Desolation Canyon River Rafting

Once you enter Desolation Canyon you are there for the next five days. The Green River cuts through the Tavaputs Plateau, an area that is uninhabited and offers serenity and beautiful scenery of mountains, big cottonwood trees and wildlife. Sandy beach areas make great camping spots along the river. This 85 mile segment includes lots of flat water with over 50 class II-III rapids.

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Rafting Trips

One-day Trips

Desolation and Gray Canyons are too extensive to be rafted in a single day.

Multi-day Trips

Rafting trips through Desolation Canyon section typically last between 4 and 6 days. These trips are great! Aside from the beautiful red rock canyon walls, Desolation Canyon also features amazing rock art sites. Numerous Native American ruins and historical sites are found along the way, and there is excellent hiking from many trails off the main river. Trips down Desolation Canyon typically allow a fair amount of time for hiking, and guides are generally prepared to share their knowledge about local landmarks and their significance. On this trip, rafters are often invited to help paddle. Meals and snacks are included on these trips. Camping equipment is necessary, and may be included in the trip cost, or rented for an additional fee.

Family Trips

Young children are invited on Desolation Canyon trips. Some guides take children as young as 5; others require children to be as old as 8.

Most of the water is calm, but there are several fun rapids along the way. This trip is often publicized as Utah's most popular family river vacation.

Groups/Corporate Trips

Group discounts are available to groups or corporations rafting Desolation Canyon.

Image courtesy of BLM Utah


Desolation River trips begin with a flight or drive to the Sand Wash ranger station in eastern Utah. Though commonly referred to simply as Desolation this trip actually travels through both Desolation and Gray Canyons. The ride to the put-in provides an introduction to the vast stretch of wilderness surrounding the Green River and its tributaries. From the put-in point on the river and for several miles downstream, the water is peaceful and quiet. First time visitors often find it hard to believe that this tranquil flow of water cut a river gorge that in places reaches deeper than the Grand Canyon. As the rafts proceed downstream, the calm slowly gives way to riffles and rapids. With each day of the trip, the whitewater continues to build in intensity. Rapids are rated on a scale of I to VI, with class I being considered the least difficult, while class VI is considered too dangerous to run. By trip's end, you will have run over 60 class I-III rated rapids.

Image courtesy of BLM Utah

Whitewater is just one of many attractions in this region of the west. Desolation and Gray Canyons are rich with early American history. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, prospectors, homesteaders, farmers and ranchers came seeking a better life. Land was plentiful, but those that staked their claim in Desolation and Gray usually found it too wild to be tamed. The legacy of these early Americans can be seen throughout the river corridor. An abandoned wooden skiff can be found just upstream from Gold Hole. At Rock Creek, the remains of an abandoned cabin marks the end of a settlers dream. Soon after Powell's legendary trip through Desolation, a different sort of explorer ventured into these canyons. These were the outlaws of the old west, and they came to these remote regions not to chart maps or grow crops, but to hide out from the law. The weathered remnants of the McPherson ranch is a popular stop for river travelers. It was here that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid often hid out and traded with local ranchers for fresh horses.

Prior to the arrival of settlers to the Colorado Plateau, this vast expanse of territory was occupied by a much older generation of people. Over 2,000 years ago, Paleo Indians inhabited these river canyons. These indigenous peoples gradually evolved into what we now know as the Fremont Indian culture which lived here about 800 years ago. Evidence of their existence is found in the stone ruins, arrowheads, pottery and petroglyphs they left behind. These revealing sites tell the story of an ancient culture that once flourished along the river. Although protected by federal law, these sites are accessible and readily viewed by river travelers throughout both of these canyons.Over the years, Desolation has become popular with families and first time river runners. Thecombination of whitewater, scenery and history is a great introduction to the sport of whitewater rafting. These rapids are challenging and provide plenty of excitement but are not overwhelming for beginners and most family groups. River runners interested in being more personally involved often request that their outfitter bring along inflatable kayaks. These one-man boats allow thrill seekers to challenge the rapids one on one.

Desolation Canyon Details

Every trip down the Green River begins at Sand Wash Ranger Station, located near the town of Myton. You can learn more about overnight camping, hiking, cabin rentals, parking, and boat ramps on the Bureau of Land Management website.

Permit Information

Permits are required for recreation in Desolation Canyon. You can find out more about permits at the website.

The website includes the following information about permits:

"This permit allows a visitor to use floating watercraft to navigate the 84 river miles including camping and hiking along the west side of the river corridor.

A permit is required throughout the season, which spans February 1 through November 30. During the winter months the river freezes over and/or ice dams form in shallow braided chanels, typically leaving the river corridor impassible from December thru February.

As of September 2018, all activities on Ute Tribal Lands are strictly prohibited. Activities prohibited include, but are not limited to: landing water craft, visitation of cultural and historic sites, camping and hiking. The Ute Tribal Lands are on River left (ie the east side of the river) from Sandwash to Coal Creek. Please contact the Ute Tribe Fish & Wildlife Dept. at (435) 722-5511 if you have questions."

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