On the southern edge of Grand Junction, the Colorado River lazily meanders its way through town. But it’s a stretch of water just 30 miles west of the Grand Valley that draws adventurers with rafts and kayaks. A 17-mile parcel of the Colorado River that runs through Westwater Canyon into Utah teases some of the wild water that eventually pours into the Grand Canyon.
Starting at the Westwater BLM ranger station just across the Utah border, this rafting trip features Class III and Class IV rapids (moderate difficulty) that course through 1 billion-yearold Precambrian rock formations. Especially at high water, some of the rapids can be particularly intense, and some should only be navigated in a kayak.
Other popular rafting destinations include Ruby Canyon, a 25-mile canyon that starts in Colorado and ends in Utah.
Week-long trips to Cataract Canyon, located south of Moab, Utah, also can begin in Grand Junction.
Only 40 miles to the southwest, rafting trips on the Dolores River near Gateway features difficult rapids.
The Right Paperwork
Both private and commercial rafting trips in Westwater Canyon — and many other locations — require permits.
The BLM, in an effort to protect the natural beauty of the canyon, issues a limited number of passes.
From April until September, only five permits or 75 passengers (whichever comes first) are allowed on the river. From October through March, that number is bumped up to seven permits or 150 passengers.
To obtain a permit, call the BLM Moab River Office, 435-259-7012. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, excluding federal holidays.
Permits cost $10 per person on the trip and are available two months in advance of a chosen start date. Permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
Another option for enjoying rapids is to book a trip through a professional rafting guide.
Some rafting companies operating in the Grand Junction area:
g Adventure Bound River Expeditions (970-245-5428, adventureboundusa.com)
g Rimrock Adventures (970-858-9555, rradventures.com) Rafting equipment can also be purchased at Whitewater West Raft Sales, 418 S. Seventh St., in Grand Junction.