Canoe/kayak vacations on the Green and Colorado Rivers

Canoeing the Green River Canoe Jetboat Shuttle Canoeing

Important Information on Canoeing and Kayaking the Rivers of Utah

Do I need a permit to canoe/kayak the Green or Colorado River?
Are there any special items I need on my Canoe/kayak trip?
Where can I camp on the Green and Colorado Rivers?
I've never paddled a river. Should I even consider this kind of trip?
Are there bugs on the river?
What else is important for me to know?


Do I need a permit to canoe/kayak the Green or Colorado River?

Yes.

To float on the Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River you need a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) permit. These are free and available here or at the BLM offices in Price or Moab, Green River State Park, John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, Utah, or through your outfitter if you are using one as your shuttle service. The permit must be filled out in full and you need to take both copies with you to the put-in; leave one copy at the put-in and take the other with you down river.

Stillwater Canyon on the Green River and Meander Canyon on the Colorado River need an NPS (National Parks Service) permit. Permits cost $20 per person plus a $20 permit processing fee and permit applications should be sent in at least 2 weeks in advance. A PDF of the permit application form can be downloaded from the NPS web site. Because there is no road access to the rivers in Canyonlands National Park, you will need to have a jet boat pick-up scheduled from an outfitter before you can obtain a permit.

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Are there any special items I need on my canoe/kayak trip?

Other than your basic camping and river gear, here is a list of items that are required by the government agencies. All of this information is courtesy of the Utah State Parks Boating Regulations and the NPS Boating Regulations.

  • An approved toilet system. Systems approved for use are washable reusable systems equipped with RV dump fittings, or commercial bag systems such as the PETT, Wag Bag or Restop II systems. All solid human waste must be securely contained and removed from the backcountry in an approved toilet system.
  • A durable metal fire pan that is at least 12" in diameter with a 2 1/2" lip around the edge. Fire debris must be contained within the fire pan at all times. All fire debris and ash must be packed out of the back country. Fire blankets are recommended to facilitate total ash removal. Only driftwood may be collected for fire wood. (You must have a fire pan even if you do not plan on having a fire.)
  • A serviceable type I, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD) is required for each trip participant. PFDs must have a U.S. Coast Guard approval label with an intended use of paddling, canoeing, or kayaking. General use, universal, general boating, and water ski PFDs are not approved. Inflatable PFDs are not allowed on any rivers in Utah. PFDs must be readily accessible and must be worn by all persons boating below the Confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Youth 12 years old and younger must wear PFDs at all times while on the river.
  • One serviceable spare PFD for every three low capacity vessels designed to carry two or fewer occupants, such as canoes or kayaks.
  • A readily accessible spare means of propulsion capable of maneuvering the vessel. Low capacity vessels designed to carry two or fewer occupants, such as canoes and kayaks, may carry one spare per three vessels.
  • A serviceable type IV throwable device (throw cushion) for any boat 16' in length or longer. A commercially made throw bag with at least 40' of line is allowed in lieu of a type IV throwable device.
  • Repair kit or kits adequate for repairing the number and types of boats on the trip. Hard hulled boats may carry epoxy and duct tape or an equivalent means of repairing hard hulls.
  • If boats with inflatable components are used on the trip, an air pump or pumps are required.
  • A bailing device or bilge pump for boats that are not self bailing.
  • A first aid kit adequate for the number of trip participants and length of trip.
  • A sound producing device (whistle or horn) capable of producing a four to six second blast of sound per vessel.
  • A map of the river section you are floating on. A detailed and popular guide map is the Belknap's Waterproof Canyonlands River Guide.

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Where can I camp on the Green and Colorado Rivers?

There are no designated camp sites on the Green River in Labyrinth or Stillwater Canyons or on the Colorado River in Meander Canyon. All river camping is first come, first served on these rivers. In order to minimize environmental impacts, it is strongly recommended to sandbar camp when water level permits. Set your kitchen, fire pan, and toilet system up as close to the river as possible so spring high water will erase traces of your occupancy.

This handy camping reference borrowed from a local outfitter in Moab will give you a few ideas of popular camping sites on the Green River.

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I've never paddled a river. Should I even consider this kind of trip?

Absolutely! Paddling on a river is similar to paddling on a lake or the ocean. The only difference is, you have a bit of current going in the direction you're going to help you along. Here are a few tips for beginners and seasoned paddlers.

The nature of the river: The Green and Colorado Rivers are wide and braided with sand bars. In high water, you may not have to sorry about the sand bars and camping may be limited to the shores of the rivers. When choosing a camp site in high water, find one with an eddy next to it for easy boat maneuvering. Enter at the bottom of the eddy and use a ferry angle to let the current of the eddy bring you to the camp site.

Ferry Angles: A boaters best friend on the river! You can paddle shore to shore directly across the river from where you started with the correct ferry angle. Practice paddling on the river the very first day well before making camp to hone this skill.

Cold Weather Camping: In the spring and fall months on the river, night time temperatures can get down to the high 30's low 40's (F). Be sure to take several layers to compensate; often a fleece jacket and rain jacket combination work together well to keep you warm. Also, a few pairs of dry socks for camp is a good idea. Rubber boots for camp will help keep your feet dry when doing chores next to the river. A tent will add warmth to your sleeping quarters, too. It is recommended that you take a water bottle or two into your tent with you during the cold months just in case you get temperatures below freezing.

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Are there bugs on the river?

Mid-June to Mid-July can be buggy. Mosquitoes and no-see-ums abound because that time of the year is just after high water. A few hints on battling the bugs.

  • Cover up. Wearing long pants and long sleeved shirts usually is enough to keep the bugs from biting. They will also help with sun protection!
  • Use Insect Repellant. DEET products work the best, but for those of you who are more eco-concience then try Repel's Lemon Eucalyptus (recommended by Consumer Reports). Warning: do not use the DEET/sunscreen mixtures. It has been found that DEET reduces the effectiveness of the sunscreen.
  • Check your screens. If you are getting bugs in your tent then you may have a hole. Duct tape is a quick fix in the back country!

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What else is important for me to know?

Everyone on the river should practice the seven principals of Leave No Trace. If everyone follows these, then these river systems will be beautiful and pristine for generations.

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