Provo - 01. Upper - Provo Falls, Slate Gorge

Provo, Utah, US


01. Upper - Provo Falls, Slate Gorge (Provo Falls, Slate Gorge)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 5.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 225 fpm
Max Gradient 345 fpm


Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-10154200 600 - 2500 cfs IV-V 00h38m 55.8 cfs (too low)

River Description

The headwaters for the Provo River lie just below Bald Mountain in the Upper Uintas. For most of the Upper Provo, Utah Route 150 (the Mirror Lake Highway) parallels the river. This section has three distinct parts -- the Upper Provo Falls park and huck, Slate Gorge, and the Box Canyon. Overall the run is about 5 and a half miles, but any of the sections may be run individually. The logistics for access to the run vary. Generally, UDOT opens the road to the lower section – Box Canyon – first. In big snow years they may plow to the summit by Memorial Day weekend. Generally, the road seems to open right about when boaters are looking to head up there. Note that it may be possible to drive further up RT-150 than the UDOT website indicates.

Provo Falls consist of a series of ledge drops and slides. Hike your boat up from the parking lot following a rough trail that starts behind the restrooms. The upper most runnable drop is a small ledge the falls away underneath a log. We put in above this. Downstream from here are 5 smaller drops before a large sliding falls that ends in an eddy above the main two-tiered falls visible from the parking lot. You can usually eddy out above the main falls after the slide, but this has been blown before. This two tiered drop is generally run on the right. Keep you nose of the right wall and up at the bottom. Ankle injuries have occurred. Below this, the river swings past the overlook and over Bad Chiwawa, a butt busting bouncer down the left ordeal. It ends in an eddy above Big Boy a ramping to vertical 30-footer. The landing is shallow and the timing of the boof stroke to lift your bow is a bit complex. While successful runs are common, so are back injuries and other carnage. To date, I know of two paddlers who have sustained major injuries running this drop– one of whom can no longer sit in a kayak.

Slate Gorge begins where the road crosses the river below the falls. This section is about 2 miles and contains a few low angle slides, boulder gardens, and a vertical two tiered water fall. The waterfall is visible from the Slate Gorge overlook on the way to the put in. Until recently, a log blocked the river right route. This disappeared in 2005 making this drop a lot more runnable. It’s undercut on both sides, and behind the last drop. If you’re just going to run the gorge, take out at the Murdoch basin road.

The Box Canyon, or Slope-Rock-Falls, (aka Big Slide and lower Box Canyon) section begins around mile marker 22 and contains numerous slides, rapids, and tight turns. Lots of work by Bubba Smith and company as well as other Utah boaters has kept this section free of wood. However, the abundance of standing dead trees and high winds often put deadfall into the creek,  so a thorough scout is recommended. The river mellows out a bit (and becomes more wood choked) near Cobble Rest Campground.

A 6 dollar forest service day pass is required for cars parking within the National Forest. You can get one at the stand along RT 150.
An annual pass is $45, and a federal park pass (Interagency pass, America the Beautiful pass) is honored. 
Coming from Salt Lake, Kamas is your last stop for beer and gas before heading into the high country. For post-paddling fare, Mirror Lake Diner and Uinta Drive In are open 7 days a week. There’s tons of free and forest service camping throughout the Uintas.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-07-09 21:50:29


Rapid Descriptions

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