Boating Information Guide

A river bends around canyons in a desert
Green River from Hardscrabble Hill

NPS/Andrew Kuhn

Boating on the Green and Colorado Rivers

When John Wesley Powell and his crew first journeyed down the Green and Colorado rivers in 1869, he described the area of today’s Canyonlands National Park as:

“…a whole land of naked rock, with giant forms carved on it: cathedral shaped buttes towering hundreds or thousands of feet; cliffs that cannot be scaled, and canyon walls that shrink the river into insignificance, with vast, hollow domes, and tall pinnacles, and shafts set on the verge overhead, and all highly colored – buff, gray, red, brown, and chocolate.” (July 17th, 1869, at Bonita Bend, Green River)

Though many things have changed since the time of Powell’s first expedition, the journey down river through Canyonlands National Park still provides boaters with an incredible chance to explore a whole wilderness of rock. Indeed, there are few places in the lower 48 states that offer the same remoteness and wildness.

However harsh the landscape may appear, the desert landscape of the river corridor is in many ways quite fragile. The regulations and guidelines outlined in this booklet have been put into place to ensure this unique landscape is properly cared for, and to make sure future generations of visitors can experience the same sense of wonder and discovery felt by the earliest visitors to this extraordinary place. As river users, you and every member of your party are responsible for protecting the park and enjoying a safe trip by knowing and abiding by these regulations. Violators may receive a fine.

Please do your part to preserve this special place.

Rapids with boaters dropping in
Boaters headed towards Big Drop Three

NPS/Neal Herbert


A noncommercial river trip must be participatory in nature. Cost, planning, and preparation must be shared between all participants. No member of the group can collect a fee for conducting or guiding the trip. This includes gratuity or gift items from any participant or reduction in cost creating some benefit for one.


  • Serviceable: As it pertains to personal floatation devices (PFDs), serviceable means in good condition with legible US Coast Guard label, no rips, tears, or excessive UV damage, all buckles and fasteners functioning, and no repairs or after-market modifications.
  • Approved PFD: PFDs approved for use on whitewater trips must have a US Coast Guard label that specifies the intended use as “whitewater rafting”, “kayaking, canoeing, paddling or sailing.” General use, universal, general boating, and water ski PFDs are not approved for use in whitewater but are allowed on flat water trips. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on any rivers in Utah.
  • Wear/Worn: As it pertains to PFDs, worn means on the torso, snug, with all fasteners and closures secure. A PFD that is slung around the shoulders and unfastened is not considered to be worn.
  • Driftwood: Driftwood is wood that has clearly been transported by river flows and deposited on beaches and shorelines below the high-water mark. Dead and down wood that has either fallen from existing vegetation or been placed in slash piles through resource management projects is not driftwood.
  • Geocaching: Geocaching is defined as placing a cache of items within park boundaries and distributing the coordinates, or other clues to the coordinates, for the purpose of locating the cache at a later date.
  • Up-Running: Upstream motorized travel is defined as travel by any type of motorized vessel predominately against the current through Cataract Canyon. This means that motorized boats may not motor up any rapids beginning with the first rapid to the last rapid in Cataract Canyon. Motorized vessels are permitted to use eddy currents in rapids to return to the beginning of a rapid that has just been run but are not allowed to up run any further.
  • Combination or Hybrid trips: Combination trips are those that combine two or more components (e.g., river trip + backpacking). Camping reservations in Canyonlands National Park are broken up by zone, requiring separate reservations for permits and campsites in the Island in the Sky, Maze, and Needles Districts. For example, a river trip including an overnight backpack up into the Doll House area of the Maze would require reserving a campsite or permit in the Maze Zone.
  • Low capacity: A low capacity vessel is defined as a boat whose intended capacity does not exceed 2 persons (e.g., kayak, canoe, inflatable kayak, sportyak). All rafts and catarafts are considered high capacity vessels and spare PFDs are required for each vessel.

General River Use Stipluations

For any questions regarding General River Use Stipulations, please visit, or contact the Backcountry Permit Office: e-mail us or (435) 259-4351.

