A River Runs Through It: Whitewater Rafting on Utah's Green River

The many beaches along the Split Mountain section of the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument are perfect for picnics.
The many beaches along the Split Mountain section of the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument are perfect for picnics. Louis Arevalo
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The 730-mile length of the Green River begins in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, meanders its way south into Utah, turns east for a brief 40-mile stretch through western Colorado, and then returns to Utah before merging into the Colorado River. Its route through the Utah section of the Colorado Plateau offers some of the most scenic and classic stretches of river within the United States. From flat water to whitewater, this section of the Green River in Utah is a coveted destination for beginner and avid river runners because it offers something at every level. Spending a day rafting through Split Mountain in Dinosaur National Monument is the perfect place to get wet.

The Split Mountain section of the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument offers plenty of splashy rapids. Louis Arevalo

What Makes It Great

The Split Mountain leg of the Green River is eight miles long, beginning at Rainbow Park and ending at the Split Mountain Campground. It is home to several class II and III rapids. A day trip through Split Mountain can be done in half a day or taken at a more leisurely pace with time for a picnic and a swim in six to eight hours. On your way to the put in at Rainbow Park, be sure to stop and examine the Fremont petroglyphs at McKee Springs.

In addition to the thrill of white water rafting, a trip here offers the chance to travel through the region's impressive geology. Over time, the Green River has cut the canyon 1,500 feet deep through Split Mountain, resulting in many layers of sandstone and limestone and inspiring the name Rainbow Park from the spectacular array of colors found within the rock. Soaring cliffs and hovering towers are the accompanying views for the entire trip.

From the put in at Rainbow Park, the Green River promises whitewater fun. Louis Arevalo

What You’ll Remember

The float begins slowly as you enter the canyon beneath soaring buttresses. Just as you warm up to the paddling and the desert sun, you will hit a series of rapids that include Moonshine, S.O.B., and Schoolboy. Afterward, if you didn’t get sufficiently wet, you can find a suitable beach and pull over to go swimming in an eddy.

After a swim and lunch, you can drift farther down the canyon taking in even more stunning views of massive cliffs of Weber sandstone. The final rapid, Engelsby, is the perfect after lunch refresher. Before your take out, be sure to stop across the river from the Split Mountain Boat Launch. Here you will find the remnants of a cabin used by the Bureau of Reclamation and a massive cave believed to be used by outlaws on the run. The cabin was built in the 1960s while the government considered damming the Green River here at the mouth of Split Mountain. They ultimately chose the Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon dams instead. That decision resulted in the existence of the final eight unforgettable miles of river and the endless opportunities for adventure it offers today.

The spectacular canyon views are mesmerizing along the Split Mountain section of the Green River. Louis Arevalo

Who’s Going To Love It

If you lover vast desert environments, you can’t beat this trip. Taking in the geology with the rush of whitewater within Dinosaur National Monument is an experience you won’t soon forget. Rafting Split Mountain is ideal for most anyone. Guided trips require that you be at least six years of age. If you like thrills, water, and geology, Split Mountain is for you.

Parking, Directions, and Regulations

There are two options for rafting Split Mountain: commercial guided trips and private trips . Commercial trips are available through several outfitters approved by Dinosaur National Monument's approved outfitters. Paddlers who have the experience and the equipment can apply for a permit for a private river trip. For those who are interested in conducting their own trip, remember that the Green River is not an easy river to run. Split Mountain contains multiple, and challenging, Class III rapids.

Written by Louis Arevalo for RootsRated in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.

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