The Colorado River flows in a canyon with high cliffs.
Sunrise at the Big Drops in Cataract Canyon

NPS/Neal Herbert


The Colorado and Green rivers wind through the heart of Canyonlands, cutting through layered sandstone to form two deep canyons. In stark contrast to the hot, sunny desert above, the river corridors are remarkably green, shady, and full of life.

Both rivers are calm upstream of The Confluence, ideal for canoes, kayaks and other shallow water craft. Below The Confluence, the combined flow of both rivers spills down Cataract Canyon with remarkable speed and power, creating a world-class stretch of whitewater.


Often hidden from view by the complex contours of the canyons, the rivers are not easy to get to. Launch locations on the Green River include Green River State Park, Ruby Ranch or Mineral Bottom. On the Colorado, boaters typically use the Potash or Moab ramps. There is no vehicle access to the rivers near the Confluence or in Cataract Canyon.

Guided Trips

Local outfitters offer a variety of guided river trips, from half-day excursions to week-long floats. Most river trips involve several nights of camping.


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. 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.

Planning your own river trip? Learn more about boating in Canyonlands.

Last updated: December 20, 2019

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