  • A river permit is required. A river permit is required for all noncommercial river travel on the Green and Colorado rivers.
  • Permit is only valid for the persons and locations stated. A river permit is nontransferable and is valid only for the person, dates, areas, and number of people listed on the permit. The Trip Leader must have a government-issued photo identification in their possession.
  • Trip Leader is responsible for the conduct of all participants. The permit holder is responsible for ensuring that all participants know and understand pertinent regulations.
  • Documentation must be accessible. A signed permit must be in the Trip Leader’s possession at all times and must be presented to park staff upon request.
  • Permit is valid for noncommercial groups only. This permit is valid for noncommercial private use only. Charging trip participant fees in excess of actual trip costs, amortizing equipment, or advertising in order to seek further participants for the trip represent activities consistent with commercial guiding. You must have a National Park Service commercial contract in order to lead commercial trips.
  • All motorized boats must be registered, including out-of-state motors. Motorized boats must have valid state registration, decals, placards, and a serviceable fire extinguisher. Boats with out-of-state registration are allowed on Utah waters for 60 days per calendar year; hull numbers are required.
  • Launch dates are final. Trips launching upriver from the park must specify the date on which they will pass Mineral Bottom or Potash. Backpackers using packrafts or other methods to float downstream may launch and/or take out in other locations, but only as specified on their permit.
  • One campsite per group. People traveling under one permit must travel and camp together and occupy only one campsite. It is permissible to split up the trip for the purpose of a hike; however, the trip must then rejoin to travel and camp together. Trips may not separate for the purpose of securing campsites ahead of other groups.
  • Group size limits. Two or more permitted groups may join together and travel as one group for safety. When combined groups camp together, they may be no larger than the maximum group size (40 people).
  • Natural features. Disturbing or collecting natural features is prohibited. This includes fossils, plants, and rocks.
  • Archeological sites. Archeological or historical sites are protected. It is unlawful to disturb, enter, or camp within 300 feet of archeological or historical sites.
  • Wildlife. Hunting, feeding, or disturbing wildlife is prohibited. Fishing is permitted in accordance with Utah state law.
  • Pets. Pets are prohibited. Dogs classified as service animals are permitted.
  • Unattended gear. Boaters who leave boats and equipment unattended for any period of time (e.g., while hiking) must fully secure food, garbage, and supplies in a durable metal, plastic, or other hard sided container, secured with a latch or strap.
  • Cached gear. Gear may be cached for 24 hours or more with the approval of the district ranger. Contact the Backcountry Permit Office for more information. All gear must be secured and cached out of sight and in such manner as to allow other groups to occupy the site.
  • Fireworks. The possession or use of fireworks in the park is prohibited.
  • Firearms. Possession of firearms must comply with state law; however, discharging firearms is prohibited.
  • Towing. Waterskiing, wakeboarding, or towing persons by vessels is prohibited.
  • Swimming. Swimming is limited to the Green and Colorado rivers only. Swimming is prohibited in streams, potholes, springs, or other water found in side canyons or along trails.
  • Generators. Generator use is permitted for inflating rafts and charging battery-powered devices. Using a generator for any other purpose will be permitted on a case-by-case basis. Generator use is prohibited from 10pm to 6am; please refrain from making loud noises during these hours.
Metal toilet system at a river camp
Systems approved for river use are washable, reusable containers equipped with RV dump fittings, or commercial human waste bag systems.

NPS/Cody Allinson

Required Equipment

National Park Service and the State of Utah regulations outline an assortment of necessary equipment for river trips. A NPS river ranger may assess your group at a boat launch, at camp, or while traveling to ensure compliance with required equipment, permit conditions, answer questions, and ensure safety. The following items are required:

  • Fire Pan – A rigid, durable metal firepan that is large enough to fully contain all fire ash and debris. Fire debris must be contained within the fire pan at all times. All fire debris and ash must be packed out of the backcountry. Fire blankets are recommended to facilitate total ash removal. Only driftwood may be collected for firewood. Fire pans are required even during fire bans.
  • Approved toilet system Systems approved for river use are washable, reusable containers equipped with RV dump fittings, or commercial bag systems (e.g. Wag Bag, Restop 2) that render human waste into a non-hazardous material. Bag systems must be stored in hard-sided containers or heavy-duty, waterproof bags labeled “Human Waste.” DO NOT PUT WASTE BAGS in vault toilets.
  • Serviceable PFD A serviceable type I, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD) is required for each trip participant. PFDs on whitewater trips must have a legible U.S. Coast Guard approval label with an intended use of whitewater rafting, paddling, canoeing, kayaking, or sailing. General use, universal, general boating, and water ski PFDs are not approved for use in whitewater. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on any rivers in Utah. PFDs must be readily accessible and worn by all persons boating below the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers and above the last active rapid in Cataract Canyon. Persons 12 years old and younger must wear PFDs at all times while on the river.
  • One serviceable spare PFD for each boat – One spare PFD for every five people on the trip, or one per raft; whichever is fewer, is required. Low capacity vessels designed to carry two or fewer occupants, such as canoes and kayaks, may carry one spare PFD per every three vessels. Low capacity vessels are defined as canoe, kayak, inflatable kayak, or Sportyak; if only one person is rowing a raft, a spare PFD is still required.
  • Spare Oar, Paddle, or Motor – A readily accessible spare means of propulsion capable of maneuvering the vessel (oar, paddle, motor, etc.) for each boat. Low capacity vessels designed to carry 2 or fewer occupants, such as canoes and kayaks, may carry one spare paddle per every 3 vessels. Commercially made hand paddles are approved for hard hulled kayaks.
  • Throwable Device – A serviceable type IV throwable device (such as a throw cushion) for any boat 16 feet in length or larger. A commercially made throw bag with at least 40 feet of line is allowed in lieu of a type IV throwable device below the Confluence.
  • Repair Kit – Repair kit or kits adequate for repairing the number and types of boats on the trip. Hard hulled boats may carry epoxy and duct tape or an equivalent means of repairing hard hulls.
  • Pump – If boats with inflatable components are used on the trip, an air pump.
  • Bailing Device – A bailing device or bilge pump for boats that are not self-bailing.
  • First Aid Kit – A first aid kit adequate for the number of trip participants and length of trip.
View from above of a white boat parked along a riverbank
River rangers patrol throughout the year on both the Green and Colorado Rivers

NPS/Cody Allinson


Permits are required for all overnight stays in the Canyonlands backcountry. A river permit is required for both flatwater (above the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers) and whitewater (Cataract Canyon) trips. Permits are available online through Contact the Backcountry Permit Office with specific questions or for further information.

