Bringing Kids on Multi-day Raft Trips – Desolation Canyon Trip Report

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Adventure, lizards, swimming, exploring, sand, and undistracted parents…what more could a kid want. For that matter, what more could I want as I was able to completely disconnect from the internet, cell phone and outside life and just focus on those I love for days on end.  Add on adventure, relaxation and awesome company and a multi-day rafting trip is hard to beat as one of the ideal adventure get aways.  One of our many trips during the month of May was a multi-day rafting trip with family and friends down Desolation Canyon in Utah.

I want to give a quick thanks to our sponsor  Runoff River Adventures for the awesome rentals to fill our gaps in our equipment too. More to come on this awesome company later, but suffice it to say that if you are interested in getting into rafting or just need to rent, they’ll outfit or even instruct you for a fraction of the cost of most other companies.

On with the fun. Desolation Canyon is located on the Green River between Vernal, UT and Green River, UT and is over 85 miles of prime wilderness experience. For more information and permits, see the BLM website, as they manage this river.

As with so many trips, the anticipation and preparation were almost as fun as the trip itself.  In fact, getting ready for desolation often overshadowed other trips like our Disneyland/Southern California trip. That’s because it was big–big on preparation, big on gear, big on what vacationing is all about…getting out!

We put in at Sand Wash and right off the bat we were off to a good start with two different black bear sightings just after the put in (sorry no pics because of other loud rafters….Scottie!)

The first day is nearly all flat water, so lots of rowing, relaxing and letting go of regular life. Mason got right into the grove of things, kayaking, rowing, finding sticks and lizards.  There are several good sections of river here to teach kids how to kayak and paddle their own boat.

The whole set up was incredibly peaceful and the weather for most of the trip was awesome.

This was our new boats maiden voyage with us and it ended up being awesome.  We’re glad we’ve got it and have many more trips planned.

Our campsite the first night was awesome!  Thanks Eno for the awesome hammocks, more to come on these in future posts. UPDATE:  we now usually take kids hammocks along for younger ones since they pack up smaller.

We camped after Little House Rapid and were up on a sand bar smashed against a cliff with trees, boulders and beauty all around.

All the gear unloaded wasn’t as bad as we anticipated.

The next morning we had some more flat water, then we started getting into the first series of rapids.

After checking out some petroglyphs, the wind started. There were huge gusts that blew us right to the side of the river, so we stopped and waited a few times.  Finally, it let up a little and we decided to just go for it.  We battled wind for a while with huge gusts coming here and there.  The best part was when a huge gust would start coming as we were going through the rapids.  It would pick up all of the water and whip it high into the air.  Then a wall of water would engulf the boats in front of us, then slam into us just like hurricane force sideways rain.  Luckily it was warm enough that it just added to the thrill of the rapids rather than making it miserably.  Sorry, not many pictures while we were battling the elements.

Our progress was slow due to the wind, so after a long day of rowing, we pulled off and camped for the night.  The wind kept going until about 1 in the morning. As we were a little behind schedule, we started out early.

We cooked breakfast on the boats and then the rapids started coming fast.

Lucky for Mason, Oakiwear hooked him up with the coolest kids rain gear that we’ve ever seen.  Honestly, it is awesome and unbeatable for the price!  Once he had it on, there was no taking it off for the rest of the trip.

For the price, you can’t beat Oakiwear, $40 for this awesome set, almost as good as a splash top, seriously cool.  I wish they had adult sizes for the price and features they have. Yes, we are promoting this since it saved the trip for Mason–not to mention for us–by eliminated the cold-induced whining. On top of that, Mason couldn’t get enough of it and asks for it any time we’re even considering anything near the water.  Props to Oakiwear, we are sold.

Everyone traded off rowing, so all of the people on the trip got proficient at rowing and running rapids.

We scouted a few of the bigger rapids, Joe Hutch, Wire Fence, Three Fords.

Easing into Joe Hutch Rapid.

We also explored through old homesteads and ranches. There was a great spring that was gushing this time of year, so was fun to get a quick drink, you just had to get through the mud and jungle to get to the source.

One of the highlights is just hanging out and having fun at camp.  Mason kept doing hand stands, flips and cartwheels down the hills, so of course we had to join in.

We just kept admiring the scenery and enjoying being away from regular life.

Jess got over her fear of Kayaking and after hours of playing and rockin the rapids, she was sold and ready to get a kayak of her own.

Of course the trip wouldn’t be complete without a little cliff jumping. The water was awesome and warm, surprising for how early in the season it is and how much of the runoff is straight from the snowmelt, but we didn’t complain.

Sad to leave, but definitely ready to make multi-day rafting a staple of family trips in the future.

Thoughts if you decide to go.

Obviously it is easier to get a rafting company to do a trip like this for you.  It takes a ton of the work out of it, but then you have to pay for it too, $800 – $1500/per person depending on the company and trip. We were able to pull the trip off for a little less than $200/person. Plus many rafting companies may not take kids until they are older, many starting at age 8 or older.

Going by yourself obviously takes a lot more work, preparation, gear and knowledge.  Don’t let that discourage you though.  Start somewhere.

Also, with getting gear, we needed some extra gear as this was our first multi-day rafting trip, so we were able to rent the gear from Runoff River Adventures. More to come on this awesome company later and the amazing adventure family that runs it. Suffice it to say that if you are interested in getting into rafting, they are a resource worth tapping into. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal combined with awesome experience and knowledge anywhere!

We’ve got a few follow up posts coming, so stay tuned.

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

6 thoughts on “Bringing Kids on Multi-day Raft Trips – Desolation Canyon Trip Report”

    • This really was a great get away.
      Planning and so much work went in to making it a success but everyone pitched in and helped and made it great.
      The only things missing were some of our favorite people who couldn’t get there.

  1. We’re dreaming of taking our little one (soon ones) on multi-day kayaking/rafting/canoeing trips soon, but I think we need to wait a little longer. So far the 1,5 old has been in a kayak on a lake, but nothing wilder than that. Looks like a great experience you had though!

    • That’s a tricky age for being on a boat. Good luck introducing him to great water adventures…once you can get him to hold still!

  2. Thanks for the great write-up of Deso-Grey! My family was lucky enough to “score” a permit for late July this rafting season. We’ll have kids around 5 and 9 years of age on this trip. I’m looking for advice on planning for a hot weather float trip. We usually raft Idaho and Oregon rivers, and do day trips on Northern CA rivers.


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