Three boats floating down a river between canyons
Three packrafters float the Colorado River

NPS / B. Sullivan

There are many opportunities for packrafting in Canyonlands' backcountry; visitors can combine packrafting with an overnight backpacking trip to explore various districts within the park. While there are many opportunities, the hazards and risks of any river travel are great. You are responsible for understanding these risks and acquiring the skill, knowledge, and experience to be self-reliant.

You must have a backcountry permit to packraft in the park. You must also abide by all river rules, regulations, and required equipment, with the exception of carrying a spare paddle and spare PFD. Nights spent outside of the river corridor (1⁄2 mile or 1,000 vertical feet from the river) must be in designated campsites or zones indicated on the permit. When reserving your itinerary, select 'Packraft: Night on the River' for any nights you plan to camp in the river corridor. Reservations can be made at


Required Equipment

  • A rigid, durable metal fire pan that is large enough to fully contain all fire ash and debris (NOTE: turkey basting pans are NOT allowed). Contact the Backcountry Reservation Office for suggestions on inexpensive, lightweight options.
  • A means to securely contain and remove human waste from the backcountry. Systems approved for river use are commercial bag systems (e.g. Wag Bag, Restop II) that render human waste into a non-hazardous material, stored in hard-sided containers or heavy-duty, waterproof bags labeled “Human Waste.” River and backcountry campsites see thousands of people a year. Human waste can take years to decompose in the desert.
  • One approved, serviceable type I, III, or V personal flotation device (PFD) for each trip participant. PFDs save lives and it is the law.
  • Repair kit or kits adequate for repairing the number and types of boats on the trip. Repair kits can be as simple as waterproof tape and seam-seal.
  • An air pump or bag for inflation of raft. In most cases these are extremely lightweight.
  • A bailing device or bilge pump for boats that are not self-bailing. A bailing device is anything that can bail the boat and is readily available.
  • A first aid kit adequate for the size of the group, length of trip, and type of activity.

Special Considerations


  • Bicycles, even if inoperable, are not allowed off of designated roads. This includes inside packs and/or boats.


  • Caching food, water, or supplies is only allowed with written notification of the district ranger. You may not damage resources, and you must remove all items. Boaters who leave boats or equipment unattended must secure food, garbage and supplies so that wind and wildlife cannot create litter. If boats and equipment remain unattended for over 24 hours, they should be stored in a way that allows other groups to occupy a site. No individual, company, or other entity may be paid or otherwise compensated to place caches for someone. Email us for a cache request form.

Use Limits/Closures

In order to protect the park and its resources, the following limitations and closures are in effect:

  • Hiking in the Doll House area is limited to designated trails.
  • Jasper Canyon is closed to entry upstream of the first jump visible from the river.
  • The mouths and lower portions of Salt Creek and Big Spring, Little Spring, and Elephant canyons are closed to all human entry from March 15 through September 1 during bighorn sheep lambing season. This impacts the traditional "Figure 8" route and packrafters will need to choose an alternate entry/exit point.
  • From the mouth of lower Red Lake Canyon to the mouth of Cross and Y canyons is restricted to day use only from December 1 through February 28 for the protection of bald eagles.

River Regulations

  • Permits are nontransferable and is valid only for the person, dates, places, and number of people listed on the permit. Permittee must have government issued photo identification.

  • A signed permit must be in the permittee's possession at all times and must be presented to any authorized person upon request.
  • This permit is valid for non-commercial use only. Charging trip participant fees in excess of actual trip costs, amortizing equipment, or advertising in order to seek further participants for the trip, are activities consistent with commercial guiding. Only companies authorized by the National Park Service may conduct guided trips.
  • Groups launching upriver from the park must specify the date on which they will pass Mineral Bottom or Potash. Backpackers using packrafts or other methods to float downstream may launch and/or take out in other locations, but only as specified on their permit.
  • Groups traveling under one permit must travel and camp together and occupy only one campsite. Groups may not separate for the purpose of securing campsites ahead of other groups.
  • Two or more permitted groups may join together and travel as one group for safety. When combined groups camp together, they may not exceed the maximum group size (40 people).
  • The permittee is responsible for the conduct of all participants and ensuring that all participants comply with park regulations.
  • PFDs must be worn when boating below the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers and above the last active rapid in Cataract Canyon. Above the confluence, PFDs must be readily accessible. Children 12 and under must wear PFDs at all times while on the river.
  • Disturbing or collecting natural features is prohibited. This includes fossils, plants and rocks.
  • Hunting, feeding or disturbing wildlife is prohibited. Fishing is permitted in accordance with Utah state law.
  • Archeological and historic sites are protected. It is unlawful to disturb, enter or camp within 300 feet of archeological or historic sites.

The following are prohibited in Canyonlands National Park:

  • The discharging of firearms
  • Pets, fireworks and littering
  • Geocaching that involves leaving any items in place

When camping on your trip, the following restrictions apply:

  • No camping within 300 feet, or use of soap within 100 feet, of springs or intermittent streams.
  • Only driftwood may be collected for firewood. Fire debris must be contained in a fire pan at all times. All fire debris and ash must be packed out of the backcountry. Fire blankets are recommended to facilitate fire clean up.
  • River trips may not camp at designated vehicle campsites on the White Rim Road or in the Maze unless authorized by permit.
  • River trips may not camp at Lathrop Canyon (where the road ends).


Contact the Backcountry Reservation Office at 435-259-4351 or via email, or visit our Backcountry Travel Planner for more information or to make reservations.

Last updated: March 6, 2024

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