The Family Float
Cataract Canyon, Utah
A family of first-time paddlers expects certain things: breathtaking scenery, ancient ruins, comfy campgrounds, thrilling (as opposed to, say, terrifying) rapids. Utah’s Cataract Canyon checks all those boxes, and outfitter OARS offers four- and six-day trips through the canyon. The first half of the 98-mile journey is a chill-inducing mellow float that snakes through Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district, surrounded by 2,000-foot-high red sandstone cliffs, with stops along the way to explore cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and Puebloan granaries. Then at about mile 50, just as your kids are getting restless and annoying, the Colorado and Green rivers converge, and things begin to change: The canyon walls narrow, and the water gets higher and faster. In the distance, the rush of churning whitewater, a hint of what to expect when you set out the next day: A succession of 29 Class III–V rapids, including the famous “Big Drops,” which can make the Grand Canyon’s fiercest water seem tame. The entire brood will emerge wet, waterlogged, blissed out, and ready for the next adventure.
CHECK THE FLOWS: During the river’s high-water season, in May, the trip is closed to kids younger than 16. —Larry Kanter
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