rapids highlight a spectacular canyon that draws boaters to this section
of the Colorado River. Westwater Canyon has premier white-water stretches
that challenge the abilities of skilled kayakers and rafters alike.
A permit is required; plan on obtaining it well in advance of your trip.
For those with less experience, there is the option of a commercial
Westwater Ranger Station
The Bureau of Land Management administers the Westwater Canyon portion
of the Colorado River. The Westwater Ranger Station is 4.5 miles from
the Utah-Colorado state line. From the station, it is approximately
17 river miles to the first available takeout point at the Cisco Landing.
In this distance, the river drops 125 feet. The ranger station is approximately
63 river miles from Moab, Utah, and 127 river miles from the Colorado's
confluence with the Green River.
Because of the heavy demand for launches, permits, and advanced reservations
to run this section of the river are required year round. The fee season
is from March through October. Information about the reservation and
permit system may be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management, Moab
Field Office, 82 East Dogwood Moab, Utah 84532, (435) 259-7012.
experienced boaters should attempt to pilot rafts through the canyon;
it should not be tried by the novice.
Life jackets must be worn, as required
under Utah State law, from the Westwater Ranger Station downstream to
the mouth of Big Hole Canyon.
commercial outfitters and private boaters are required to pay use fees
for Westwater Canyon float trips. As a result of legislation passed
by Congress in 1987, recreation use fees are being returned to the area
where they were collected. Returned fees now fund a substantial portion
of the Westwater management program.
are only 10 campsites in Westwater Canyon. Campsites are assigned at
the ranger station at launch time with consideration given to group
a general rule, the river peaks at about 20,000 cubic feet per second
(cfs) in late May or early June and recedes throughout the summer and
autumn months to reach a low of less that 3,000 cfs. To obtain current
river flow information, call (801) 539-1311 for a recorded summary of
Utah river flow measurements.
of the river varies with each change in river flow. Some rapids are
most challenging at high water, while others require greater skill at
low water. Within Westwater Canyon, there are 11 rapids that range in
difficulty from 1 to 9 on a scale where the most dangerous rapids have
a rating of 10. The rapids of note are Funnel Falls, Skull, and Sock-It-To-Me.
The black, uplifted rocks in the canyon (metamorphic granite gneisses)
represent the oldest exposed formations in eastern Utah (1.75 billion
years). These are pre-Cambrian age. The highest pre-Cambrian gneiss
cliffs reach approximately 200 feet above Skull Rapid. Above the black
rock are the multi-colored layers of the Chinle formation and the massive,
smooth, reddish-brown cliffs of the Wingate sandstone, both of the Triassic
species of wildlife inhabit the canyon. Those most commonly observed
are Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron, ducks, beaver, eagles (autumn and
spring) and song birds.
A small seasonal waterfall is located on the Little Dolores
River about 200 yards upsteam from its confluence with the Colorado
River. Several small natural arches are located near the Little Dolores
River and one large arch is located just below Star Canyon along the
The miner's cabin is located on the river left at the entrance
to Westwater Canyon. This dugout, log, and rock structure was built
in the early 1900s by miners who sought gold in the gravelbeds adjacent
to the river. The area was worked again during the 1930s.
The so-called outlaw cave is perched
a short distance above the river on river left below the Hades Bar campsite.
According to one legend, two brothers robbed a bank in Vernal and hid
here for 18 months. Approximately half a mile farther down the canyon
on river left, a rock cairn supposedly marks the grave of one of the
Artifacts at these sites and at Indian
sites are protected by law. Please do not damage or remove these remnants
of our cultural heritage.
For Additional Information Contact:
The Bureau of Land Management
82 East Dogwood
Moab, Utah 84532