There is no lottery for Canyonlands river permits. Permits are available first-come, first-served, no more than four months and no less than two days prior to the permit start date. There are no daily launch limits, so there is no need to submit multiple requests for the same date. The user limit on the rivers has not been reached for over a decade. If you submit a reservation, you will almost certainly get a permit for the dates you enter.

Jet Boat Shuttles

Flatwater trips through the Labyrinth/Stillwater sections of the Green River, or through Meander Canyon on the Colorado River above Cataract Canyon should make arrangements with a licensed boat shuttle company (Tex’s Riverways or Canyonlands by Night & Day) before submitting a permit application. Permits are easy to obtain; shuttles are the limiting factor.

Permit Fees

There is reservation fee of $36 plus a $25 per person fee. The $36 reservation fee is non-refundable. You may add people to a permit at any time prior to a trip, $25/person through your account or by contacting the Backcountry Permit Office.

For example, a Cataract Canyon trip with four people would cost $136:
$36 (reservation fee) + $100 (four people at $25 each) = $136.

Cancellations/Changes to a Permit

Permit cancellations must be done as far in advance as possible. The $25 per person fee will be refunded if the permit is cancelled up to 7 days prior to the trip start date. Changes to the number of participants listed on a permit must be made prior to issuing your permit through (permits can be issued within 7 days before the trip start date). Contact the Backcountry Permit Office for assistance.

Backcountry Permit Office
8am-4pm MT (open weekdays, closed holidays)
Phone: (435) 259-4351
2282 Resource Blvd., Moab, UT 84532

Two boats floating down a river between canyons
Packrafters on the Colorado River

NPS/Brendan Sullivan


A river permit is required for all upstream or downstream travel on the rivers within the park. Packrafters must abide by all river rules, regulations, and required equipment, with the exception of carrying a spare paddle and spare PFD. Nights spent outside of the river corridor (1⁄2 mile or 1,000 vertical feet from the river) must be in designated campsites or zones indicated on the permit. These sites and zones can be reserved online via the backcountry reservation system by selecting the “Overnight Backcountry Permits". As noted above, packrafters must carry much of the gear required for any river user:

Required Equipment (Packrafting)

  • A means to securely contain and remove solid human waste from the backcountry. Systems approved for river use are commercial bag systems (e.g. Wag Bag, Restop 2) that render human waste into a non-hazardous material, stored in hard-sided containers or heavy-duty, waterproof bags labeled “Human Waste.”
  • A rigid, durable metal firepan that is large enough to fully contain all fire ash and debris. (NOTE: turkey basting pans are NOT allowed).
  • One approved, serviceable type I, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD) for each trip participant.
  • A repair kit or kits adequate for repairing the number and types of boats on the trip.
  • An air pump or bag for inflation of raft.
  • A bailing device or bilge pump for boats that are not self-bailing.
  • A first aid kit adequate for the number of trip participants and length of trip.

Bikerafting is not permitted in Canyonlands. Bicycles, even if inoperable, are not allowed off of designated roads. This includes inside packs and/or boats. Careful preparation and planning can help minimize the weight and size of a pack. Contact the Backcountry Permit Office for suggestions on inexpensive, lightweight options.

Tent set up on rock ledges along a river
River camps are typically found on rocky ledges or sandbars, depending on time of year and water levels

NPS/Kat Connelly

Camping and Visitation

River Camps

The best campsites are found not made. Please leave your campsite in better condition than you found it. The following is essential for responsible camping in the river corridors of the park:

  • Choose sites that are appropriate for the group size. Smaller groups should leave larger campsites for larger groups. Consider river flows, the frequency and distribution of other parties, group size, and the time of year when choosing a campsite.
  • Camping on sandbars is recommended and encouraged. Every spring during high water, these sandbars are cleansed and renewed, minimizing resource damage to sensitive riparian areas.
  • Camping outside of the river corridor (1/2 mile or 1,000 vertical feet from the river) must be in a reserved/permitted designated campsite or camping zone indicated on the permit.
  • Be sure to pull boats out of the water (when possible) and fully secure them when camping or hiking. River flows can change rapidly, and many boats have been lost downstream because of high winds, changing water flows, and improper securing.
  • During high flows, do not attempt to travel up flooded side canyons. When the river is high, water backs up in the mouths of side canyons, creating pools of water. These pools provide critical breeding habitat for amphibians and the native fish of the Colorado and Green rivers. Travel in these areas can disrupt or kill native and endangered amphibians and fish.
  • Groups must camp together and always be with the trip leader. Parties may not separate in order to obtain campsites down river.
  • Camping at day use areas along the White Rim Road and Maze District are prohibited (i.e. Lathrop Day Use Area).
  • Camping at established vehicle campsites along the White Rim Road and Maze District is prohibited unless specifically reserved on an overnight backcountry permit.
  • Archeological or historical sites are protected. It is unlawful to disturb, enter, or camp within 300 feet of archeological sites.
  • Camping within 300 feet, or use of soap within 100 feet, of springs or intermittent streams is prohibited.
  • Respect the established natural boundaries of the site you are using and do not create new tent sites. Do not level new areas or level existing tent sites. Do not build structures like cairns or fire circles or leave driftwood piles for firewood.
  • Generators, radios, and other noisy devices cannot be used during quiet hours of 10pm to 6am.
  • The Green River is predominantly used by those seeking quieter travel and solitude. Please be discrete when using a motor along the Green River.
  • Few of us live in a place without a constant level of human-caused disturbance; passing cars, barking dogs, etc. For many, a visit to Canyonlands is an escape to refreshing solitude, highlighted by natural sounds such as birdsong, crickets, and the sound of water swirling in an eddy.
  • It might sound like a lot of fun to invite a large group, fire up the speakers and build a fire, but this likely ruins the atmosphere for others on the river. Please show respect for others and the natural wildlife by keeping your group small, minimizing unnatural noise, and traveling/camping close together.

