We’ve traveled by foot, car, plane.. but canoe? Nope. Never! And this week would be our first! Ryan and I were invited along on a 3 day-2 night canoe trip down the Colorado River and we jumped at the chance. We dropped in at the boat launch in Loma, CO and finished in Westwater, UT. With temperatures during the day being around or slightly above 100 degrees and the night cooling off to the mid-70s, we were in for a fantastic summer trip.
Note: we have GoPro and Drone video footage of our trip! Take a look here..
We arrived at the Loma boat launch around 10am and loaded up the canoes with all of our gear (coolers, gallons and gallons of water, tents, chairs, food, etc.). After dropping a car off at our end point in Utah, we were ready to go! We dropped in around noon and headed towards the canyons looming in the distance.
We made our way down the river for ~45 minutes before making our first stop, a quick hike up Rattlesnake Canyon. We changed out our sandals for hiking boots, grabbed some frozen water bottles, and up we went! Had the weather been cooperating with us, you can hike all the way up the canyon (approx. 5 miles round trip) and eventually pay a visit to some beautiful arches in the area (Fun Fact: these arches are on BLM land, and are the second most congregated arches in the US after Moab). However, the heat was sweltering and we soon found ourselves with no water left. We hid in the shade of a small aspen grove, admiring the steep cliffs surrounding us before heading back to the canoes.
Once back to the canoes, we all quickly jumped into the water to cool off. Feeling refreshed, we went back onto the river for another ~2 hours before reaching our campsite for the night. This stretch of river was mostly calm with a few sections of quick water to keep things interesting for us. Right before we arrived at our campsite, Cottonwoods 3, we pulled up next to two huge cows that were grazing beside the river.
The evening was spent hauling all of our gear from the canoes back into the shade from the giant cottonwood trees that surrounded our camp. Once we had our tents, kitchen, and camp all set up… it was time for fun! Time was spent watching a momma turkey and her babies parade around camp, napping in the hammock, wading in the river, fishing, skipping rocks… the list goes on! We finally resorted to sitting down on the shore by our canoes to relax and watch the sun set, offering us some relief from the heat. Soon it was time for dinner; fajitas with chips & salsa.. yum!
The fun and games was shortlived- however- as the mosquitos soon came to join us. Poor Ryan and I got annhiliated by them (close to 100 bites each) and we were soon forced into the safety of our tents. Finally able to let our guard down, we layed on top of our sleeping bags and stargazed until we drifted off to sleep..
Sleeping without the rain fly on your tent is such a treat (as Colorado almost always has some form of incliment weather in store you you), and we were able to wake up.. look over.. and watch as the sun burned the surrounding cliffs with the red glow of first light.
Soon the rest of our group emerged from their tents and we enjoyed a hearty traditional breakfast of pancakes, bacon, fried eggs, etc. as well as the final moments of the cool morning before the sun would beat down on us. After eating, we packed up camp, loaded the canoes, and were back on the river by 10am. The float down to our next campsite, Black Rocks 5, would take us ~2.5 hours.
This was by far my favorite day on the river. Not only was the temperate more bearable (or perhaps the river was moving quicker so we had a bit of a breeze), but the scenery was so beautiful, with overhanging cliffs for us to sail under and quick sections of rapids for us to bounce our way through. About half way through our day, we came around a bend and saw a whole herd of bighorn sheep drinking from the river! It was such a treat- there were lambs, females, and both young and mature males.
As we pulled in to our campsite, Blackrocks 5, we were delighted to see that nearly our entire campsite was shaded by trees! We quickly unloaded our canoes, pulling them up on shore, kicked off our shoes, and enjoyed (not so frozen) otter pops to cool us down. We didn’t stay still for long, however. Shortly after a delicious lunch of sandwiches, chips, and fruit, we got into our bathing suits and went out for a swim.
Once we had sufficiently cooled off, we made our way onto the rocks bordering our campsite for CLIFF JUMPING! The tallest one was ~35ft high, and the lower one at ~25ft. The boys had no problem just walking off the edge of the taller cliff as we girls watched on in amazement. It took us nearly 20 minutes of squealing, running false-jumps, and persuasion from the group until finally we gathered up the courage to leap from the lower cliff (conveniently as a train was passing by, complete with the conductor leaning out his window and cheering us on!).
Before we knew it, the sun had begun to set behind the giant cliff face across the river from our campsite. We saw the bright orange glow of some pillars off in the distance, and decided to go explore a bit! That turned out to be one of the best decisions that we could have made– it was one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. Something about being out in the sun all day and then watching the it slowly set below the horizon, all the while still warming your skin is just the most blissful feeling.
We came back to camp just as dinner was being served. Taco Salad for tonight, and Peaches & Cream for dessert. Yum! We enjoyed our meals and conversation (with NO mosquitos, thank goodness) before heading off to pitch our tents. After our beds were made, we returned (barefoot) to the river’s edge for some of the best stargazing that I’ve ever witnessed. We watched the Milky Way make its way across the sky and slowly the Little Dipper disappeared behind the cliff face. Time for another night under the stars…
The saddest day of the trip.. our last day. We again arose to a brilliant glow on the surrounding cliff-faces, and enjoyed the cool morning while we prepared a casual breakfast of bagels with cream cheese and yogurt with granola.
We had ~3 hours to spend floating down the river before we would reach Westwater. This was the quietest stretch of river- if you didn’t paddle, you didn’t move! We took our time, taking off our life vests and throwing our feet off the sides of the canoe.. pure relaxation. No other people in sight, and no sounds other than the moving water around you. On this day we were lucky enough to see both a bald eagle soaring overhead as well as a family of otters playing near the shore! This was my first time seeing otters in the wild, so it was very special. They were just as adorable as I imagined them to be!
Once we pulled out at Westwater, Ryan and I drove through the Colorado National Monument (just outside of Grand Junction) on our way home. About a 45 minute detour, it was absolutely worth the trip. Offering us spectacular views of the valley, cliffs, and rock formations was a nice end to our desert adventure down the Colorado River.
The end to a spectacular trip.
Now that we’ve gotten an itch for water travel, let’s see what our next toy ends up being…
“We travel not to escape life, but for life to not to escape us” -Anonymous