Raft the Dolores River

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Added by Jenna Mulligan

Floating a desert canyon section of this non-permitted river, you'll find beautiful beach campsites and arid wildlife of the Colorado Plateau.

On years with enough moisture and runoff, kayakers, rafters, tubers and SUP-ers all take to the Dolores River.

This section of water from Slick Rock to Bed Rock provides a two night, three day float through red canyon walls, meandering bends in the river, a a few notable side canyons.

The water levels of the Dolores River are reactive to releases from McPhee Dam, which often means that the river is too low to run by late June.

To reach the start of this section, Drive to Dove Creek, Colorado (home of the best Adobe Mills beans - I buy them straight from the gas station!) Then drive north on Highway 141, passing through Egnar until you reach Slick Rock. The highway will cross over the Dolores at this point, and the driver will immediately see the parking lot, road down to the river, and a small office which coordinates car shuttles.

Because the river is not permitted and only runs for a short season, the put-in at Slick Rock is often crowded - navigate your trailer down the hill behind the parking lot, and once ready to take off, be prepared for a strong eddy and swamp area that gets boaters stuck on river left.

The first ten miles of water is mellow, running through surrounding ranch land. When the water is high, the river floods the banks and there are sometimes ranch fences underwater or mostly submerged in this section. It's a great section to take out a paddle board and relax, but be conscious of what's underwater!

Next, the Little Glen Canyon begins - be on the lookout for some of the wild architecture that was used to design houses built along the river in this section. You'll pass another launch site here - the Gypsum Valley launch at mile 61 of the Dolores.

The river soon enters the taller cliffs of Slick Rock canyon, which has a few small splashy rapids. 

Beaches throughout the canyon area make for great campsites, but due to the amount of private land that surrounds the river, they are infrequent. If you see an open site in the early afternoon, take it!

One beautiful campsite comes at the convalescence between the Dolores and La Sal creek, which is occasionally still running in June. Depending on water levels, you may have opportunity to turn up this creek, which offers a secluded campsite and a chance to hike up the creek bed.

Take out is at Bedrock, a town on Highway 90 that will connect you back with the 141 via Naturita. This is a very roomy take-out, but it comes up fast. Keep your boat to the river left side so that you can react quickly.

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Stand Up Paddle
Camping
Rafting
Kayaking
Swimming
Beach
Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
River
Scenic
Wildflowers

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