Colorado - 17. Colorado/Green Confluence to Hite Marina (Cataract Canyon)

Colorado, Utah, US


17. Colorado/Green Confluence to Hite Marina (Cataract Canyon)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 48 Miles
Avg. Gradient 16 fpm
Max Gradient 30 fpm

Big Drop Two, Redwall

Big Drop Two, Redwall
Photo of Chris Mosher and crew by James taken 2001 @ 28,000

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Colorado in Cataract Canyon
virtual-8918 3000 - unknown cfs IV-V 00h50m 0 cfs (too low)

River Description

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)

Permit Information

Permits are available on a reservation basis no more than four months, and no less than two days, prior to the permit start date.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-01-28 03:29:10


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Confluence- Green/Colorado RiversN/APutin Access
5.5Rapid 5N/A
13.5The Button/ Rapid 19IV
14.0Ben Hurt/ Rapid 20III
14.5Big drop 2/ Rapid 22 V
14.8Big Drop 3/ Rapid 23V
33.0Dark Canyon - elevation 3540N/A
47.0Dirty Devil Take OutN/ATakeout
48.0Hite Marina boat rampN/ATakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Confluence- Green/Colorado Rivers (Class N/A)

This is the start of Cataract Canyon. Life jackets are required from here through the last active rapid on Lake Powell.  

Rapid 5 (Class N/A, Mile 5.5)

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. 

The Button/ Rapid 19 (Class IV, Mile 13.5)

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. 

Ben Hurt/ Rapid 20 (Class III, Mile 14.0)

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/ Rapid 22 (Class V, Mile 14.5)

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 - elevation 3540 (Class N/A, Mile 33.0)

Dark Canyon is a major canyon on the left.  When the lake is low, the river elevation here is about 3540 feet.  

Dirty Devil Take Out (Class N/A, Mile 47.0)

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.

Hite Marina boat ramp (Class N/A, Mile 48.0)

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. 

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
February 8 2005 (5095 days ago)
edward clarkDetails
2/2/05 The current draw down conditions on lake powell have altered the lower section of the river.
There are a few minor riffles below Imperial Rapid (last rapid.) The current in the lower section
is fast and it's an easy days float to the take out.

Good camping can be found from Imperial to the beach river left near Gypsum Canyon. Below there,
few exist. Camping spots are mre limited in Spanish bottom due to mud and the erosion of sandy

The take out is dirt road off of Rt 95 just south of the Hite Overlook. It is located just
downstream of the confluence with the Dirty Devil, and easy to miss. The access to the river is
very steep, loose rock and dirt, and prohibits getting a trailer to river level. All rafts must be
carried up the initial 10 feet.

As always, high flows may alter this take out and further limit access.