Registering for River Camps

  • The Danger sign at mile 214.3 on river left warns boaters of hazardous rapids ahead in Cataract Canyon. There is a courtesy campsite registration box at this sign. This is not a reservation system, but rather identifies the most commonly used campsites. Visitors are encouraged to sign up for the camps that they expect to use but are reminded to remain flexible in the event that parties may experience problems and delays due to the dynamic nature of river running.

  • Use of the register box is voluntary and no party may insist another party vacate a campsite. Camping along the river corridor in Canyonlands National Park is on a first come, first served basis.

Lake Camps

  • Boaters occupying sites on the upper reaches of Lake Powell (below Gypsum Canyon and above Hite Marina) may encounter parties who have traveled upriver from Hite.
  • Due to the constantly changing water levels of Lake Powell, campsites in this area are unreliable.
  • Most campsites in this area are found on silt beds and surrounded by large vertical silt banks. These banks collapse regularly and have the potential to cause serious injury to those who are too close.
  • When river flows and/or lake levels are low, rapids may form as far downstream as, or even below, Hite Marina.
  • Camping at or near the mouth of any major side canyon holds the potential for flash flood danger.
Ancestral Puebloan structures seen from a river
Archeological site along the Green River

NPS/Kat Connelly

Restricted Areas

In order to protect the park and its resources, the following restrictions are in effect:

River Mile (RM) Description of Area Restriction
RM 10.3-10.6 Green River: Jasper Canyon beyond the first jump. Closed to all human entry for resource protection
RM 3-3.8 Colorado River: The mouth and lower portions of Salt Creek and Elephant Canyon. Closed to all human entry from March 15 through September 1 for the protection of desert bighorn sheep.
RM 213.5-200 Colorado River: From the first rapid through to Imperial Canyon Upstream travel (“up-running”) is prohibited
RM 213 Colorado River: Doll House area, Maze District Hiking in the Doll House area is limited to designated trails. Camping in the Doll House area is restricted to designated campsites (permit required)
RM 214.8-208 Colorado River below the Confluence: Mouth of lower Red Lake Canyon to the mouth of Cross and Y Canyons Restricted to day use only from December 1 through February 28 for the protection of nesting bald eagles

Check with the Backcountry Permit Office for updates on any current restrictions or closures in the park.

Boat launching on a concrete ramp
Launching at Potash Boat Ramp

NPS/Kat Connelly

Launches and River Mileage

Some launch locations outside of Canyonlands National Park require payment of land use fees which are separate from park permit fees.
For more information on these launch locations, call:
Ruby Ranch: (435) 650-3193
Green River State Park: (435) 564-3633

Colorado River

Start to Finish

Launch Fee?*



Moab Ramp to the Confluence



3 to 4

Potash Ramp to the Confluence



2 to 3

Green River

Start to Finish

Launch Fee?*



Green River State Park to the Confluence



6 to 9

Crystal Geyser to the Confluence



6 to 9

Ruby Ranch to the Confluence



5 to 8

Mineral Bottom to the Confluence



3 to 4

Cataract Canyon

Confluence to North Wash



2 to 3

* Some launch locations outside of Canyonlands charge land use fees which are separate from the park's permit fees.



Flatwater River Trips

Rapids begin 4 miles beyond the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. There are no roads to access the river at or beyond the Confluence. Flatwater trips must obtain a jetboat shuttle from the Confluence to the Potash boat launch.

The following companies offer this service:
Tex’s Riverways: (877) 662-2839 or (435) 259- 5101
Canyonlands by Night and Day: (435) 259-5261

Cataract Canyon River Trips

This technical section of river flows through Canyonlands and into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The North Wash takeout is located at the confluence of the Dirty Devil River and the Colorado River at approximately RM 169.5 (parking area is located on river right). There are no takeout fees.

Boat Ramp Etiquette

Be Prepared – Load and prepare all gear away in a safe place away from the ramp. Only approach the ramp when actually ready to launch. Same as when getting ready to launch, unload gear and finish securing boats away from the launch ramp.

Hikers on a saddle between canyons
Boaters can access various trails leading from the rivers

NPS/Kat Connelly

Natural Resource Protection


  • All garbage must be carried out. Cans, food scraps, trash, solid waste, campfire ash, toilet paper, and other refuse material may not be discarded anywhere within Canyonlands National Park. Burned wood, large floating food items, and even small discarded scraps can make camps and shorelines unsightly.
  • Liquid waste such as urine, strained dishwater, toothpaste spit, and unfinished beverages should be deposited in the river in swift current, not in eddies or backwaters.
  • Crumbs, scraps, and small food particles, termed ‘micro trash,’ can be managed with the use of kitchen tarps. The tarp will catch the micro trash that falls to the ground and make for easy clean up when breaking camp. Please do all that you can to leave no trace of your camp.

