The lower stretch of the Dolores River offers technical rapids, stunning scenery, wildlife viewing, side-canyon hiking, and great camping. A free permit is required. Groups must read and adhere to all stipulations of the permit. Call the Moab Field Office at 435-259-2100 to secure a free permit for floating the Dolores River.
Rapids on this section of the Dolores River range from class I to class IV. The most challenging rapid is Stateline (class IV), which is at the Colorado-Utah border. This mile-long rock garden requires excellent scouting (from river right) and quick maneuvering at all water levels. A mistake made in this this rapid can result in a very long and dangerous swim. Many groups put in smaller craft below this rapid. Bring an adequate amount of drinking water as the Dolores and its tributaries are unfit for human consumption. Land ownership on the Lower Dolores is mixed; please respect the rights of private landowners.
The main roadblock for running this stretch is a very erratic and short (sometimes non-existent) boating season. Flows generally peak between late April and early May. Suggested minimum flows (approximated) are: 200 cfs for canoes, kayaks, and duckies, 800 cfs for rafts less than 14 feet, and 1000 cfs for rafts larger than 14 feet. Current streamflow conditions are available on the U.S. Geological Survey website. For information on current levels at McPhee Reservoir, please visit the Dolores Water Conservancy District (DWCD) website.
Private permits: There is no fee charged and you do not need to submit an application. Simply call (435) 259-7012 (Moab) or (970) 247-4874 (Tres Rios) between 8 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday (excluding Federal holidays) to obtain a permit. A last-minute reservation request or change to an existing permit can be easily accommodated if you have access to a fax machine. Please note that the permit must be signed by the trip leader and carried on the river to be authorized. By signing, the trip leader agrees to follow the River Use Stipulations that accompany the permit. Please leave your permit in the camp fee tube at the Dewey Bridge campground at the end of your trip. If you have questions, please call (435) 259-7012 (Moab) or 970) 247-4874 (Tres Rios)
From Cortez, travel 30 miles north on US Hwy 666. The put-in is at Bradfield Bridge Recreation Site, 6 miles east of Cahone. From Grand Junction, travel south 16 miles on US Hwy 550 to Whitewater, then west 44 miles on CO Hwy 141 to Gateway and the river.