colorado, Green, San Juan

Which rivers/sections are done in the winter months (Dec-Mar)? Looking for long trip alternatives for years we don't get a Grand Canyon permit. Guide books say many rivers in Utah run year-round, but wondering if anyone really goes or is it generally too cold (for most)?

Thanks-
-Nate
Each of the last three winters when we crossed the San Juan on Hwy 163 @ Mexican Hat it was frozen solid, wall to wall. Always late December or early January when we head that way (to ride bikes on dry trails in the Southern AZ sun...).
 

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We spent a very happy New Years on the Rio Grand in Big Bend country; yeah, we got snowed on.....check that.......we got blizzarded on, but a handy natural hot spring made it all tolerable.

If you absolutely, positively, must get wet in winter, Big Bend might be just the thing.
 

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We also spent a Christmas thru New Years in the lower canyons stretch below big bend one year. Started out cold for the put in night, ended up being in the mid 70s during the days.

My passenger and I, were in a super puma at about 350 cfs. Beautiful, remote canyon country. Pretty much pond, riffle, pond, except for a few boulder garden rapids. All rowing at that level as there was really no current. The hot springs were warm, not hot. Still, it was worth every aching moment of rowing a hundred miles of ponds. I really don't think that boat could have made it down at any lower flows -- it was tight in several sections.


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The Colorado has frozen solid two years in a row now. Three years ago it was completely runnable year round, who knows what will happen this year? There is great wilderness out in Canyonlands in the winter. With that being said, I'm planning a cat trip next weekend, I cant wait.
 

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Go skiing in Utah during the winter. The San Juan would be the most likely to be boatable, but I wouldn't try it any earlier than March. Big Bend would be your best bet if it has sufficient flows. If you just want to get on the water, then the lower Colorado below Lake Meade would work, but its more of a canoe run.....
 

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My cat trip was great. Awesome weather. Matter of fact Loma to dirty devil is still runnable, higher than average flows really. Cataract is at 7,500 cfs. Waterfowl are in season too. Here in Utah, one can hunt birds from their non motorized raft. If your into that sort of thing.



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