Veteran outfitter Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) has in its 50-plus years of operating whitewater expeditions introduced thousands to rafting on the Colorado River and en route to three of the nation’s most coveted national parks: Arches (UT), Canyonlands (UT) and Grand Canyon (AZ).
2016 marks the Centennial Anniversary of the National Park System and expectations are for a record year for visitation as throngs participate in a national park activity, www.findyourpark.com. Western River Expeditions and its sister company, Moab Adventure Center in Moab, UT, offer a variety of programs centered on the mighty Colorado, the fifth longest river in North America, and along park trails and back roads.
From its source in a wooded meadow just north of Grand Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park to the Gulf of California in Baja, Mexico, the Colorado River begins as a stream and gains prominence as it flows through the Colorado Rockies and enters Utah, flowing a total of 1,450 miles touching the southern border of Arches National Park and coursing through the heart of both Canyonlands and Grand Canyon National Parks.
Following are programs accessing this river and the national parks it touches. The company advises, however, that because of high demand (especially in the Grand Canyon), people should plan and book as early as possible or accept the fact that they may not be able to secure a space until the 2017 season.
Off-river in Arches National Park visitors may sign up for Moab’s must-do hike in the maze-like Fiery Furnace, accessible only when accompanied by an experienced guide. Moab Adventure Center naturalist guides lead two-hour hikes in this trackless area, pointing out hidden attractions such as Surprise and Twin Arches as guests marvel at contorted orange-tan fins, towers, spires and arches. A moderately strenuous hike. http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/trips/national-park/archeshike.php.
An Arches guided and narrated Sunset Bus Tour presents the famous Balanced Rock, Courthouse Towers, La Sal Mountains, Petrified Dunes, and Panorama Point plus short guided walks to the North and South Window Arches, Turret Arch, as well as the legendary Delicate Arch Overlook. The views only get better as the setting sun paints the surrounding sandstone monoliths and La Sal Mountains spectacular shades of color. http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/trips/national-park/arches-bus-tour.php
Canyonlands National Park is vast and remote, but two rafting and flightseeing programs provide effortless access. Cataract Canyon Classic – 4 Day Whitewater Rafting Trip begins 30 minutes south of Moab for a Colorado River voyage that winds deep through canyons and past Dead Horse Point State Park where, beyond the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers, guests experience nature in its most rugged and pristine form, revealing dwellings and carvings from ancient civilizations and coming head to head with world-famous class III-V whitewater. The way out is by air. http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/trips/rafting/moab-rafting-cataract-canyon-classic/
For time-challenged travelers Cataract Canyon 2 Day Express carries guests on a customized motorized raft. This journey through the series of nearly 30 whitewater rapids that make Cataract Canyon legendary ends on the still waters of Lake Powell. http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/trips/rafting/moab-rafting-cataract-canyon-express/
New this year is a 70-minute flight-seeing adventure out of Moab. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Flightseeing Tour reveals the best of Canyonlands National Park including Upheaval Dome, Green River Goose Neck, the White Rim, The Maze, the Confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. In Arches National Park guests view Devil’s Garden, Landscape Arch, Klondike Bluffs and iconic Fisher Towers.
Grand Canyon National Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Rated among the top 10 rafting expeditions in the world, Western’s Grand Canyon Rafting – 6 and 7 Days traverses 187 miles in a week’s time, digging deeper daily into geologic time, with side canyon hikes revealing ancient Anasazi ruins and tumbling waterfalls. Scenery here, already astounding, is enhanced by the thrill of over 60 major rapids. Western’s unique motorized J-Rig rafts, designed for maximum excitement and safety, tackle the biggest with ease. http://www.westernriver.com/trips/grand6day/
A shorter option perfect for beginners is Grand Canyon 3 Day that covers the lower 100 miles of the canyon to its end at Lake Mead. Guests have easy access from Las Vegas. http://www.westernriver.com/trips/grand3day/
For a copy of Western River Expeditions’ 2016 catalog, questions, availability and reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 (Local: 801.942.6669), or visit: http://www.westernriver.com/.