Kayaking in Utah - trip ideas?

-- Last Updated: Jan-10-07 12:52 AM EST --

*I updated this since you all had such great advice!*
I'm planning a 2 person seakayak camping trip to Lake Powell for late April/early May. Does anyone have any suggestions for routes? How about launching points that are safe to leave a car? I'm thinking of a 4-5 day trip. I'm not from the area (I'm a MN girl) so anything would be greatly appreciated. I've looked at the natioanal park sites and such but it's always nice to hear from someone with experience.


Well, no experience in the area here, but there’s a trip I’m planning on doing – the Green River. If you check out http://www.texsriverways.com/ you’ll get lots of good info. When are you going?? We’re looking at Spring or early fall, I think. Not sure when just yet. I have a book about the area, there’s lots of history and amazing geology there.


(former Wisconsin girl)

Couple of ideas
1. Sea Kayaker Magaziner recently ran an article about paddling at Great Salt Lake (day trip). I’ve never paddled there.

2. You probably know about Lake Powell, which has more than 2000 miles of shoreline when at higher water levels. This is your best bet for a multiday paddle camping trip. It’s known as being a motorhead hell in summer, but it’s nice off-season, or at least the Utah portion is. (Farther south, in Arizona, it may be crazy most of the year because it’s warmer.) Shoreline camping is dispersed, meaning no reservations or designated sites. You MUST bring and use an approved “boombox” (portable toilet) for solid human waste, and pack out all your trash. It gets crazy-windy at Powell in spring and fall, so figure in some layover time just in case. If you come from other parts of the country, the contrast between the redrock walls right next to the blue water will amaze you! I love the dry, sunny weather there. It makes camping almost hedonistic. If you are definitely going there, e-mail me and I’ll dig up more info for you. I’ve done two paddling trips there. The first one was just day trips from a base camp, but the second one was a 9-day paddle-camping trip.

BTW, I read your response about Voyageurs NP. That is one place I would like to paddle someday. Maybe we can trade some notes.

3. Utah has more NP than any other state except AK. However, I don’t think there is much sea kayaking in any of them unless you want to paddle in the rivers. Been to Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Cedar Breaks NM. As far as I know, only Glen Canyon NRA (Lake Powell) has lake paddling, and then some.

Green River
Paddled it a couple of years ago from Green River down to the confluence. That’s 120 miles through unbelievable canyons with no whitewater. If you could fit in a trip there, it’s an experience you wouldn’t forget. Got to get a permit, though, and arrange a shuttle–if you go to the confluence with the Colorado that means getting a jet boat to pick you up.

The shuttle boat goes up the Colorado–and you could easily do some of the Colorado from Moab south as well.

a local club here in 'Bama planning a trip at that time…

More info:


S. Utah paddling
My wife & I did the Green R trip to the confluence then a bit farther to head of Cataract canyon. It was an awesome, surreal experience & would do it again in a heartbeat.(actually we took 13 glorious days) We avoided the jetboat shuttle by paddling up the Colorado to near Moab thus getting to see some of that river too. There’s good paddling upriver from Moab also.

Lake Powell (aka L. Foul to those who mourn the loss of Glen canyon) would seem ideally suited to kayaking although it’s shrinking & some buried treasures are re-emerging.

Although haven’t run it (yet) the San Juan R offers good paddling

The canyon country of S Utah is a unique scenic wonder & seeing it from the water is an experience you’ll never forget.

Flaming Gorge
For sea kayaking Flaming Gorge can’t be beat. It really depends on where in the state you will be.

I was born and raised there and know the state pretty well. If you have any questions feel free to email me.

For weather reasons I’d say Powell is the only place to go. Stay south in late April early May. Roads can be icy farther north.

Time of year
I missed when when you will be doing the trip. Stay south for sure. Lake Powell will be your best bet. However, you can paddle the Great Salt Lake all year.

Green River
would fine that time of year I would think. We paddled it a couple of years ago in early April and the weather was great (except for some windage) and the black flies weren’t out yet. Remember to keep an eye out for those darned sand bars!

