Colorado River from Potash to Needles District in Canyonlands

The following is a report of our family high adventure trip over Spring Break from April 4-8, 2022:

I started organizing this trip in December. The plan was to float down the Colorado River from Moab to the Needles District. Permits are easy to obtain up to two days before launching. This meant that I did not need to reserve far in advance only to have unused reservations. Canyonlands overnight permits are the permits to obtain. It runs about $25 per person with a $36 reservation fee. Parties could be as high as 40 in a group (much too large for me). We had 6 people: Me, my wife, son (17 years old), daughter (14 almost 15 years old) and my former roommate and his son (also 17 years old).

We left Evanston, Wyoming, at 3:30 a.m. on April 4th, due to work schedules. My friend left Salt Lake City at 5:00 a.m. We rendezvoused in Price, Utah and arrived in Moab about 9:00 a.m. After dropping off the non drivers, we then proceeded to Canyonlands, taking 2 hours one way to stage vehicles. On the way back we picked up subs at Subway (they do not accept coupons in Moab). We brought hammocks, games, and lots of food to pass the time for those waiting for the vehicle shuttle. We stowed the hammocks back into the vehicle when it arrived.

We used three Alpacka Classics, two Alpacka Expeditions, and one Alpacka Gnarwahl. We also used on the last day five Hyperlite Southwest 4400s to backpack out along with a Klymit backpack.

Our route down the Colorado was 50 miles. We started the first five miles in a contrary headwind. It took us about 2.5 hours and left us very tired. Fortunately, we stopped on a sand bar and called it a day. The sand bar was across from Pyramid Peak. The next day we went about 19 miles through the Gooseneck (near Thelma and Louise suicide point). We had a youth flip his boat on the second day, but he was fine. I was at first worried about hypothermia, but with the pleasant weather he quickly warmed up and dried off. The last day we went about 26 miles through the Loop (a double gooseneck) and the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.

Water purification was an issue. The water tasted much better than Lake Powell filtered water (that tastes fishy), but there was a fine layer of sediment that was apt to clog filters. We ended up going through two Platypus Gravity Works filters. Fortunately, we also brought Aqua Mira drops that we used on the last day pre-filtered through handkerchiefs. After spending the last night across from Spanish Bottom, we were ready to backpack out through Canyonlands. We pack our backpacks with the added weight of packrafts, paddles, and floatation vests. The first three to four miles is a 1,000 feet of elevation gain. For my former roommate he had an elevated heart rate and weak energy levels as we neared the upper elevations. Consequently, we decided to use the young men to shuttle his pack a few times. The trail started to get better, meaning it was flat and less rocky. With about 3.5 miles left to go, my friend’s strength gave out, so we left the pack on the side of an Jeep trail. I called the NPS rangers the next day, and they kindly retrieved it for us. We exited on Thursday evening April 7, about 8:30 p.m. By the time we got into Moab, only McDonalds was open, and we arranged to stay the night at a motel. We were a bit sore on Friday and Saturday, but the soreness has worn off.

The great professional backpacker, Andrew Skurka, once said that outdoor activities can be divided into three types: Type I activities are fun to do and fun to talk about later; Type II activities are not fun to do, but fun to talk about later; Type III activities are not fun to do, and not fun to talk about later. This trip was a combination of Type I and Type II, with the majority being a Type I float and Type II hike out.

We could have adjusted the trip to include a haul-back. Tex’s Waterways (and one other company) has jet boats that retrieve rafters so that they do not have to do the backpack out. The cost is a bit much at $235 for a haul-back of a packrafter. My wife would have sunk a $1000 on the spot if Tex’s was available.

Billie, this sounds like a great trip! Thanks for sharing. What class was this trip?

Class zero–it was all float and no rapids.