Rafting the Colorado and Doing the Shafer Trail

Rafting the Colorado

All set in our quick dry shorts, long sleeves, water shoes, and of course my GoPro camera, we drove early into Moab to check in at Mild to Wild Adventures and get set for our rafting down the Colorado River.  Originally we were set to rent a 2-person kayak but opted to join one of the 6-person rafts instead.  There was a nice family with young children set for one raft and we paired up with two couples who were visiting Moab together.  We loaded into the bus after getting fitted with our PFDs and totally enjoyed the drive along the river, through the canyon with massive walls of red sandstone and the black-burnished Wingate layer.  Our guide Nick just checked the flow rate and announced that it was double what it had been yesterday, due to rain in Colorado, so there probably wouldn’t be much paddling needed.

We launched and got a good start in the muddy, brown water that was moving along pretty swiftly.  Even though it was not on the scale of our rafting in the Snake River, we had some pretty good, sloppy splashing at some of the rapids.  Up front, Nancy seemed to get pretty soaked – which she was certain was intentional.  Didn’t matter, as we all got splashed at various times. 

The beauty of the trip was really passing between the tall canyon walls, as you marveled at how effectively the water had carved through the layers of rock.  Our only wildlife was a merganser bobbing in the water, although how it would have spotted fish in the murky brown water was a mystery.

Watch a video of the adventure here: Rafting the Colorado

Once we were back at the rafting HQ we changed into dry, warmer clothes and shoes and drove to a spot we visited previously: Moab Brewery.  We were definitely ready for an early dinner and a beer, so we washed down a Moab Monster burger and Jim Beam BBQ burger with a Dead Horse Ale.  It was a lot to finish off, and once we were stuffed we drove the 45 minutes back to camp.  Cloudy night, so we didn’t get to see the stars.

Jeeping the Shafer Trail and Potash Road

Next day was not as early a push, so we ate a hearty breakfast and prepped for a drive down the Shafer Trail/Potash Road to Moab.  The road starts near the Visitor’s Center in Canyonlands, descends 1,500 ft. down the cliffside on some crazy switchbacks, then heads across the mesa toward the Colorado River and nearby potash ponds.  It is posted at just over 50 miles to town, but the speed limit is 15 mph — as if you would even get that fast.  I connected my GoPro camera to the mount I put on the front bumper, sync’d the camera to my phone for remote operation, put the Jeep in 4WD and we started off.  Jackie’s job was to watch ahead for any oncoming cars so we would know if we needed to pull to the side and let them pass, and my job was staying on the road.

This was a drive like no other I have experienced.  We drove oh so slowly down and around the cliffs and rock formations and stopped every once in a while to catch our breath, take a picture and maybe just take it all in.  We passed very few other vehicles on the way down, thank goodness, and almost had the road to ourselves.  We drove on, up and over some hills, around blind corners, down into some river washes and stopped at a magnificent Colorado River overlook to have lunch.  Words cannot describe what you experience down in these canyons.  It was like driving down into the Grand Canyon, maybe even better. 


As we got closer to Moab we passed the evaporation ponds of potash with their blue and white in sharp contrast to the red rocks around them.  The day has cleared to a nice sunny 70 degrees and it was great that we had taken off the back windows of the Jeep.  Sun was strong, so we kept the top on.  We finally reached the paved portion of the road and as we hit 45mph it felt like we were flying along!  This stretch meanders along the river just at the base of the cliffs, with the rail line from the mining company alongside us.  Once in Moab we grabbed some grocery essentials, filled the gas tank (it was only 4 gallons, but you get gas when you can out here), and headed back to camp. 

Watch the video down the canyon here: Shafer Trail and Potash Road

It was a cloudless night so I tried to get some night sky photos with my camera, tripod and remote shutter, but I need to work it out a bit more, since the star-filled sky and milky way just didn’t get captured on camera yet.  Little more practice and maybe tomorrow night I will be successful.  Our plans for tomorrow are an easy day in camp, short hike with Kodi to the canyon rim next to the campground (video is posted here: Exploring Dead Horse Point) and otherwise resting up for our last hike here tomorrow – a 2.4 mile hike to Corona and Bowtie Arches.  After that we pack up and head north, then west and south to get to the other side of Canyonlands and make camp in Torrey near Capitol Reef National Park.

Thanks for coming along with us.  There is much more in store, so keep checking back.

Categories: Uncategorized | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Rafting the Colorado and Doing the Shafer Trail

  1. Bernadette K Mobley

    Oh wow! What great pictures of some unbelievable views! So glad you guys are having such a fantastic trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. schooloner

    Just amazing land…doesn’t it make you wonder how the first (white) settlers figured out routes? Must have been a lot of dead ends/backtracking to traverse this country. What native tribes lived around Moab? I wonder if there was enough grazing to support herds of animals to support people at all…maybe seasonal. Loving your trip!


    • As we drive across this generally barren, rocky land we do wonder about those early settlers who must have relied upon many of the native tribes for help, followed rivers and lower gorges. Some of this is daunting even with paved roads and big motorhomes! Ute, Navajo, Paiute and Hopi were all native to the Moab area. Glad you are enjoying the ride!


  3. Linda Wilson

    Unbelievably gorgeous pictures! I’ve never been there but want to go now!!
    So glad you got the Jeep. Looks like lots of fun!
    We had a wicked lightning, thunder and rain storm last night. Best lightning I’ve seen here. We got almost an inch of rain which is good for us. But the yard is a mess!!!


    • It has been a blast for sure. We are again having a rainy day in the desert – go figure, but the trip has been amazing so far. The jeeping has been a great added benefit.


  4. Mert Reed

    Doug and Jackie…. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your awesome photos of our amazing rafting trip down the Colorado River!! Dick, Larry, Nancy, and I had such a blast, and it was so fun sharing the adventure with you both!!! Thank you for helping us preserve and treasure such a fun, fun day!! Mert 😎 🌞


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