Visiting the Parks: Running the Colorado Through Canyonlands National Park

Kurt Repanshek's picture

In our continuing series of how to, and how not to, run rivers in the National Park System we bring you this selection from Canyonlands National Park. As you can probably surmise, the chocolaty Colorado River is best enjoyed from atop, not underneath, the raft.

This park-produced video depicts a raft run through a new feature on the Colorado, "Big Drop Two," a crashing wave/hole that has earned at least two names so far: the "mother-in-law" and "the claw." Located halfway down Big Drop Two, this feature surprised a lot of folks, including this row boat.

The photo that accompanies this video is of Big Drop Two. It was snapped by Ranger Neal Herbert.


This particular raft appears to be a private citizen rowing in Cataract Canyon of Canyonlands National Park. The Permitted Outfitters for Canyonlands have familiarity that exceeds the knowledge of the private boater and will have more successful passage than the video represented here. Having made that statement, it must also be pointed out that the National Park Service was stationed with a "rescue" craft in this video, this indicates levels exceeding 55,000 CFS . (CFS is Cubic Feet Per Second. It is a standard measurement deployed by the USGS - United States Geologic Survey - Water Science Center. This roilsome hallmark does reach a definitive 50% - 50% opportunity to contend with upset of one kind (Folks Falling Out) or another (Rafts Flipping) no matter who captains the craft. That is why Park Service also situates a videographer among the "Big Drops" to capture the increased action that comes with this temporary water level.

Let be known that is an amazing resource to truly understand the duration, frequency or lack of frequency, of flows. Careful inspection of these levels will ultimately aid river runners to select levels appropriate for personal skill levels.

Also, about this video: the participants were seemingly prepared for recoil wearing helmets and wetsuits. BRAVO!

We all need to remember to avoid pulling upstream to train the focus on power going downstream and better anticipate meeting laterals perpendicularly.