The Why: The southwest desert is a unique ecosystem. The intense heat, sun, and wind conspire to act as a giant food dehydrator, preserving your organic waste instead of decomposing it. Because no moisture or nitrogen are present to facilitate decomposition, things like orange peels, human waste and bread crusts are preserved when buried in the sand or earth. Left behind waste attracts wildlife and insects to campsites.Liquid waste (urine; toothpaste spit; juice from that can of beans; those last few drops in the bottom of a soda can; etc.) must go into the river. Otherwise, without nitrogen and precipitation to aid in decomposition, waste from these items concentrates as their moisture evaporates, results in messy and unpleasant-smelling campsites and beaches. As many boaters like to say, “The solution to pollution is dilution.”

Portable Toilets

It is the responsibility of each party traveling down the river corridor to carry out solid human waste and used toilet paper.

  • All river parties must carry an approved toilet system. Systems that are approved for use in Canyonlands National Park must be: 1) sealable, washable reusable systems which can be and are emptied at an R.V. dump station (i.e. groover); or 2) bag-based systems that employ a polymer-based absorbent material which neutralizes and gels waste so that it may be discarded in landfills (i.e. PETT, Wag Bags, Rest-Stop II bags).
  • Parties using bag-based systems must store them in hard-sided containers or heavy-duty, waterproof bags labeled “Human Waste.”
  • Proper sanitation before and after using and handling toilets systems is imperative.

THE WHY: Human feces are known to contain over 100 intestinal microorganisms, which can become pathogenic to humans. Desert soils tend to support higher pathogen survival rates, waste does not easily biodegrade. Because of this, it is necessary for river parties to pack out their solid waste and toilet paper, so it does not accumulate at campsites and other areas.

The Use of Soap

The use of soap is restricted to the main stream of the Green and Colorado rivers only. Use of soap in side streams or within 300 feet of any side stream or spring is prohibited. Native fish, animals, and plants depend on the springs and side streams to survive. Soaps and other chemicals from humans cause these organisms to die.

  • Dispose of any soapy water into the main channel of the river. The volume of water flowing in the Green and Colorado rivers is enough to dilute the soap from your dishwater and keep camp areas clean.
The Why: When the river is high, water backs up in the mouths of side canyons. These pools of shallow water provide critical breeding habitat for amphibians and the native fish of the Colorado and Green Rivers. Native fish, animals and plants depend on the springs and side streams to survive. Using soap within 300 feet of streams in side canyons is detrimental to the health of these creatures.


  • Only driftwood may be collected for fires. Driftwood is wood that has clearly been transported by river flows and deposited on beaches and shorelines below the high-water mark.
  • Try to avoid having campfires. Nighttime temperatures during most of the boating season are mild and fires are not necessary. For ambience, try using a candle or small lantern.
  • If you must have a fire, or cook with charcoal, a firepan is required. Firepans must be rigid, durable metal pans that are large enough to fully contain all fire ash and debris. All ash and charcoal must be contained within the fire pan.
  • Use a firepan with legs or use small rocks to elevate the pan to prevent scorching the soil. Fire blankets are recommended.
  • Avoid large fires so that the fire will burn down to fine ash and cool by morning. Do not start a fire if the wind is strong enough to blow embers into nearby vegetation. Never burn trash or toilet paper.
  • After you’ve enjoyed your fire, make sure it’s out. Though it might seem like a good idea to smother it with sand, this makes cleanup harder. Instead, douse the fire with enough water to extinguish any glowing embers. Before you go to bed, place a grill or fire blanket over the pan to keep fire debris from blowing around during the night.
  • Pack out ALL ash and fire debris.
  • Most summers, fire restrictions are put in place that may temporarily ban fires in the river corridors of Canyonlands. Please check the park alerts for current fire restrictions.
The Why: Campfires scar the land and beaches, sterilize soil, litter campsites and attract garbage. As you travel down river, you will see areas of the park that have been burned by careless campers. Fires in the park are often human-caused. If you must have a fire, be sure to extinguish any glowing embers and pack out all ash and debris. Blackened beaches have ruined gear in the past.

Hiking Trails

  • When hiking away from the river use established trails and avoid short-cutting. Swimming is only permitted in the Green and Colorado rivers and not in any side streams or along trails.
  • All off-trail hiking should be done in washes (dry streambeds) or on slickrock. Walking only on these durable surfaces ensures that your party will avoid crushing fragile desert soils.
  • The Doll House area is extremely popular and sees numerous hikers. Off-trail travel is not permitted. Please stay on NPS-designated trails to minimize human impact and unsightly social trails.
  • Do not place cairns. Only NPS personnel place cairns (rock piles) to mark trails, reign in multiple trails, and prevent erosion problems. Look for them on trails while hiking.
The Why: Biological soil crust is a living groundcover that forms the foundation of high desert plant life in Canyonlands and the surrounding area. This knobby, black crust is dominated by cyanobacteria, and also includes lichens, mosses, green algae, microfungi and bacteria. Soil crusts perform many functions in the desert including erosion prevention, water storage, and nitrogen fixation.Unfortunately, human activity quickly destroys desert soil crusts. Areas that have been disturbed (e.g., walked on, camped on) may take more than 100 years to recover. Please help preserve the park by camping on sand bars or established camps and staying on established trails.


