For Salt Lake Area: Weber River from Wanship to Echo

The first packraft run of a new season often brings jitters to me. All of the packraft muscle memory of the previous season has been converted to skiing and those two activities are not the same.

For those in the Salt Lake Area, the record snow fall amounts (Alta Ski Resort for example has had 75 feet of snow) has primed the rivers for an epic rafting season.

The Weber River, rated as a class I-II, is just outside of Park City, Utah, and flows from Wanship to Coalville. It is an ideal first river to run. The river is fed mainly by Rockport Reservoir, and provides a consistent water flow rate to get those paddling skills back.

We (my friend and I) ran it April 28, 2023, with a water flow of 630 cfs. Outside temperature was about 60 degrees and the water temperature was around 40. We used two Alpacka Expeditions along with drysuits, floatation vests, throw bags, and helmets. It was our first time doing this section of 8 miles.

While surrounded by private land, there are many places to access the river. Google maps showed one place near the I-80 bridge. We parked there, and noticed a four foot cascade drop about twenty feet from the put in. Fencing prohibited portaging. The drop was too close to put in, especially with my kayaker friend who had never been in a packraft. We decided to drive about a mile to the next public access. It was the right decision.

The Weber ran fast and had plenty of class 2 rapids. There were at least three other drops, one being about two and a half to three feet. One drop was more of a class III at higher water levels. Since the river twisted so much, we had to be sure we were placed correctly as we entered the rapid zones.

Cottonwood trees and willows lined some banks. The Weber had the right amount of vegetation to practice strainer avoidance, but not so much that we grew weary of lateral positioning of our boats. There were a fair number of low bridges. One was so low that my partner hit his helmet and the collision flipped him. The river was one of the best rivers to practice placing packrafts on a good line and repositioning to a more advantageous position.

Beside the right amount of technical opportunities, the river was full of wildlife including large flocks of American white pelicans, mergansers, beavers, sandhill cranes, great blue herons, eagles, hawks, cormorants, and ducks.

If you are looking for an excellent early season river, Weber from Wanship to Coalville is an excellent choice to resharpen those dormant packrafting skills.

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