Uncommon Rafting Journey: Northwest Colorado’s Lodore Canyon

Lengthy earlier than you board a raft for the three-day, two-state, one-national-monument, 42.6-mile, class III-ish, 1,700-cfs odyssey by means of Northwest Colorado’s Lodore Canyon, you’ll be confronted with way more daunting numbers. Rafting allow purposes right here can exceed 10,000 in a given 12 months. For about 300 slots. That makes this distant slice of the Inexperienced River—gushing by means of a spectacular gorge system dubbed “the Little Grand Canyon”—one of many longest-odds whitewater journeys to get on within the nation.

“We’re fairly off the crushed path, however we’re additionally about preserving that pure solitude folks come right here to expertise,” says Paul Scolari, superintendent of Dinosaur Nationwide Monument, who I be part of on a visit leaving from the fabled Gates of Lodore. “We solely have so many designated campsites alongside the river, so it’s a matter of capability.”

Poking out of flat, high-desert nation, the “gates”—billion-year-old crimson quartzite cliffs—flank the northern tip of the 210,000-acre monument. Hop in a raft and float by means of these colossal formations and you’re feeling utterly gone. Later stretches of the canyon ship magnificent sandstone and limestone cliffs hulking beside a river tumbling into cheerfully named rapids like Catastrophe Falls and Hell’s Half Mile.

“Proper down in there may be the place [19th-century explorer] John Wesley Powell and his crew misplaced their first boat,” factors out our oarsman and director of Go to Moffat County, Tom Kleinschnitz, an authority on this huge nook of largely untapped Colorado magnificence. He nods at a sheer, 500-foot sandstone cliff. “Up there may be the place Powell acquired caught on a ledge and needed to hoist himself all the way in which down on a leather-based strap.”

The southbound Inexperienced River meets Colorado’s westerly Yampa River at Echo Park. The journey’s geological opus, it’s a pure amphitheater with enormous cliffs and a monolithic centerpiece known as Steamboat Rock. We strike camp on a seaside, warmth a pot of elk chili and plan our run to the Utah border the subsequent morning. On the off likelihood we miss our takeout at Break up Mountain boat ramp, we’ll finally hit the Colorado River in Canyonlands Nationwide Park and that different Grand Canyon in Arizona. “What the hell?” I feel beneath a star-strewn sky. “My luck has held this far. Why not likelihood these odds as nicely?”

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