I’m planning a trip in 2 weeks to Utah to hike, bike and of course paddle! Any suggestions on where the best paddling is? Lake Powell is so big is it best to access by the Bull/Halls route or thru Page and over by the dam? I’ll be in a 12 foot Pungo.
Consider the Green River
You could make a trip on the Green River in Canyonlands or north of Canyonlands NP. This is a fairly popular trip, about 5 days down the river. Not sure if you can camp out of your Pungo, but if you can it is surely worth considering.
Tex’s Riverways offers shuttle services, so the shuttle is easily arranged.
I would suggest you go to Page. There’s a greater variety of togography near there than the other marinas. The Vermillion Cliffs are just a short drive away.
Moab, UT is an outdoor paradise. You could bike the infamous slickrock trails, do day paddles on the Colorado River out of town, and numerous hikes everywhere. Plus the town is a cool spot to hang out, stay, get a bite to eat, whatever. If you need recommendations on where to hike or bike, just ask any mid-20’s waiter or waitress in town. Or there are tons of books on the area. Also, Arches NP and Canyonlands NP are very close.
Email me if you need more info or recommendations.
A Bit Chilly
Moab will still be a bit chill in two weeks.
Chilly for what?
I’ve mountain biked in Moab in March and April. Every time I went, temps reached the 90s and one time it was 100.
Granted, MOST of the days were in the 70s and 80s, but that’s not chilly, either.
For swimming, it would be chilly.
Sort of my expertise…
I actually have a book coming out on this exact subject:
Give me specifics of where you are staying and I can give you some excellent suggestions and details. Let me know how much time you want to spend and what kind of paddling you want to do.
San Juan River
Sorry your book isn’t out yet. I’m paddling the San Juan river (Bluff to Clay Hills) in about two weeks. Eight in our party, two pretty advanced paddlers, most of us intermediates, maybe a couple of people a little less than that. We’re pretty cautious as a group–if we have to line or carry rapids we do. It’ll be a canoe trip, two tandems, four solos, about half of them Pakboats.
We’ve looked at the guidebooks, but it’s always hard to know what they mean. Can you give us an idea if we’re likely to be able to run most of the rapids or not–and if some are likely to be a bad choice to run in particular?
Thanks in advance.
Green River - me too!
I second The Green River. If you email me, I'll send you an invite to a gallery of photos I took there last year. It's amazing canyon scenery, easy paddling, great camping. I loved it so much that I'm doing it again this May!
Also, I think Tag-A-Long is much better than Tex's Riverways.
The focus of my book is exclusively on flatwater paddling. There was no book on the subject so I tackled that one last summer. I avoided anything with rapids as the book is focused on paddling and exploring Utah's waters by sea kayak or canoe.
I avoided the San Juan for a variety of reasons. It's unpredicatable flow, it's shifting rapid levels (especially in the Spring) and river features and its varying trip sizes make it a book in itself. Make sure you have some good dry bags.
Personally, I think it would be a blast to paddle and have not made the trek to do it yet (I considered it when I was near Bluff but had a ton of other destinations to hit).
There is already an excellent resource for river running called "The River Runner's Guide to Utah." I used it as a resource in the past to paddle on the Colorado, Green, Bear, Weber and Provo and a short bit on the Escalante.
Gary Nichols' book is an excellent resource but I will have to dig it out to see how detailed his notes are on the San Juan.
I’ve canoed the San Juan 3 times. At high/low/medium flows. Government is
the most challenging, but can be easily
walked. Bluff to Mexican has a few challenging
rapids - once you are through those the rest is
more of the same except gov. At high water (say 7000) it is fairly challenging - I’d say you want
to be comfortable in CIII. Otherwise it’s more
of a CII+ river.
San Juan River
Thanks, and thanks to you Mike for the information. The river flow is only at 627 right now, so we aren’t likely to encounter high water.
But it’s very useful to know that there isn’t any problem in walking Government Rapids if we need to.
