Braving the Waters of Cataract Canyon

Over Southern Utah University’s 2019 fall break a group of 12 SUU students along with three SUU Outdoors guides braved the waters of southern Utah’s world famous Cataract Canyon. 

Cataract Canyon is a section of the Colorado River that begins at the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River in south eastern Utah.

The canyon is located with in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. 

These rafters ran about a 90 mile section of the river according to Keith Howells, Assistant director of SUU Outdoors. Howells emphasized the advantage of running the river during the fall months because the water levels are lower.

“This allows us to do two main things: get permits and teach these young students about the dangers of the river, but also how to safely maneuver it. The low water levels does make it really tedious to run because of the exposed rocks,” Howells said.

Although the water during the fall isn’t as high as the spring and summer there is still about a day and a half of big rapids.

Most of the whitewater in Cataract is class IV, though during peak season (May-July), Big Drops 2 and 3 are considered class V.

OARS, a US-based international rafting company, ranks these rapids at #4 of the top 10 most notorious rapids in the world

The group was spearheaded by SUU Outdoors Coordinator Levi Pendleton. He was accompanied by two of his friends. 

“Rafting takes a lot of fine tuning to make it efficient, safe, and comfortable,” said Howells. “Levi has done a great job fine tuning our rafts and setups so we can grab and go.”

The group took three boats on this trip. Two ore rafts, which are usually manned by a guide and one or two passengers used for hauling gear, and one paddle raft that carries more people. 

“Rafting is like backpacking but a lot more comfortable,” Howells said. “You get to go where people can’t drive but you don’t have to carry as much stuff.” 

For info about the available trips sponsored by SUU Outdoors follow them on social media at @suuoutdoors. 

Story By: Casey Torgersen
Photos contributed by SUU trip leaders and students