U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Currently, private permits are not required for boating the Dolores River within Colorado. However, BLM requires all boaters to register at access points.
All overnight boating parties on the Dolores River are required to use:
For information on boating from Bedrock to Gateway, contact:
Bureau of Land Management
A permit is required for all users boating the Dolores River in Utah (Gateway to Dewey Bridge). For information on this 32-mile stretch, contact:
Bureau of Land Management
Group Size Limits
Length of Season
In an average snowpack year, the river is floatable from late April to early June. In a very dry year, there may be no boatable flows at all.
Flows on the lower Dolores River are controlled by spill releases from McPhee Reservoir, 12.5 miles upstream of the Bradfield launch site. The spill releases are managed by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). The BOR calculates their spill releases according to reservoir level, river inflow, and user demand (irrigation, municipal contracts, etc).
Recommended minimum flows:
The Dolores River Guide covers 173 miles of the Dolores River from the Bradfield launch site to the river's confluence with the Colorado River in Utah. This 92-page waterproof guide includes detailed topographic maps showing river miles, campsites and launch sites as well as other useful information. It is available in Colorado from the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores (970-882-5600), the San Juan Mountains Association in Durango (970-247-4874), or in Dolores (970-882-7296) and local retail bookstores, boating shops and several mail-order suppliers.
Due to problems with dogs on the Dolores River (feces around campsites, wildlife harassment, harassment of other boaters, etc.) dogs must be on a leash at campsites, put-ins/take-outs and whenever out of the boat. Dog feces must be carried out!
Avoiding the Crowds
Camp Snatching. Some folks feel it is essential to send a kayak ahead to secure a camp; others find this highly offensive. Things go more smoothly if this practice is avoided. When passing another group late in the day, talk about camps. Deal with it. Try to camp at the site you have discussed.
Be reasonable. Be flexible. Communicate. We are all, after all, in the same boat.
By practicing the 7 Principals of Leave No Trace, we can maintain a relatively pristine, untrampled corridor of unique wildlife, cultural and recreation resources for our future use and enjoyment.
Infants & Small Children
Commercial outfitters are required to obtain a Special Use Recreation Permit from the BLM authorizing use of the Dolores River (List of Authorized Outfitters). For more information, contact:
BLM Tres Rios Field Office
Beware of contracting with an illegal guide for a river trip because:
Ask to be sure your guide is properly licensed:
Maximum group size 25 persons
This is generally a two or three-day trip. One-day trips are possible between Bradfield Bridge and Mountain Sheep Point Recreation Site (19 miles). Total trip length from Bradfield Bridge to Slick Rock is 47 river miles.
Shuttle distance is approximately 40 miles/50 minutes one way via paved and gravel roads.
This stretch of river drops an average of 19 feet per mile and contains the most difficult and challenging whitewater on the Dolores River, including "Snaggletooth Rapid" (Class IV-V).
The access point to this segment of the river is the Bradfield Recreation Site on river left 1/4 mile downstream from the Bradfield Bridge.
The Bradfield Recreation Site offers campsites, toilets, potable water, and a gravel-surfaced parking area and boat launch ramp. Campsite fees are $8.00 per night.
Sloping canyon walls covered with oakbrush and other shrubs characterize the first few miles of river below Bradfield Bridge. Then the canyon deepens, sandstone walls appear and groves of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir cover the benches along the river. This stretch of river is appropriately called "Ponderosa Gorge." The unique combination of pine groves and red sandstone cliffs makes this one of the most scenic segments of the Dolores River.
Approximately 19 miles downriver from Bradfield is the Mountain Sheep Point Recreation Site, which can be accessed by driving about 6 miles east from Dove Creek along gravel and dirt county roads. This access site has limited parking, a boat launch ramp, toilets, and limited primitive campsites just down river at the "Box Elder" campsite. No fees are charged for camping here. There is no potable water at this site.
Snaggletooth Rapid (Class IV-V) is located about eight miles below the Mountain Sheep Point Recreation Site near mile 27. This rapid has been portaged as often as successfully run. Stop and scout this rapid (river left).
Below Snaggletooth, the canyon becomes drier and the vegetation begins to change to that of Upper Sonoran life zone. Pinyon-juniper, yucca, cactus, and various shrubs are predominant. A few miles above Slick Rock, the canyon widens to rolling arid hills.
Maximum group size 16 persons
This 50 mile segment of river drops an average of 10 feet per mile with fewer and less difficult rapids than the upper segment, though it still contains several short Class III drops.
The Slick Rock to Bedrock segment is normally run in two or three days. Trip length is 50 river miles or 36 river miles from Gypsum Valley to Bedrock.
Shuttle distance from Slick Rock to Bedrock is approximately 60 miles/90 minutes one way via paved roads.
The launch site is a cleared area just east of the Highway 141 Bridge at Slick Rock. This is private property. There is no put-in fee. Parking directions will be posted. Please cooperate with the owners.
An alternate put-in is in Big Gypsum Valley, 14 miles downriver or 25 road miles from Slick Rock. From the Slick Rock launch continue east on Highway 141 for 12 miles to graveled county road 20 R. Turn left (west) and proceed 13 miles down 20 R to the Gypsum Valley Recreation Site. Facilities include a launch ramp, parking, picnic tables, grills, and shelters. There are no toilets or potable water at this site. Camping is allowed but is very primitive.
About 16.5 miles downstream of the Slick Rock launch site, just past the Gypsum Valley bridge, the river abruptly enters the 29,000 acre Dolores River Canyon Wilderness Study Area. Here, the Dolores begins a series of meanders deeply entrenched in the massive sandstones of the area. The canyon is narrow and deep with towering walls that often reach skyward directly from the water's edge. Several large side canyons provide interesting hiking along this segment. Slick Rock Canyon ends abruptly at Bedrock where the river crosses Paradox Valley.
The Bedrock access is just south and west of the Bedrock Bridge. Facilities include a launch ramp, parking, picnic tables, grills and shelters. There are no toilets or potable water. Camping is allowed but is very primitive.