  • Hunting, feeding or disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
  • Fishing is permitted in accordance with Utah state law.
  • Lower Big Spring Canyon, Lower Little Spring Canyon, Lower Salt Creek, and Lower Elephant Canyon are closed to all human entry from March 15 to September 1 for protection of Bighorn Sheep during lambing season.
  • Cataract Canyon from lower Red Lake Canyon to the mouth of Y and Cross Canyons is restricted to day use only from December 1 to February 28 for the protection of Bald Eagles.
The Why: Wildlife in the desert need as little disturbance and stress as possible to survive and thrive. The park provides essential habitat for wildlife.
Three people look out over rapids
Difficult rapids, such as Big Drop 3, can and should be scouted prior to running.

NPS/Travis Spake

River Safety

Food Handling and Sanitation

Proper food handling and sanitation techniques are essential to prevent the spread of communicable diseases among the members of your trip. Gastrointestinal illness is of primary concern.In order to prevent contamination of food during its preparation along the river, personal and environmental cleanliness are vitally important. Please abide by the following recommendations to help avoid gastrointestinal illness:

  • Consistently wash hands. (e.g., before preparing food, using the toilet, handling raw meat). Allow hands to air dry.
  • Cooked, prepared foods, or foods served raw (e.g., vegetables) should come in contact only with clean and sanitized surfaces, equipment and utensils.
  • Persons with communicable diseases, diarrhea, infected wounds on the hands and arms should not be allowed to prepare food. It is suggested that food handlers not eat while preparing food to prevent cross contamination.
  • Stored perishable food should be kept at temperatures below 41o F.
  • Meats and poultry products should be well cooked (+165o F). All produce should be washed in potable water.
  • Leftover perishable food should be discarded or refrigerated immediately. Leftover perishable food should be reheated to 165o F before eating.
  • All chemicals should be properly labeled and stored separately from food and food equipment.

It is recommended to sanitize dishes and utensils using the 3-bucket system. Dish wash buckets should be constructed of noncorrosive material, so they are smooth and easy to clean. Place 3 buckets of water below the high-water mark to leave the beach free of soap and spilled food. A good system is as follows:

  1. Use 3 buckets large enough to immerse the largest plates and utensils. All 3 buckets must contain visually clear water. If the river is muddy, allow dishwater to settle and remove sediment before use. The use of alum is recommended for settling (2 tablespoons per 5 gallons for dishwater). Decant the clear water. Heat 2 buckets of water to near boiling.
  2. Add detergent to 1 heated bucket of water, leaving the second bucket of hot water clear for rinsing. The third bucket of water (~75o F to 120o F) should contain a chlorine concentration of 50-200 ppm for sanitizing. Typically, 1 -2 cap-fulls of bleach is enough.
  3. Wash dishes and utensils in the first bucket of hot, soapy water to remove grease and food particles. Water temperature should be 120o F to 140o F.
  4. Dip rinse in the second bucket of hot water.
  5. Immerse articles in the third bucket of chlorine solution for 60 seconds. The effectiveness of chlorine for disinfecting is directly related to time of exposure. Be sure to allow time for the chlorine to sanitize.
  6. Place dishes on a rack for air drying. Store the articles in a clean, dry location to be ready for the next meal. If dishes did not air dry before being packed or dishes become contaminated by river water or other sources, use a sanitizing solution on the dishes before using.

Water Purification

All water consumed or used for cooking should be purified. Research on the Colorado River and its tributaries indicated that increased sediment from flooding or other causes may pose a high risk to river users. The following water purification steps should be followed:

  • Use the river to collect water unless the river is cloudy from sediment.

  • Use side streams as a water source when the river is laden with sediment and the side stream is running clear.

  • Cloudy sediment-laden water must be cleared before disinfecting. Settle overnight. Decant the clear water into another container. Bring water to a boil; this will inactivate all major waterborne bacterial pathogens and waterborne protozoa.

  • If using a portable filter, allow water to settle. This will lengthen your filters’ life. It is recommended to use a disinfectant in addition to the filter. Current recommendations are 2 drops of chlorine per gallon after filtering.

Illness Reports

All gastrointestinal illnesses which occur on the river during a river trip or following a river trip must be reported. A Confidential River Trip Incident Form (see page 29) must be completed for each person who becomes ill.

River Flow Information

Both the Green and Colorado rivers are calm upstream of the Confluence and are ideal for canoes, kayaks, and visitors seeking a flatwater river trip. After the Confluence, the combined flow of both rivers forms Cataract Canyon. Paddling through Cataract Canyon requires experience in whitewater. River flows are dependent on rainfall and snowmelt and can vary dramatically. High water is typically from early May to late June. For current river flows contact:

Flash Floods

Flash floods occur in side canyons of Canyonlands occasionally during summer. Keep the possibility of flash floods and rock fall in mind when camping at side canyons.

