Backcountry and river permits may be obtained online only; permits will not be issued at park visitor centers until further notice. Overnight permits must be requested at least two days before start of trip.
The Colorado and Green rivers have played a significant role in shaping the landscape of Canyonlands, and seeing the park from the bottom up affords a unique perspective. Above their confluence near the heart of Canyonlands, the rivers offer miles and miles of flatwater perfect for canoes, sea kayaks and other shallow-water boats. Below the confluence, the combined flow of both rivers spills down Cataract Canyon with remarkable speed and power, creating a fourteen-mile stretch of Class III to V whitewater.
You must have a permit for all private river trips. You may reserve overnight permits no more than four months, and no fewer than two days, before the permit start date. Day use permits are available up to 24 hours in advance.
For a successful river trip, it is essential to practice proper food handling & sanitation and water purification techniques, and to abide by toilet requirements and other river regulations. (Read through some river incident reports for examples of unsuccessful trips.)
Local outfitters offer a variety of guided trips, from half-day excursions to week-long floats. Most river trips involve several nights of camping.
Academic River Trips
Academic institutions wishing to do either flatwater or whitewater trips may do so under a Special Use Permit from Canyonlands National Park. Read more about academic river trips.
River flows are dependent upon snowmelt and rainfall. The character of the rivers changes dramatically depending on the season. High water generally stretches from early May to late June, while low water may occur later in summer. Both conditions can present challenges to boaters. Recorded river flows are available from the US Geological Survey or by calling 801-539-1311. Snowmelt peak flow forecasts are available from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.
Also on this subject:
On both rivers, all launch ramps are outside park boundaries. Launch locations on the Green River include Green River State Park, Ruby Ranch or Mineral Bottom. On the Colorado River, boaters typically use the Potash or Moab ramps. Vehicles cannot reach the rivers near the Confluence or in Cataract Canyon. Past Cataract Canyon, boaters usually take out at Lake Powell.
Hiking trails lead to the rivers from each of the districts, but these trails are too long and rugged to be seriously considered for shuttles, unless groups use equipment designed for this purpose such as pack rafts.
Two companies are licensed to provide river shuttles (upstream and downstream) in Canyonlands National Park:
For a list of shuttle services to destinations outside the park, visit discovermoab.com.
Last updated: June 30, 2020