It’s A Gamble Then
Temperatures are a gamble then. If someone is travelling a long distance I would suggest staying south. The Green is at a higher elevation which also matters. I paddled the Green, just below Flaming Gorge, in June and the weather was great. That was a gamble then though.

Great advice everyone!
It seems my best bet is Lake Powell. I’ve read mixed reviews about it though. Are motorboats really that bothersome and dangerous? Again, I’m planning for late April/early May, will it be very crowded then? Any suggestions for a route? Anyone have any personal experiences they want to share?

We’re planning on driving out to see some of the National Parks as well. Anyone have any favorite touristy spots in the state?

I’m also thinking of paddling the Green River from Crystal Geyser to Mineral Bottom. Tex’s Riverways says that should take 4 days. Does anyone have any advice for that route? This kind of depends on the Lake Powell trip and how much time I can spend there.

is an incredible NP to check out. The section of the Green you mentioned is pretty mellow…just float and enjoy.

You might want to look into paddling part of the San Juan river.

I give the Green River a thumbs up.
I did it last April from Green River (the city) to Spanish Bottom. This April I’m going to start a Ruby Ranch since I didn’t enjoy the first twenty miles as much as in the canyons. I spent ten days on the river last April and might stay a couple of weeks this time. Lots of great hikes. April is a great time - hot, but not too hot - and the trip is super. Start at Mineral Springs since you’re not going to spend enough time to do the whole trip unless you just want to paddle. You can easily do twenty plus miles a day since the current is moving. A yak can present a problem though since you must carry a porta-potty, a fire pan and water. People with yaks seemed to have a canoe along. Anyhow, it’s a fun paddle and highly recommended.

Powerboats on Powell aren’t much or any problem that time of year. It’s when people start drinking and partying in the warmer months. I was there in mid May and didn’t see any problem boaters. I was told problems start after school gets out.

When I make recommendations I think what is best for those asking advise rather than what I enjoy. Someone travelling to a new area and doesn’t know about shuttles and other logistical necessities is better off cutting their teeth on a sure bet. Powell allows a person the ability to scout the area and decide what is best for them. The Green doesn’t give you choices. It’s a great paddle but you have to take what it offers. There’s no turning around and going back. Learn the area and your abilities first. Then seek greater adventures. That’s far better than taking on more than you can handle.

Check water levels
Check the water levels on the Green River for that time of year it will be at flood stage. Bad snow year in the wasatch but I do not know about the eastern uinitahs that produce a lot of the water, when colorado gets pounded the green is usually highl I don’t follow since I don’t live there anymore.

Paddle the great salt lake
Camp on Antelope Island if still permitted

It’s like being on another planet 15 miles from Salt Lake City.

Bear Lake
If it’s a warm year there will be no ice, 21 mile paddle on east shore line. You can camp at two spots in Idaho along the Eastern Shoreline and one spot at the south end of the Lake in Utah.

Flaming Gorge
April/May is a touch early for the Gorge, but I wish someone would come paddle that lake, it’s my favorite paddle, I go for a week at a time or more, and I have yet to see anyone else paddling who isn’t a scout in a canoe (and the scouts were massively overloaded, top-heavy, far from shore, no pfds, water temp in the 50s, naturally).

The fishing at the Gorge, if your so inclined, is simply epic. On my trips I’ve enjoyed the dinner fare, trout, bass, catfish, and the biggest crawfish this side of the Mississippi.

NOTHING like a beautiful campsite at the waters edge, dining on fire broiled fresh fish. I will be there for a month or more this summer, probably June/July.

I have no personal experience at Powell, but some Utah fellows I know clain to prefer the lake best at it’s current level (2/3s full), all the exposed shoreline has opened up many more camping spots.

I would focus on the northern end in a yak, particularly the Escelante arm. The ramps at Hite are still closed due to low water, I believe, but a yak launch must still be possible.

Green River
Paddled the Green three times from Mineral Bottom to the confluence. Good paddling, great hiking. Not to be missed and Tex’s was perfect every time.