What a Rush
Take a Ride on Southern Utah’s Whitewater Rapids
By Jared Preusz
April 9, 2009
Micki Hazlett lives for the thrill of whitewater rafting. Her passion for the rush-filled sport began 25 years ago when she accepted a position as a river guide, teaching others her favorite outdoor sport. She even met her husband, Steve Hazlett, while on a river trip. Now, as a co-owner of Worldwide River Expeditions, Hazlett shares her passion with hundreds of Utahns and non-Utahns on Southern Utah’s wild rapids.
“I think rafting is one of the most relaxing things we can all do in this fast paced and chaotic society we live in,” says Hazlett. “While the rapids can lend a natural chaos to what we do in life, it is a way to be exhilarated without being stressed.”
Hazlett also says river trips give people the chance to experience life in seclusion, without the day-to-day distractions of everyday life. “Some people may [wonder] how they will live without their cell phone, but they can,” says Hazlett. “There is no cell phone coverage out here on our trips, so you’ve got to leave the Blackberries behind and let nature soak into your skin again.”
Worldwide is just one expedition company offering scenic whitewater rafting trips in some of Utah’s hottest destinations, including the breathtaking Cataract Can-yon, as well as the majestic Green and San Juan rivers.
Most of Utah’s whitewater river-rafting companies don’t stop at offering expedition-worthy crafts. They can also cover the camping gear and food. Each person willing to brave the whitewater only needs clothes, personal items and a desire for thrill.
And, there’s no need to worry about the intensity; most river companies offer trips according to skill level. Worldwide, for example, categorizes its trip’s intensities with numbers. For instance, class one is a mild experience while class five is as wild as it gets. The time of the year you take the trip will also impact its intensity. May tends to produce fierce rapids while August waters are calm. Cataract Canyon is labeled as a class five trip with waves reaching 40 feet high.
Beyond the River Ride
Though rafting trips offer adventure and thrill, experts say the trips are also safe and educational. Carl Gec, owner and guide for Red River Adventures, only provides tours guided by professionals with several years of experience. “The guides are there to assist not only with the river running, but we talk about local history, geology and plants and animals,” he says. “We also talk about the river itself, including different kinds of features in the rapids and the different kinds of fluctuations in the river as the season goes on.”
Red River Adventure sends out a list of equipment that people need to bring for day trips, but on overnight trips, everything is provided. The trips are also personalized, with each boat carrying about six people.
Some companies also offer a selection of boats for river expeditions. Tour West Whitewater Adventures lets customers ride in motorboat rafts or in traditional oar-powered rafts. “With the motoride rafts, the trips are a little faster, so if you don’t have as much time you can move a little quicker. These boats can also get into some of the bigger whitewater,” says Jason Harting, manager for Tour West. “The benefits of the oar-powered rafts are slower pace and the chance to float on the water, which gives you more time to explore on the river.”
Tour West also offers three- to four-day trips that cut through Canyonlands National Park, giving people time for other recreational activities, such as hiking, camping and exploring American Indian ruins. Harting, who started river rafting when he was eight years old, says the motoride boats are stable and are almost impossible to tip over.
For many people, the highlight of a river-rafting trip in Southern Utah is the chance to get away from office pressures, see the outdoors and have fun. “We provide everything you need to have fun on these trips” says Hazlett. “It’s fun to get away and it’s an amazing relief for people involved with business.”