Difficulty I-IV
Length 55 Miles
Flow Range CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 211 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 10/13/2019 2:52 pm

River Description

Below Cameron, the Little Colorado River flows towards the Grand Canyon through an impressively deep and narrow canyon of its own.   The distance from Cameron to the confluence with the main Colorado is approximately 55 miles, so boaters must expect to take several days.   The steepest 3 miles are reported to be class 4+ in difficulty.   Class 3 and some 4- rapids may be encountered throughout the rest of the canyon.  

All but the last 3 miles of this section are within the Navajo Tribal Reservation.   The last 3 miles are within Grand Canyon National Park. 

Take out:  Since flows in the Little Colorado are unpredictable, but permits for the Grand Canyon must be obtained far in advance, it is highly unlikely that boaters can coordinate a trip down the Little Colorado with a trip through the Grand Canyon.   So, boaters are faced with the dillemma of climbing out of the canyon at the end of their trip.  There are dirt roads along the rim in several areas and probably trails leading out of the canyon to those roads in some spots.  It is unclear what take out strategies have been used by boaters doing this section.

Elevations and gradient:
Cameron  4120 feet.   
Confluence with main Colorado,  2720 feet.
Total drop is 1400 feet over 55 miles, creating an average gradient of about 25 feet per mile. Much of the early distance appears to be very flat.  In the heart of the canyon there are sections of 30 to 40 feet per mile and one mile appears to drop about 80 feet.   

Permits are required from the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department for all trips on the Little Colorado River.  As of 2009, the backcountry permit fee is $5 per person, plus $5 per person per night camping fee.


Cameron Visitor Center is located near the put in. 
P.O. Box 459
Cameron, AZ  86020
tel : 928.679.2303
email: lcr@navajonationparks.org

Permits are also required from Grand Canyon National Park, if you plan on boating the final 3 miles to the confluence with the main Colorado. Contact:  

  • Backcountry Information Center: (928) 638-7875 between 1 pm and 5 pm Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays
  • River Permits Office: (800) 959-9164 or (928) 638-7843

Creative arraignments may be possible.

Other Information Sources: 
Little Colorado River Tribal Park
Video from helicopter showing Cocconino Platuea and small portion of Little Colorado Gorge.
Through the Little Colorado River Gorge, sun and shadows helicopter video.
QUICKSAND AND BLUE SPRINGS Exploring the Little Colorado River Gorge - Book about hiking.
Paddling Arizona at www.funhogpress.com

Rapid Descriptions


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Paul Martzen
11 years ago

Thank you for these recent comments. I am correcting the description as best I can (without having done the run) and eliminating the hyperbole. Any additional information would be appreciated. Looks like somebody copied the previous description straight from the Southwest Paddlers website which appears to be canoe oriented. http://southwestpaddler.com/docs/coloradoaz12.html

default user thumbnail
11 years ago

I aborted a trip here with a planned hike out option, as did many others, because it is NOT class V. According to reliable sources, it's about 3 miles of good class IV+, and the rest is painfully flat. Beautiful, but the 12 hour hike out was not worth it. Paddling AZ calls it class IV, and unlike the one here, the description in Tyler's book is trustworthy.

default user thumbnail
12 years ago

This run's illegal only if you end your trip within Grand Canyon National Park and don't obtain a permit from the Navajo tribe.

Gage Descriptions

The USGS also provides flow information for the Little Colorado above Mouth near Desert View.


Directions Description

It is unknown whether the route marked on the map below is actually usable.   The Navajo Parks and Recreation Department may be able to provide up to date information. 

No Accident Reports



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Kestrel Kunz

In the ongoing saga of hydro dam developments proposed within striking distance of Grand Canyon National Park, American Whitewater is asking for help from the paddling community to stop a development that would impact the greater Grand Canyon area and its tributaries. Back in October 2019, we wrote an article outlining the proposal submitted by Phoenix-based hydroelectric company Pumped Hydro LLC to place two dams on the Little Colorado River, a tributary of the Colorado River’s mighty Grand Canyon. This proposal was met with a large amount of pushback for the cultural impact on indigenous tribes, ecological impacts, and water use. To address these concerns, Pumped Hydro decided to file an alternative (yet equally problematic) proposal for a hydro development on Big Canyon, a tributary of the Little Colorado River. The Big Canyon project permit application has been accepted into the Federal Energy Regulation Commission’s (FERC) registrar, initiating a public comment period on the project ending August 1 and we need members of the paddling community to step up and make their voices heard!

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Little CO River Dams Receive Preliminary Permits, New Proposal Submitted (AZ)

Kestrel Kunz

In October of 2019, we reported that Phoenix-based hydroelectric company, Pumped Hydro Storage, submitted applications to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for preliminary permits for two different hydroelectric projects in the Little Colorado River basin. At the end of May, both proposals received approval for their preliminary permits despite formal intervention from Native American tribes, American Whitewater, many of our members, and numerous environmental organizations. Thank you to those of you who provided your comments to FERC! These comments are on record and will help the continued fight against these dams. Next up, the same hydropower company has submitted another preliminary dam proposal on Big Canyon. American Whitewater is reviewing the Big Canyon application and is working on providing our supporters with guidance to submit your own comments.

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Grand Canyon Protection Announced!

Kevin Colburn

Earlier today the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard rock mining claims on roughly 1-million acres of land surrounding the Grand Canyon.  We would like to extend a heart-felt thank you to Secretary Salazar, his staff, and the administration for acting as responsible stewards of one of America's most treasured places.

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Grand Canyon Gets Interim Protection from Mining

Kevin Colburn

The Secretary of the Interior recently announced a 6-month extension to his Department's moratorium on new uranium mining claims on over 1 million acres along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  This extension will protect the area while the Department of the Interior reviews the 300,000 comments received on their proposal to extend the protections for the next 20 years.

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Paddlers Rally to Protect Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining

Kevin Colburn

The paddling community is rallying to support a proposed 20-year federal moratorium on new uranium mining claims around Grand Canyon National Park, citing unacceptable risk to the recreational, environmental, and aesthetic values.  Read more to learn how to submit a comment of your own. 

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Grand Canyon Lottery Open Until October 21st

Kevin Colburn

Earlier this year, the Grand Canyon National Park began implementing their new management plan and river permitting system.  Paddlers wishing to enter the weighted lottery, which replaced the old wait list, may do so until October 21st. 

Kestrel Kunz


Paul Martzen


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213796 10/13/19 Kestrel Kunz updated image position
1208050 07/15/17 Kestrel Kunz
1189914 04/16/09 Paul Martzen n/a
1195760 08/11/09 Paul Martzen