Home » 2003 Cross Country Road Trip

Moab - Colorado Riverway / Big Bend Recreation Area, UT

Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 9:00am by Lolo
277 miles and 6 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


We reached Moab late afternoon and stopped at the Visitor Center to try to figure out some rafting options down the Colorado. It's a good thing we did--there's nothing like a little local knowledge. They confirmed that my plan to raft the 15-mile stretch from Hittle Bottom to the Big Bend Campground was a good one and hooked us up with an outfitter (Coyote Shuttle) who agreed to shuttle us and our raft up the river early the next morning. Things were falling into place.

7:00 AM, waiting for the "Coyote Raft Shuttle"7:00 AM, waiting for the "Coyote Raft Shuttle"We headed up the very scenic Utah 128 (Colorado Riverway) towards the Big Bend Recreation Area, one of several primitive campgrounds run by the Bureau of Land Management along this stretch of the river. The drive, which was quite spectacular, took us along the eastern shore of the Colorado River through some very stunning red sandstone canyons.

The view from our campsite was exceptional. Although we couldn't see the river because of the thick tamarisk bushes along its shore, we were surrounded by spectacular red sandstone cliffs and rock pinnacles. It was the perfect spot for one of our "classic" Gaidus family shots--the four of us smiling happily in front of the RV with great scenery in the background. During the photo setup process, both Herb and Andrew were bitten on the legs by some feisty red fire ants.

After dinner, we found a trail through the tamarisk--this stuff really was thick--and went down to the river for a swim and to watch the sun set over the canyon walls. A young female outfitter rowed past us. She said she was bringing her raft back downriver to Moab. I think she had a long night ahead of her--Moab was 8 miles away and the river south of Big Bend is really slow. Somehow she didn't seem to mind.

Tom smiling before his close callTom smiling before his close callWhen the sun went down, the gnats came out big time, forcing us to spend the rest of the evening inside. This is when things began to get ugly. It was terribly hot still so we had to keep the windows of the RV open for some ventilation or we would suffocate. Meanwhile, the gnats were having no problem navigating their way through the screens, which they did in droves. Our only choice was to turn out the lights and get under the covers, which wasn't particularly pleasant in this heat. Poor Tommy got the worst of it. For some reason, bugs have always found him quite tasty. To make matters worse, tomorrow was his 12th birthday and tonight was to be part of his birthday celebration. It was the worst night I have ever spent in the RV. There was no way we were going to spend another night here, no matter how beautiful it was.

Our outfitter arrived right on time early the next morning to transport us up the river. The drive up the Colorado Riverway was wonderful and our driver pointed out some interesting sites along the way, such as the giant rock that they lowered a Chevy pickup down onto for a car commercial--you've probably seen it on TV. He also told us how he had moved here from California about 5 years ago and had no intention of ever moving again. As far as he was concerned, Moab was the best place on Earth. When we inquired about the weather forecast for the day, he gave an interesting response--"If you're lucky, we'll get a thunderstorm. It'll cool things off nicely and everyone in town will come out to the Riverway to see the canyon walls change colors with the rain." Wow, they really do have a different set of priorities our here. I can understand why he'd never want to leave.

Herb and boys at a riverside campgroundHerb and boys at a riverside campgroundBefore dropping us off, we made sure we got a recommendation for a good place to have dinner that night--after all, it was Tommy's 12th birthday. "Fat City Smokehouse," he told us. "It's off the main drag, but it's where all the locals go."

The trip down the river was great--the scenery was probably the best I've ever experienced on a raft trip. During the flat portions, we would just lie on our backs in the raft or float in the very warm waters of the river and watch the rock formations go by. When we hit some rapids, we would often don our preservers and bounce our way through them. It was much fun.

I think we got a little careless and forgot how dangerous a river can be. The kids and I were out playing in the water when we saw the ripple of some rapids ahead. It didn't look so bad, so urged on by Andrew, we decided to stay out of the raft and swim through them. Well, right after these ripples, the river made a sharp bend to the left and entered a section of Class III rapids. It was now too late to get back in the raft. We got whipped along and separated from each other. I was yelling to Herb to pick me up on the raft, but seeing that I was not in any immediate danger but just not having a good time, he chose to ignore me and take off after Tommy whose head had disappeared underwater. I can't describe the sense of relief he felt when he saw that little blonde head popup further downstream. Tommy was quite shook-up by the experience. He had gotten caught in an eddy, which kept pulling him down. Luckily, a large wave pushed him enough to knock him downriver out of the eddy. I can't believe how stupid we were to let such a close call occur. Andrew, somewhat oblivious to what had just occurred, wasn't sure why we looked at him the way we did when he said, "Boy was that fun!"

Tommy didn't leave the raft for the rest of the trip, and we only let Andrew out on the sections of the river where we could see what was coming. The mood had definitely shifted from one of exuberance to quiet contemplation. It really had been a frightening experience. To drive it home even more, we came across a small white cross on the side of the river marking the place where a 5-year-old boy had drowned earlier that season.

When we got back to Big Bend, we deflated the raft and had a bit of a tough time dragging it up through the tamarisk bushes to our campsite. Although the campsite looked quite appealing, we knew only too well what would happen when the sun went down, so we high-tailed it out of there and headed into Moab to get a campsite in town.


Lolo the "River Queen"Lolo the "River Queen"The Colorado Riverway (Utah 128) is a 44-mile scenic drive that winds along the eastern shore of the Colorado River, from Moab to Dewey Bridge, through colorful sandstone canyons .

There are numerous recreational opportunities along the Riverway, such as hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, off-road four-wheeling and especially world-class river running. The 13-mile stretch of the river from Hittle Bottom to Take Out Beach (also called the "Moab Daily") is the most popular river day trip in the area. The scenery along the way is truly spectacular. It includes flat sections as well as Class I to Class III rapids.

The Riverway encompasses the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, including 20 somewhat primitive campgrounds. The Big Bend Recreation Area Campground is located about 8 miles north of Moab. Although somewhat primitive, it can accommodate large RVs. The campground has a sandy beach and is surrounded by spectacular red sandstone cliffs and rock pinnacles. However, the river is difficult to access from the campsites themselves because of the thick tamarisk along the river's edge..


  • Colorado River Rafting - "Moab Daily"
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Moab - Colorado Riverway / Big Bend Recreation Area location map in "high definition"

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