Dolores River

Section of river: Dolores River, Ponderosa Gorge
Difficulty: Class 3-4
Length: 50 miles/80 KM, 3 Days
Season: May to early-June
Best rapids: Snaggletooth, Son of Snag, 3-Mile Rapid

dolores_riverThe Dolores is a classic western river, unspoiled, with a majestic desert backdrop.

In May and June rafters can take advantage of the warm temperatures and early season runoff to raft this exceptional wilderness river.

In Ponderosa Gorge, as its name suggests, ponderosa pines grow in stark contrast with a landscape of red and orange sandstone cliffs. This results in a striking kaleidoscope of color unique to the Dolores River.

Rafters will encounter the infamous class V Snaggletooth Rapid, which one can elect to walk around, and the miles-long House Rock Rapid. Rafters can also choose to explore a 600 to 1,000 year old Anasazi Indian ruin high up on a cliff.



Section of river: Dolores River, Slickrock Canyon
Difficulty: Class 2-3
Length: 50 miles/80 KM, 3 Days
Season: May through Early June
Best rapids: Bull Canyon, Spring Canyon, One Holer, La Sal, S-Curve

448_IMG_4079Entering into Slickrock Canyon, the lush vegetation of Ponderosa Gorges gives way to desert landscapes with gentle, flowing rapids.

Rafters are greeted with 1,200 foot high, brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs. In one spot, a cliff completely overhangs the river. There are many campsites on narrow ledges or alluvial fans created by fantastic serpentine side canyons. These side canyons offer inspiring hiking and gorgeous views.

Section of river: Dolores River, Gateway Canyon
Difficulty: Class 2-3
Length: 68 miles/109 KM; 4 days
Season: May through Early June
Best rapids: Paradox Canyon, Trap, Stateline, Beaver Canyon, Rockslide

Emerging from Slickrock Canyon the river enters Paradox Valley, an interesting geologic phenomenon where the river cuts across the valley rather than through the middle of it!

This valley was extensively occupied by Pueblo Indian culture and was also famous in western history as a route through which rustlers traversed to sell stolen stock in the mining camps.


From here the river cuts through Paradox and Mesa Canyons where one can view remnants of an almost unbelievable “hanging flume”. Near the town of Gateway the river plunges into Gateway Canyon where some of the most difficult rapids of the entire river are encountered, and where the Dolores River finally unites with the Colorado River.