Colorado, Utah, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||16 fpm|
|Max Gradient||30 fpm|
|Colorado in Cataract Canyon|
|virtual-8918||4000 - unknown cfs||IV-V||00h19m||8200 cfs (running)|
Cataract Canyon of the Colorado River
The Colorado River through Cataract Canyon at 50,000 CFS is extremly big, pushy, and powerful. It should be attempted only at those water levels by expert big water boatman. The rapids come in quick succession with no recovery time making long swims in cold water a very real possibility.
There are no put-ins directly above Cataract Canyon. So either Meander Canyon on the Colorado River or Stillwater Canyon on the Green River will need to be run in conjunction with this section.
The Colorado River cuts an impressive course through Cataract Canyon creating an exciting big water experience. Although faster runs can be made, four to five day trips departing from Moab make for a 100 river mile trip that provides a balance between quiet floating, impressive geology, prehistory in canyon country, cool hikes, beach camping, and fast-paced rapids. The trip is an all-around river adventure with spectacular scenery.
The river remains flat for the first 3 miles below the confluence before the rapids start and remain more or less constant until the lake drowns the river. There is a short flat water section (1.5 miles) between rapid 12 and rapid 13 where the Mile long section starts. This section culminates in the Big Drop Rapids. It is recommended to scout Big Drops 2&3 at all water levels. After this there are several fun splashy rapids to enjoy. Be aware, if it has been a while since you have been down there, that the last few rapids that have come out around Waterhole Canyon are quite rocky and will require your attention.
The one big negative of the trip is the end. The waters of Lake Powell inundate much of Cataract Canyon below the park boundary. A 30-mile stretch of reservoir with no current buries over half of the original rapids. The flat water paddling and rowing is made even more difficult by frequent up-canyon winds. Bringing a small motor to push of the lake is generally advised. You can row out but pulling into head wind on water with no current can ruin an otherwise excellent trip.
Reaches of the Colorado River:
01. Hot Sulphur Springs to Hwy 40 bridge (Byers
Canyon) (CO, IV)
02. Gore Canyon (CO, IV-V)
03. Pumphouse campground to Rancho Del Rio (Pumphouse) (CO, III)
04. Hanging Lake Exit 125 (I-70) to Shoshone Power Plant Exit 123 (I-70) (Barrel Springs) (CO, IV-V [V+])
05. Shoshone Power Plant, Exit 123 (I-70) to Grizzly Creek, Exit 121 (I-70) (Shoshone) (CO, III-IV)
06. Cameo Dam (Big Sur / Lucky 7) (CO, III)
07. Loma to Westwater (Ruby / Horsethief Canyons) (CO-UT, II)
08. Westwater to Rose Ranch (Westwater Canyon) (UT, I-IV)
09. Cisco (Rose Ranch) to Moab (Professor Valley) (UT, I-III)
10. Moab to Powell Reservoir (Cataract Canyon) (UT, I-IV)
11. Lees Ferry to Lake Mead (Grand Canyon) (AZ, I-IV)
12. Black Canyon (AZ-NV, I)
Permits are available on a reservation basis no more than four months, and no less than two days, prior to the permit start date.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Confluence- Green/Colorado Rivers||N/A|
|13.5||The Button/ Rapid 19||IV|
|14.0||Ben Hurt/ Rapid 20||III|
|14.5||Big drop 2/ Rapid 22||V|
|14.8||Big Drop 3/ Rapid 23||V|
|33.0||Dark Canyon - elevation 3540||N/A|
|47.0||Dirty Devil Take Out||N/A|
|48.0||Hite Marina boat ramp||N/A|
This is the start of Cataract Canyon. Life jackets are required from here through the last active rapid on Lake Powell.
At low water this rapid forms a large hole center-left that is hard to see from the top. The right side is a series of pour overs that can be run or start in the center and move right below the pour overs.
This rapid forms a very large hole in the center at high water (35,000 cfs+). At lower water it is a large mid-river rock. There are runs on the right and left depending on water level.
The river splits around an island. Take the river right channel. The run is left of center with holes/pour overs on the left and right.
Big drop 2 requires either hard left to right below the marker hole/rock or right to left pull between the marker hole/rock and little niagra. Either one reqires a run of the ledge wave. Hit this square. The left to right move is prefered at lower levels.(below 40,000 cfs). At high water there are sneak runs but they are not with out concequences. The low water scout is on river left above the rapid. At high water it is usually scouted from the left above Big Drop 1 and running all 3 Big Drops at once.
Dark Canyon is a major canyon on the left. When the lake is low, the river elevation here is about 3540 feet.
This take out is on the north side of the reservoir, just downstream of the mouth of the Dirty Devil River. It can be difficult to find a good place to beach because of large areas of mud flats and quicksand. It is also easy to get cars stuck in the soft sand. This is general the only takeout available as Hite is usually inaccessible. Contact the park service about current ramp conditions as they can change quickly.
Except on very high water years that fill Lake Powell, this ramp is not accessible . The concrete ramp is generally high and dry, with several hundred feet of mud flat between it and the channel.