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Floating the Lower Gunnison

Collared Lizard

Raft Trip on the Gunnison River

Rafting the Gunnison River

Winding through portions of the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, the lower Gunnison River offers a highly scenic and gentle float from the town of Delta to Grand Junction.  The river flows northwest through beautiful slickrock canyon country interspersed with small ranches and fruit orchards. Cottonwood stands hold Great Blue Heron rookeries, and the area is an April breeding ground for Canada Geese.  Canoe, kayak, and raft float trips can be made in one day or multiple days.

River Trip Segments

  • Delta to Whitewater - 39 miles (2 days)
  • Escalante Canyon to Whitewater - 28.7 miles (1 - 2 days)
  • Escalante Canyon to Dominguez Canyon - 13.2 miles (1 day)
  • Dominguez Canyon to Whitewater - 14 miles (1 day)
  • Whitewater to Grand Junction - 13.5 miles (1 day)


May through early October

Average Gradient

7.3 feet per mile with a 375-foot total drop


Class I-II, including a small diversion between Escalante and Dominguez canyons.  Run on left.

Boating Regulations

All boaters must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved whitewater life jacket.  Canoes and rafts must carry a repair kit, a spare paddle or oar, a spare lifejacket, and an adequate first-aid kit.

Please sign in at the Escalante register box so that emergency location is easier, and the BLM has data for adequate funding.

Please make sure that you stay on public lands when hiking and camping.  Respect the rights of private property owners.



Contact Delta or Mesa County Sheriff’s Department by dialing 911

Human Sanitation

  • Day Use Boaters - Bury waste 6" inches deep using the "cathole" method 150 feet from water sources.  Pack out toilet paper and sanitary items in a plastic bag. Urinate in the river to reduce smells and fly problems.
  • Overnight Boaters - Washable, reusable toilet systems are required for all overnight boating groups including kayakers and canoeists.  Urinate in the river to reduce smells and fly problems.
  • Dump Station - The KOA in Clifton is the closest dump station.

River Courtesy

  • Leave plenty of room for others using the put-ins and take-outs by consolidating your gear and moving the vehicles off the launch sites as quickly as possible.
  • When traveling in a small group, pick small campsites and leave larger sites for larger groups.
  • Motorized craft should slow and yield plenty of room to non-motorized craft.
  • Respect others desire for solitude.

Land Ownership and Access

Land along the river is half private and half public.  BLM lands are administered by the Uncompahgre and Grand Junction field offices.  Access the Lower Gunnison from:

  • Confluence Park in Delta - Turn west off Highway 50 near City Market in Delta.
  • Escalante Bridge - On County Road 1250 approximately 15 miles northwest of Delta. Turn West off Highway 50 at Escalante Canyon Rest Area and proceed approximately 3 miles on gravel road to put in on right.
  • Dominguez Canyon (At Bridgeport) - Turn West off Highway 50 onto Bridgeport Road approximately 12 miles south of the town of Whitewater. (Look for a cattle guard approximately one mile north of the Mesa/Montrose County Line sign.)  Please do not park or trespass within the railroad right-of-way at the river.
  • Whitewater - The public take-out is reached by taking Highway 141 west off of Highway 50.  Turn at the first left onto Desert Road.
  • Redlands Dam - Just south of the Colorado River in Grand Junction, turn south on 261/4 Road.  Proceed through the cemetery and turn right on B3/4 Road, then left on 263/8 Road.  The Boat take-out is just upstream of Redlands Dam.

Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area

The stretch of river between the Escalante put-in until several miles below the Dominguez canyon take-out runs along the eastern boundary of the 66,000 acre Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area.  The wilderness offers excellent opportunities for hiking.  Motorized and mechanical vehicles and equipment are prohibited within the wilderness.  View the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness brochure for more information.

River flow information

USGS Streamflow Data - Gunnison River at Delta, CO

Colorado Water Talk:  303.831.7135 (Division 4, Station 7)


Use the Delta, Roubideau, Point Creek, Dominguez, Triangle Mesa and Whitewater USGS topographic quad maps for specific details. 

The Delta Surface Management Map can be obtained from the following BLM offices:

Uncompahgre Field Office
2505 S. Townsend Ave
Montrose, CO  81401
PHONE:  970.240.5300
FAX:  970.240.5367
Grand Junction Field Office
2815 H Road
Grand Junction, CO  81506
PHONE:  970.244.3000
FAX:  970.244.3083

Biological Soil Crusts

Help us protect the natural beauty found here by leaving no trace of your visit.  Avoid walking on biological soil crusts (formerly known as cryptogam).  These special crusts, which often appear crinkly and dark gray, serve important ecological functions in arid lands.  Don't bust the crust!


The Gunnison River is a unique thread of life through these desert canyons, providing habitat for many threatened and endangered species.  Eagles nest in the cottonwoods.  Brought back from the edge of extinction, Peregrine falcons soar along the cliffs in Dominguez Canyon, where you might also see some of the reintroduced desert bighorn sheep.  Nesting birds may abandon areas if they feel threatened by human activity.  Please view them and all wildlife quietly and from a distance.


Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area
Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Brochure
Commercial River Outfitting Services
Gunnison River Junior Explorer Journal - Journal and learn about Leave No Trace Principles, river safety, and aquatic life on the Lower Gunnison River.  **Note:  This 16-page booklet requires eight sheets of paper printed double-sided and flipped on short end.

Low Impact Camping Guidelines and Regulations

In addition to following the regulations, the BLM encourages all visitors to further minimize their impact by practicing following Leave No Trace user ethics:

•Please camp in designated sites only (see map).

•Avoid trampling vegetation or creating new tent sites or trails at existing camps.

•There are no toilet or trash facilities along the river or at the put-ins/take-outs.  Please pack out ALL of your trash (and a little extra)!

•Save our Cottonwoods.  Please use a camp stove whenever possible.  Fires are limited to driftwood and charcoal fires ONLY.  Fire pans are required.  Ashes must be packed out.

•Keep kitchen areas clean by using floors or tarps.  Wash dishes and bathe 150 feet away from water sources.  Use biodegradable soap sparingly and not in springs and side streams.  Strain dishwater and pack out residue.  Dispose of dishwater in the main current of the river.

•Leave natural objects and cultural artifacts where you find them.  It is illegal to remove artifacts.

•Avoid disturbing wildlife and other visitors.

Teresa Pfifer, Acting Field Manager

2465 S. Townsend Ave, Montrose, CO  81401
Phone: (970) 240-5300  |  TDD: (970) 240-5366  |  FAX: (970) 240-5367
Office Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Click on the address above for a map showing the location of the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office administrative headquarters