Photo by Pippa Keene

A few challenging rapids, excellent fishing, riverside camping and birds galore make this 30-mile float a great trip for boats and boards. 

The water that flows out of Flaming Gorge Reservoir into the Green River stay around 44 degrees year round. This chilly, fresh water, flows through beautiful canyon country and past riparian habitat, inveigles trout, fishermen, kayaks, rafts and stand up paddle boards (aka SUPs). There are several outfitters in Dutch John that supply you with all you need for your river adventure. Flaming Gorge Recreation Services is stocked with bait, beer, and boats and has friendly, helpful staff, an RV park, camping spots and six new cabins that sleep four. Daily raft rental fees depend on the raft size, length of your trip and if you need one of the shuttle options.

With a seven man raft and an inflatable paddle board strapped to the roof of the car, we were ready to launch for our three-day, 30-mile trip. The river is divided into sections: A or Red Canyon, B or Devils’ Hole and C or Brown’s park. Section A is a quick 7.2 miles, filed with ripples and class two rapids ending at Little Hole Marina on river left. Register here at a white board that shows which campsites are available. We reserved Big Pine 1 but stopped at Cat’s Paw. Raked sand pads for the tent, a picnic table, a nearby latrine and several snakes greeted us when we eddied out. Section B is 9.6 miles. Section C to Swinging Bridge take out is 13 miles.

Photo by Kirk Marshall

The water level was high, the boulders gardens submerged, but the rapids were large enough to cause whoops of joy and the SUPer to do a quick hop into the boat. Red Creek side canyon provides a leg stretch, muddy waterfall, great views of the river and photo opps. Real excitement appears just below Jarvie Ranch in the guise of a bridge. The high water forced us to hit the deck of the boat and board to avoid being decapitated! Eddy out at the ranch, chat with the ranger and sign the guest register, filling in the column “arrived by” with “by boat!”

Choosing Big Tree for the second night’s campsite made for a long day but proved to be a beautiful spot to watch the sunset and the moonrise. Rinsing off in the chilled water takes the dirt off and your breath away. The last day's float was short with ample time to drift through Swallow Canyon, watching agile birds swoop into their mud nests and play an alphabet memory game.

Photo by Pippa Keene

We paddled through slack water to the take out at Swinging Bridge Campground near Colorado SH 318 in Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge. All that is left to do is find the car, strap down the raft and drive back to Dutch John.