Western River Expeditions Suggests Rafting As Best Way to See Canyonlands National Park: Names Top Five Off-River Hikes

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, March 17, 2014– He who hesitates may miss the boat for a 2014 Grand Canyon raft vacation on the Colorado River as there are only a few remaining spots this summer on a handful of departures in July and August.

Western River Expeditions has guided more guests through the famous gorge over the last 53 years than any other outfitter - and the word has gotten out.  “It’s an absolutely inspiring adventure,” says Brandon Lake, CMO of Western River Expeditions.  “But, what many people don’t know is that there is another incredibly amazing canyon hidden just above the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River.”

Without the name recognition, of “Grand Canyon,” Utah’s Cataract Canyon is often overlooked.  “This hidden gem is unbelievable,” says Lake. Cataract Canyon splits through the heart of Canyonlands National Park inviting boaters to experience both whitewater thrills and eye-popping off-river jaunts.

Those choosing to raft this stretch of the Colorado River experience signature runs of world-class rapids that rival Grand Canyon counterparts. As for hiking? Canyonlands National Park offers some of the most incredible hikes in the world.  However, due to the rugged terrain and inaccessibility of much of the park’s 257,000 acres, one of the best ways to explore Canyonlands National Park is by river.

“Many people think a rafting trip involves sitting on a raft for long periods of time,” says Lake. “I like to compare it to a cruise, but with even more stops for shore excursions.  Between breakfast on the beach, possible morning and afternoon hikes, a stop for a buffet lunch and all-inclusive beach camping each night, it’s the perfect adventure. And the hikes in Cataract Canyon are fantastic!”

Instead of traversing overland mile after mile by jeep, foot or mountain bike to get to desired trails deep inside the park, departing from the river on hiking excursions minimizes the time and effort to reach preferred objectives, notes Lake. Below are his and his guides’ favored trails and off-river destinations:

Lathrop Granaries is ashort hike revealing petroglyphs (images etched into the sandstone) and pictographs (images painted on the sandstone). A wide delta at the mouth of a side canyon provided an open area where early inhabitants planted grains, beans and squash. Adobe structures known as “granaries,” that stored grains for later consumption and spring planting, are visited on this hike.

Indian Creek originates in the Abajo Mountains, flows through the Park and eventually into the Colorado River. On early season trips, this is a popular stop for a hike up the creek to a beautiful waterfall and a refreshing swim. More granaries are found where Indian Creek joins the Colorado.

The Loop Hike is short but strenuous with a world-class view as the pay off. At this point, the Colorado River bends in a giant, three-mile-long loop. The River circles back on itself and at the point where the river channel flowing one direction is exactly parallel with the channel flowing back the other direction, there is a notch or saddle in the sandstone cliffs. A trail leads to the top of the saddle and back down the other side to the river where boats that have circled around the loop pick up hikers on the other side.

The Doll House, or The Sentinels, is a garden of rock pinnacles towering along the top of the cliff wall just a few miles downriver from the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. It is common to camp near the Doll House on the second night of a four-day Cataract Canyon trip. This allows plenty of time to complete what is the most strenuous hike of the trip. The trail is steep, climbing over 1,000 feet from the river to the top of the canyon, but certainly beats the 7.5 hour drive from Moab to get to this location.

Dark Canyon features a creek that flows through the canyon and into the Colorado. Guides lead hikers about a mile through the bottom of a side canyon to an area of deep pools and small waterfalls. This can be a real oasis in the warm summer months.

For the past 5 decades, whitewater rafting experts, Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/), have navigated the West’s wildest rivers, enroute recognizing that guests enjoy varying the pace between the rapids and terra firma. On the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon the company offers two and four-day rafting programs inclusive of catered camping and guided hiking explorations.

Just south of Moab where the Colorado River and Green River meet in a majestic setting called “The Confluence,” Cataract Canyon begins. Bolstered by the Green River, the Colorado River doubles its force and carves a deep 100-mile-long chasm through the heart of Canyonlands National Park. Here is where four and two-day rafting trips are staged.

Both two and four-day expeditions include rafting, optional hiking, catered camping (cots, tents, sleeping bags, chairs and water-resistant bag), all meals between departure and return, transfers from Moab to the river and return transportation (four-day expedition by Cessna and two-day expedition by shuttle). Guests may hike to, among others, ancient Indian ruins, pictographs and a magnificent outlook high above the mighty Colorado.  On river, is a thrilling 100-mile ride through stunning scenery, over 30 class III-V whitewater rapids including the notorious “Big Drops,” where a raft plunges 30 feet in a matter of minutes, matching the whitewater of the Grand Canyon in power and difficulty.

Expeditions depart weekly from late may through late August for Cataract Canyon 4 Day - http://www.westernriver.com/trips/cataract/  programs. Open to ages 10 and up, the per person price is $1,365 for adults and $1,025 for youth 10-15. Guests camp for three nights along the river.

The price for the Cataract Canyon 2-Day Express is $674 for ages 12 and up. Expeditions depart weekly from early May through the July 4 weekend. The trip begins and ends in Moab, with the return transfer by ground shuttle. Guests camp for one night along the river. See: http://www.westernriver.com/trips/canyonlands/

WesternRiverExpeditions

Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. Annually from March through October it escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its division Moab Adventure Center (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).

Western River Expeditions, providing Grand Canyon rafting, Utah rafting, and Idaho rafting trips, was founded in 1961 by Colorado River rafting pioneer Jack Currey. It has been named one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by the editors of National Geographic Adventure magazine. The company is the proud recipient of the "Best of State" award through Utah’s Premier Recognition and Awards Program for nine consecutive years.  For 2014 season reservations call toll-free: 866.904.1160 or 801.942.6669.

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