High Water Flows: River flows in Cataract Canyon are some of the biggest in the country. Minimal damming along the Green and Colorado rivers north of Glen Canyon creates unpredictable flows and periods of very high water. The highest recorded flow in Cataract Canyon is 114,000 recorded in 1984. The lowest recorded flow is 2,700 recorded in 2002. These two extremes illustrate the unpredictable nature of Cataract Canyon. The rapids are equally as variable and range (depending on river flow) from Class I to Class V. The most difficult rapids are the Big Drops located between river miles 203 and 201. These rapids can and should be scouted prior to running. All parties traveling down river during high water should maintain an expedition mentality and be prepared to self-rescue should your boat capsize.Should someone fall in the river, it is extremely important to get them out of the water as quickly as possible. After 5 minutes of floating in 50-degree F water, muscular strength and coordination rapidly diminish. Generally, after 10-15 minutes, a person is totally unable to help themselves.

Helicopter landing on a riverbank
Helicopter evacuations are only for medical emergencies.

NPS/George Gerhart

In Case of an Emergency

All parties are responsible for establishing an emergency contact. This should be someone who knows you, your itinerary and your expected exit time– this is not the National Park Service, shuttle company or rental company. This individual would contact emergency personnel in Canyonlands should you not exit the backcountry at the specified time.Cellular phone service is nonexistent in the river corridor and at/around Hite. River parties should not rely on cell phone service as a means of contact until they are back in the city and plan with their emergency contact accordingly. Personal location devices (e.g., SPOT, PLB, INREACH) and satellite phones are the most reliable method of communication. All parties should carry a signal mirror for signaling a helicopter (see Helicopter Evacuation Guidelines).In the case of an emergency (e.g., missing person, serious illness or injury) please follow these guidelines:

  1. If you are above the Confluence and have no means of contacting emergency services, try to contact another river party who can assist. The Confluence is a good location for contacting larger parties or shuttle companies. During the busy season (late May– August) many groups can be found rafting below the Confluence for those further down river. This is NOT the most reliable means of obtaining help and all groups are encouraged to carry a satellite phone or personal location device.

  2. If your river party has a personal location device (e.g., SPOT, PLB) press the emergency button and wait for help to arrive. It may take some time to determine your exact location. Make sure the patient is in a good location for evacuation (if you are able to move them without further injury or danger) before signaling for help.

  1. If you call 911 on a SAT phone, have the following information ready:

    1. Exact Location (Green or Colorado River)? River mile ___ in Canyonlands (or Glen Canyon) National Park.

    2. NAME of the PERMIT holder.

    3. Specify a CRITICAL or STABLE patient.

    4. State whether the problem is TRAUMA (injury) or MEDICAL (illness).

    5. State whether it is a COMMERCIAL or PRIVATE river trip or a HIKER who needs assistance.

    6. Specify CHIEF COMPLAINT of patient.

All 911/emergency phone calls are recorded. Having this information ready and providing it FIRST ensures that the most critical information for evacuation and rescue is relayed.

Helicopter Evacuations

Helicopter evacuations are ONLY for medical emergencies. If deemed necessary, the National Park Service or county 911 will make arrangements for helicopter evacuations.Your party can assist us by clearly relaying the information listed above and preparing the landing zone (see below).

Landing Zone Selection and Preparation

  1. Select a LEVEL area approximately 15x15 feet. Be sure the area is clear of obstacles including trees and large rocks for a diameter of 75 feet. If you are unable to locate a safe landing area where you are located, transport patient by boat to a safe landing zone unless travel would pose serious problems for the patient.

  2. Mark the area with something bright in color and remove after pilot has located the site. Signal mirrors are very effective to signal a pilot.

  3. Prepare group and camp for evacuation. Be sure everyone is gathered 100 feet away from the landing zone and in full view of the pilot. Secure loose equipment in the camp

  4. Wet down the landing area as much as possible prior to the helicopter’s arrival.

  5. NEVER APPROACH THE HELICOPTER unless directed to do so by the pilot or crew.


Recommended First Aid Items



Notes and Possible Alternatives/Improvisations*


Nitrile Gloves

2 pair

For body-substance isolation; plastic bags can be used in an emergency situation.

CPR Mask


Optional; a Ziploc with a hole cut into it can work in an emergency

Biohazard Disposal Bags


For body-substance isolation; designated Ziplocs are a fine alternative


Irrigation Syringe


Great for wound cleaning; a disposable water-bottle with a hole cut through the lid is a great alternative

Antibacterial soap

8-10 oz.

Antiseptic for wound cleaning; clean, clear potable water can and should be used to clean all wounds.

Cotton Swabs

1 package

For cleaning lacerations, eyes, etc.

Adhesive Bandages (Band-Aids of assorted sizes, Knuckle bandages, etc.)


For lacerations; duct tape and/or athletic tape can be used to secure these bandages, or protect some wounds by themselves

Wound-closure Strips

1 pack

Remember to thoroughly clean open wounds thoroughly before closing them!

Large Absorbent ‘Trauma’ Pad


For large bleeding wounds; feminine napkins are a great alternative

Gauze/Dressings (Different sizes, including non-adherent)

4-6, including 4”x4” and 2”x2” pads.

For small wounds Sterile dressings are important to keep wounds clean and prevent infection.

Rolled Gauze


For securing dressings and splints, or improvising slings.

Occlusive Dressings (i.e., Tegaderm)


These are great for use in situations where it is difficult to keep wounds dry.