At Gov. the portage is on River left. But
you can always get the more experienced to
run the rapid with the boats. Be aware that
there are some other non-trivial rapids - for
someone who regularly paddles say CIII, they
will all be routine. I’ve taken fairly inexperienced people down the San Juan in canoes at the different water levels. An experience WW-stern paddler will have no trouble getting an
novice down in low/medium flows (< 3000).
Hi Mike, I saw your book and tried to order it but it wasn’t going to ship till after we left. We’re leaving from Austin and I’m thinking of either heading up through Page, to Zion and Bryce,
or going up through four corners and exploring more of the Escalante area. We were in Moab 1 year ago which is where we caught paddle fever and now have two Pungo 120s. (Although we only did the Moab area paddles and did not do the Green River) We have Class II river experience but not in the Pungos so we’re looking for flatwater or Class I to II. We’re mostly interested in day trips or keeping to 1 nite out. We’re completely flexible on where to go if you have other thoughts.
Depending on the route you take there are a few really nice options.
Kolob Reservoir is really nice. It has some fun paddle features and it sits between Kolob Canyon and the main part of the park. Thus, the drive gives you a view of Zion that few people get to see.
Pine Lake is a wonderful little spot that has some beautiful buttes and tons of pinion. It is not a big lake but it has some lovely scenery and great places to camp.
Tropic Reservoir is also close to Bryce. The reservoir has some small Bryce like features that are very lovely. The reservoir is nestled in a canyon and it is a great spot. There is also some good camping nearby.
Near Boulder and Escalante:
Just north of Boulder, Lower Bowns is a really pretty spot. I spent a some time on it and it is very subtle. The red rock is mixed with marsh to make a really unique experience.
Somewhat Near Moab:
If you don't mind dashing into Colorado, you can paddle Ruby and Horsetheif canyons with an overnight stay on the Colorado River. The put-in is in Loma and you take out at Westwater. There are some mild rapids at Black Rocks but most of the trip is easy
Of course the Green is incredible but an overnight paddle is impossible.
Drop me a line if any of these sound interesting and I will send you more detailed data.
You must paddle Lake Powell if you can. One of the most incredible paddling destinations in the world. Unfortunately you can’t get too far in ina 12 foot boat as you need to pack everything in and out. But even doing some day paddles would be worth it.
Lake Foul is a bit of a pain in the ass to paddle
because of all the motor boats. It can get quite wavy (in spots) with the waves bouncing off the sides of the canyon. On the other hand, you can pay to get dropped off in a nice location, camp and paddle around. Then get picked up. But it is
basically impossible to get away from the motor heads.
Of course I wasn’t thinking when they were going. Lake Powell is best enjoyed in the off season before the motor boats show up. When I was there in March a couple years back, we saw maybe one boat a day.
Not enough time.
Powell is incredible and he noted he will be in Page which is on the lake (albeit the very bottom and not the best part). However, you cannot do a decent paddle of Powell from a kayak in a day. It is simply too large.
You could do an overnighter in 12 foot boat if you don't mind sleeping outdoors and eating MREs. The Pungo is a nice open cockpit as well so you could stuff some items between your legs.
Ideally, if you know somebody there with a power boat or house boat who doesn't mind taking you along for a ride, have them take you out to a starting point and explore from the boat.
Simply stated, Powell is massive and to see the petroglphys, natural formations and canyons you need to do some serious paddling. In addition, the comment "Lake Foul" is not too far off. Near Bullfrog, the water is in a constant state of chop from power boats and skiers.
Still, If you have the time, throw the boat in and explore. It is still paddling!
PS - If you have the time take a hike to Antelope Canyon while you are in Page.
If it gets into the 90s during March and April in Moab why does it only get into the 60s and 70s in AZ? Being farther south and at a lower elevation, than Moab, I’m puzzled. When planning a paddling trip in March or April it’s best to head south as much as possible. The San Juan doesn’t get into the 70s until May BTW. Don’t worry about big boats on Powell this early in the season. It’s to cold for most.