Floating through the Little Grand Canyon along the San Rafael Swell is a popular desert kayak trip below The Wedge Overlook!
I have wanted to float this for years, but timing it can be tricky. In low snow years you can’t float the Little Grand Canyon at all, other times you can only float it for about a two-week period or so. The winter of 2022-2023 was intense so water flows everywhere flowed high and fast in May/June. When we found out that the Ferron Reservoir naturally overflowed and bumped up the San Rafael River flow to nearly 900cfs, we knew we had to take advantage of that. The lowest flow you can float this at is generally 150cfs with a loaded kayak. Otherwise, you’ll be dragging your boat quite often. Be sure to check the current cfs here.
This San Rafael River section is rated Class 1+, and has only a few small riffles and obstacles to avoid. The float is suitable for beginning boaters, dogs, and kids with little experience. However, you’ll want to keep a sharp eye out for trees and other debris that can block the river. It’s best to avoid swimming in this river due to the strong flow, cold temperatures, and undercurrents.
I do think a SUP could make it, but definitely not an intertube. We had three “Wolverine” Alpacka Rafts and one IK (inflatable kayak). We did this as a day trip so all we took with us was water, food, camera, ZOLEO satellite communicator, and extra safety gear for the rafts. Both my Gaia GPS (get your app here for a discount) and Coros Watch tracked 19.5 miles one way. It took us just over 5 hours to float, including a short lunch break. The lower the flow, the slower it will take you. Some people opt to camp overnight and there are plenty of options underneath giant cottonwood trees to do that.
You do need to carry all the water you think you will need because you can’t really filter the river water as it is extremely silty. It will easily clog any water filter. I’ve heard the horseflies can be awful but we didn’t have any in early June. However, I would still advise bringing bug spray and head nets just in case.
Life Jackets are required by Utah Law.
To reach the takeout at the San Rafael Bridge, click here. (it is right before you cross the bridge on the right/West side)
To reach the put-in at Fuller Bottom, click here.
Full shuttle map, click here
Any type of car can make it to both the put-in and take-out, you do not need 4×4.
Distance: 19.5 miles
Elevation gain: A loss of only 200ft
Time: Depends on flow, but plan on a full day with shuttles.
At 875cfs it took us just over 5 hours with a lunch break
Dog friendly? Yes!
Kid friendly? Yes!
My track via Gaia GPS – the best tracking app! Get your app here for a discount.