Eye Pad


For protecting injured eyes

Waterproof Adhesive Tape

2 rolls

For securing dressings; duct tape or electrical tape can be used as an alternative

Tincture of Benzoin

2 bottles

To hold tape in place and protect skin

Super Glue

1 tube

Great for small cuts and scrapes; DO NOT USE IN OPEN WOUNDS!

Anti-bacterial Ointment

1 tube

To help keep wounds free of infection; The best method to prevent wound infection is thorough cleaning.


Portable Splint (i.e., Sam Splint)


To splint/stabilize breaks and sprains; ‘Crazy-Creek’ chairs, wrapped sticks, and other readily available camp/boat items can be utilized as makeshift splints

Triangle Bandages


Great for securing and stabilizing splinted or otherwise injured areas; t-shirts, jackets, and other clothing or bedding items can be fashioned to this purpose

Compression Wrap (i.e., Ace Bandage)


For sprains or securing splints; t-shirts torn into long strips or ribbons can work as an alternative


Scissors/ Trauma Shears


Cutting tape, shaping bandages or Moleskin; finger or toe-nail clippers are a possible alternative in times of need



For wound cleaning, or splinter/cactus spine removal; pliers can work in a pinch

Razor Blade, Single


For hair removal prior to wound dressing

Safety Pin(s)


For general use; tape or wire can be used to the same purpose



To diagnose fever, heatstroke, or hypothermia

Blood Pressure Cuff/Stethoscope

1 each

Diagnostic tools



36 tablets

For pain, fever, and inflammation

Non-Aspirin (i.e. ibuprofen or acetaminophen)

36 tablets

For pain, fever, and inflammation

Oil of Clove

1 bottle

To relieve symptoms of toothache

Calamine Lotion

1 bottle/tube

Top relieve itching from poison ivy, rash, or allergic reaction

Anti-histamine (i.e., Benadryl)

18 tablets

For insect bites, hives or rashes, and other adverse allergic reactions.

Epinephrine (i.e., Epi-pen)

Typically comes in packs of 1-2 prescribed doses


Rescue Inhaler/Nebulizer

Prescribed dose

<<< SEE ABOVE! >>>

Eye Drops

1 bottle

For eye wash /irritation

Ear Drops

Small bottle

For treating clogged or infected ears

Syrup of ipecac

1 bottle

To induce vomiting

Antacid (i.e., Tums)

18 tablets

For indigestion and gas

Anti-Diarrheal (i.e., Imodium)

Small bottle

For the treatment of diarrhea

Mineral Oil or Other Mild Laxative

1 bottle

For the treatment of constipation



Assorted Sizes

Great for blisters and hot-spots; duct tape or other tape can be used in a pinch

Lubricating Ointment (i.e., Vaseline)

1 container

Useful for lubricating abrading areas; things like chap-stick are an alternative

1” Athletic Tape

2 rolls

To tape sprained ankles and covering hot-spots; duct tape is a less-desirable option



1-2 bottles

To prevent sunburn


1 bottle

For relieving pain associated with sunburn


1 bottle

To keep burnt skin hydrated


Feminine Hygiene Products

2-6 pads or tampons

For menstruation

Electrolyte Drink

1 tub minimum

To relieve or prevent muscle cramps and/or heat exhaustion

Water Purification Tablets

1 bottle

To purify water for drinking or wound cleaning/irrigation


Pencil/Pen and Notepad

1-2 Pens, water- resistant notepad

For documenting injuries and items used in treatment, and for patient monitoring

First Aid Guide/Manual


For reference purposes

Signal Mirror


To signal aircraft or other parties in case of emergency; other reflective surfaces can be used for this purpose in case of emergency

Cell phone/Satellite phone/SPOT


To make calls and send emergency messages or signals.

*Be sure to follow all product instructions in the use of medications, dressings, and instruments. All possible alternatives/improvisations are presented as potential ways to deal with a lack of dedicated supplies, and are not meant to be used as first-choice solutions.


Noncommercial River Trip Incident Report Form

Any incidents resulting in evacuation from the park, personal injury requiring more than first aid (including Gastrointestinal illnesses), the death or disappearance of any participant, property damage greater than $500, or any raft flip/pin must be reported to Canyonlands National Park. Completed Noncommercial River Trip Incident Report Forms should be given to the NPS ranger at the time of evacuation or emailed to the Canyonlands Backcountry Permit Office ( within 7 days of trip completion.

Boat motor with mussels covering all areas
Aquatic invasive species can be easily transferred by boats.

Courtesy of Utah Department of Natural Resources

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

Quagga mussels are a "Skiff-Transmitted Disease" (STD), and they are a threat to Utah lakes. These mussels are small and could be hitching a ride on your boat without you even knowing it. They are dangerous and can damage waters. It is important to prevent spreading them to other Utah lakes. Quagga mussels are spreading in Lake Powell, and with the detrimental impact they have on fisheries, beaches, boats and water lines, we want to prevent them from infesting any other waterbodies.

Information and Requirements

Visit for information on:

  • Decontamination Certification and Requirements

  • Non-Resident Fees and Education Requirements

  • FAQs

Before Boating

Before launching your boat, it must be mussel-free. It’s the law! Mandatory boat inspections are routine at Lake Powell, some state points of entry, roadside stops and other waters. A required watercraft decontamination one time form or a full year certificate can be obtained at

Last updated: September 15, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

2282 Resource Blvd.
Moab, UT 84532



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