Upper Colorado River Kayak Trip

In the near future I want to kayak with a friend the entire UCR all the way to Glen Canyon Damn. I am planning on learning kayaking asap so I can make this trip a reality this year. I need any and all advice. My idea is to purchase a WW kayak large enough to fit my backpacking gear with in it, yet small enough to carry around any damns or obstructions.

Is this possible and how?

you should have a look at the Liquid Logic XP series – folks take them down the Grand Canyon. Larger than standard WW kayaks – hatch in back and room in fron for gear, too.

I won’t get into a discussion of skills needed to do the trip you suggest or the sections and various difficulty levels – others may chime in on that.

There are other “crossover” boats such as Pyranha Fusion; they have deployable skegs which help in the flat water sections. You can google XP10 and grand canyon to see video (i know you are not planning the Canyon, but good to see the boat-type.

I’ve done a few sections of the "upper"
Colorado. My suggestion is, don’t try to eat the whole thing. There are obstacles like Gore Canyon that I, at least, never got good enough to attempt. There are dams to be portaged. There are windy, open sections, rather boring, through agricultural land. There are sections where water and resupply will be problematical.

If I wanted to experience what the “upper” Colorado has to offer, I would identify the best sections and knock those off, one by one.

John Wesley Powell did what he could because he had no choice. We have road crossing.

cataract canyon
is right before you enter the upper reaches of Lake Powell – it is famous for its huge whitewater. You say you want to learn to kayak so you can do this right away. I said I wouldn’t mention sections and skill, but this really isn’t something many would bite off in their first year kayaking. Then there would be the long lake sections of Lake Powell where a boat that is designed for whitewater would be a bear to paddle. But don’t take my word for it.

If you post this on the “suggestions” board here, I bet you would get more replies. Also, “mountain buzz” has a forum that is western river oriented.

Good luck.

Colo R
Listen to the other posters. You are a long way from being able to handle a place like Cataract Cyn. Some people never are. You don’t want your paddling career to end on the first trip. Paddling a big river is serious business. Most serious kayakers have some dead friends and many rescue stories and near misses. Build your skills and take it one step at a time. Even big ww kayaks are best for short overnight trips. Most people find a rafter for support to carry some of their stuff.

Dam is what impounds water. Damn is how you take the name of the Lord in vain.


I have given your post some more thought. You need to change your plans. You can learn the skills to make that run in a raft much faster, say several years instead of 5-6. Loaded kayaks with overnight gear will paddle like submarines in aerated water. You need more than two boats to be able to affect rescues.

Go around the tough places or chose another river. I am always happy to help save someone’s life.

Thanks for the documentary suggestion. I will check it out. Im just at the brainstorming phase right now.

Yes, the obstacles in which myself and a friend would have to take out is the main reason I would want a smaller kayak. Its just doing the whole thing would be amazing.

Even though I would like to do the entire upper I might just have to settle for something a little more placid for this year. The sections between the CO border and lake Powell would be peaceful, but slow.


More placid? I don’t think you are getting the message. Please pull up some videos of Catract Cyn and read about and then get back to us. Forget next year and the year after. You need a team of trained people with raft support.

“Even though I would like to do the entire upper I might just have to settle for something a little more placid for this year. The sections between the CO border and lake Powell would be peaceful, but slow.”

that’s not quite so. Colorado to Westwater UT is mainly that way - at Westwater, you either have to have a limited permit (lottery drawing)to do the Class IV Westwater canyon, or pull off the river there and start again at Dewey Bridge - you still need a permit for Canyonlands Nat’l Park sections.

and the section from Loma CO to Westwater UT is also by permit only now fyi

and there are BLM requirements to carry a firepan (regardless of whether or not you intend to have a fire) and toilet - Canyonlands NP has its own set of distinct rules.

things aren’t as simple today as they were for John Wesley Powell

Amazing, or just degrading the
experience with obstacles?

You aren’t going through Gore Canyon, and there are other sections I doubt you’ll be able to get through.

you might find this interesting

you might find this interesting

Lake Powell Would Be Challenge Enough

– Last Updated: May-05-13 11:50 PM EST –

Don't mess with the river until you have mastered the lake. It can get windy but it's worth it. I should add that I live about 20 miles from the mouth of the Grand Canyon. I'll be at Lee's Ferry tomorrow.

upper CO R

Thanks. Some people are slow to understand.

Kayak Upper Colorado
Back in the early 80’s I rafted from Moab to Lake Powell. There are rapids that will challenge you mightily, even in late summer with low water. As someone else mentioned, you will need at least a couple of buddies with you. The rule of thumb was that in the Spring, one in four rafts would flip in the Big Drop rapids, while in the late summer 1 in 7 would flip. I consider myself a moderately experienced kayaker, but I am not competent for the big rapids.