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Cataract Canyon Rafting: The Best of What’s Next

by Mara Drazina

March 18, 2021 Adventure Experts

As a long time river guide, my career has been filled with many opportunities to explore some of our country’s most unusual, breath taking and challenging outdoor spaces.  Combatting COVID fatigue and looking forward, guests commonly ask, ‘Where’s the next place we should go?’ One of my favorite recommendations is Moab, Utah, which I discovered years ago and still continues to be the backdrop of many preferred adventures.

Guests commonly ask, ‘Where’s the next place we should go?

Moab, Utah

I still remember that first hiking trip my dad and I planned, some twenty years ago, when we picked Moab not really knowing how large and beautifully diverse this region is.  We had two National Parks to choose from on the same trip, Canyonlands National Park & Arches National Park. We both quickly fell in love with the awe inspiring vistas, topography and desert sub-culture you commonly see in Moab.  Moab, UT is centrally located between some of the most iconic National Parks, National Monuments and public lands in the USA.

Hiking in Cataract Canyon, Colorado River in Cataract Canyon, Red Rock Trail Cataract Canyon, Utah

(L) Cataract Canyon hiking. Photo by Laura Hughes. (TR) Colorado River. (BR) Hiker in Moab. 

The famous ‘Mighty 5’ cradle this desert hot spot which comfortably attracts millions of outdoor enthusiasts a year.  Everything from hiking, backpacking, rafting, jet boats, horseback riding and the famous rock crawling Jeep Tours—a little something for everyone!  As remote as it is, Moab has become easier to get to.  Summer months bring direct flights to Moab Airport on major carriers from Denver, CO.  With that, a scenic four hour drive from Salt Lake City, and a manageable ten hour drive from Los Angeles, Moab is an easy must see!

Hidden Gem of the Colorado Plateau

Cataract Canyon River Rafting with MT Sobek

Photo by Laura Hughes

One of the hidden gems in the Colorado Plateau is the Colorado River which cuts through two world-class National Parks and the desert oasis town of Moab.  Our river trip begins in Moab, rafts through Cataract Canyon and finishes with a scenic flight back to Moab.  Author Edward Abbey affectionately described Cataract Canyon as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth.”

2021 Adventure Tour Catalog


MT Sobek runs a variety of rafting trips on the Colorado River, which affords guests the intimate opportunity to explore the desert from the river’s edge.  Remote access to some of the most iconic backcountry hikes—such as The Dolls House in the Maze District of Canyonlands—leaves one feeling like the only visitor.  Watching the sun rise in the river corridor with a warm cup of coffee and sand in your toes is far more inviting than the crowds at Dead Horse Point or Canyonland’s Island in the Sky.  This stretch of canyon is covered in human history, native rock art and is a geologist’s haven for rock lovers.  It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s classic adventure.

Puebloan Granary, Prickly Pear Cactus, Rock Markings, Cataract Canyon, Utah

(L) Ancestral Puebloan Granary. (C) Prickly pear cactus. (R) Rock markings.

Nationally Recognized Dark Sky Park

Doll House, Canyonlands National Park, US National Park, Utah

A composite image of the nigh sky above the Doll House, Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Dan Duriscoe

One of the most breathtaking parts of rafting through Cataract Canyon is the night sky.  In 2015, The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) granted Canyonlands National Park a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park status.  This is an honor reserved for the darkest of dark skies with extraordinary starscapes.  You are bound to get no sleep on this trip gazing at the night sky!  Millions of visitors flock to this part of the country for the National Park Dark Sky Programs, yet never get to sleep under this memorable blanket of stars.

Ready To Go?

Motor Rig Rafting in Cataract Canyon Rafting Trip with Red Rock Canyons

Riding a motor rig on the upper stretch of the Cataract Canyon rafting trip

MT Sobek’s 5 day rafting trip will give you plenty of time to experience the hikes, night sky, rock art, desert botany and its famous whitewater. This is a great intro to a classic desert whitewater trip.  All meals, snacks, river gear and camp gear provided.  For action packed whitewater, come join us in May & June, we still have room on the following trips:  May 19, June 2, June 30, and a special departure July 21.

If you’re looking for river action and time on trails, the 7-day Cataract Canyon multi-adventure trip balances the splashy thrills of the rapids with plenty of scenic hikes covering territory only reached from the river. Visit during the fall on September 12 or September 26, or get a summer trip with faster rapids on June 20.

Finding Inspiration Beyond the Canyon

For inspiration beyond the canyon, join us on a very special departure of the MT Sobek Cataract Canyon River Rafting adventure:

Cataract Canyon Singer-Songwriter Journey on the Colorado River
July 21 – 25, 2021
Bring your guitar, creative flow and journey down the river as you create new music with professional musician Tim Bluhm of the Mother Hips.

Tim Bluhm began his professional musical journey in 1989 while studying creative writing at CSU Chico. His interest in poetry led him to songwriting where his childhood experience in church and school choral singing proved valuable. 

Armed with his first batch of original songs he co-founded what would become the now-iconic Mother Hips, a group the San Francisco Chronicle has hailed as “one of the Bay Area’s most beloved live outfits.” Performing at frat parties soon gave way to club shows, regional touring, and national buzz, and before they’d graduated from college, Bluhm and his bandmates were signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings on the strength of their 1992 debut album, ‘Back To The Grotto.’ Over the ensuing two-and-a-half decades, Bluhm would release ten more studio albums with the band as they cemented their status as architects of a new breed of “California soul” and earned a reputation as festival and critical favorites, sharing bills with everyone from Johnny Cash and Wilco to Lucinda Williams and The Black Crowes along the way. Rolling Stone called them “divinely inspired,” while Pitchfork praised their “rootsy mix of 70s rock and power pop,” and The New Yorker lauded their ability to “sing it sweet and play it dirty.”

Interspersed among the Hips records, Bluhm recorded and released 6 solo albums. In 2000, he opened a recording studio in San Francisco’s Mission District with friend Jackie Greene. This set Tim on the path of record production. The ensuing years would see Tim produce dozens of records for other artists.

When the Mother Hips took a hiatus in 2002, Tim started working as a mountain guide in the Sierra Nevada, culminating in working as the lead guide for the MT Sobek John Muir Trail program for several seasons. When touring with the band resumed he began hosting backcountry songwriting workshops, sharing his love of song craft and the outdoors with both aspiring and experienced songwriters from across the country.


Please reach out with more questions—we are always happy to assist!

We’re looking forward to welcoming you to your next adventure. We know you’ll love it because we build trips out of ones we love to take.

Mara Drazina, MT Sobek Director of Program Management for Rivers, rafting the Colorado River

Mara Drazina
Director of Program Management for Rivers  ⋅ 510 484-1228

Growing up in the Bay Area fostered a love for the outdoors. With 30 years as a commercial whitewater rafting guide, my adventures have taken me to rivers all throughout the West. Our protected wilderness areas make travel within the US some of the most interesting and life changing trips. My favorite part of Guiding is the opportunity to help facilitate a guest’s experience which ultimately causes them to fall in love with the river and its canyons. Whether its 6 days on the Middle Fork or 16 days in the Grand Canyon, getting to share that experience is a special way to connect and encourage people to become stewards of our parks. I look forward to bringing my years of experience in the backcountry to the front country with our many adventures in the wild.


Feature image by Laura Hughes. Unless otherwise noted, all other photos are by Mara Drazina.