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Colorado River, Colorado
Report by Marc W. McCord

Plateau Creek to Loma
~ 35 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Colorado River is a major water source for the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, California, Arizona and Nevada, draining a significant amount of snowmelt water all along the western half of Colorado. The river begins at an elevation of about 10,000 feet MSL in the Rocky Mountains of Grand County, Colorado near Silver Creek on the western edge of Arapaho National Recreation Area northwest of Denver. From its headwaters the Colorado River flows west through Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, into Utah then down to Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border, where it begins to cut the Grand Canyon. The river then flows through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border before heading south along the Arizona-California border to its mouth at the Sea of Cortez. Along the way, the Colorado River flows more than 1,400 miles, mostly through three deserts.

The reach from Plateau Creek to Loma flows through Grand Junction, which is about midway through the run in Mesa County of far west central Colorado. The Utah border is just a few miles to the west of Loma. Joining the Colorado River at Grand Junction is the Gunnison River. IH 70 closely parallels the river all along the way, and Grand Junction offers many places to eat, shop, find a motel room (if you are so inclined) and resupply with food, water and other provisions for trips on downriver. Campgrounds are available on either side of Grand Junction for those enjoying the total outdoors river experience.

The run is one of mostly flatwater that is occasionally disrupted by minor Class I to II rapids on a gradient of about 7-8 fpm. The rapids are not challenging unless a boater is a novice paddler, and even them most can be avoided altogether. The area is more "civilized" than most sections of the Colorado River, and highway traffic will be heavier. This reach is just above the Loma to Cisco, Utah section that includes the famous Westwater section. This "urbanized" run is fun for everybody in canoes, kayaks and rafts. Its approximately 35 mile reach can be conveniently broken up into 2 or more days with a stopover in Grand Junction, and multiple access points offer trips of various lengths.


Mesa County in far west central Colorado, near the Utah border. Powderhorn Ski Area and Colorado National Monument are both on the outskirts of Grand Junction, on either side. IH 70 / US Highway 6 parallels the river along this run.

Distance from major cities

Durango 190 miles; Grand Junction 20 miles; Denver 220 miles; Salt Lake City 305 miles; Albuquerque 402 miles; Phoenix 644 miles; Oklahoma City 845 miles; Dallas 1,004 miles; Austin 1,195 miles; San Antonio 1,168 miles; Houston 1,254 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally good to very good, but not drinkable without purification. Adequate flows for paddle trips is usually year-round, with lower flows in mid winter months.

Best time to go

The reach is a year-round run and can be made anytime there is adequate flow, which is almost always, weather permitting. Summer days will be hot, and winter days will usually be cold. Nights will be cool to cold year-round, depending upon the season.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards along this section of the Colorado River. It is runnable in canoes, kayaks and rafts by almost anybody.

River Access Points

Put in at Plateau Creek where IH 70/US Highway 6 intersects SH 65 about 20 miles east of Grand Junction at 0.0 miles; Take out at the Loma Launch Site off IH 70 at the Loma exit at about 35.0 miles. There are numerous access points between the put-in and take-out, including several within the city limits of Grand Junction. Access for this run is excellent.

Campgrounds and accommodations

Island Acres State Recreation Area, east of the put-in, offers campground facilities; Saddle Horn Campground, between Grand Junction and Fruita, offers campground facilities. There are several other campgrounds which are not adjacent to the river, but in the general area just a few miles from Grand Junction.

Liveries, Outfitters and Shuttle Services

Numerous commercial outfitters in Colorado and other states are available to provide rentals, shuttles, guided trips and river information services for the Colorado River.

Reviewer's comments

This is definitely not a wilderness run like so many others on the Colorado River. Its saving grace is the convenience of restaurants, restrooms, places to buy supplies and even motels if your idea of camping is a motel or hotel. It is a fun run that almost anybody can enjoy, and offers nothing in the form of hairboat rapids or waterfalls. In fact, the relatively flat gradient of about 7-8 fpm makes for a very gentle flow. Other great runs on the Colorado, as well as other rivers, are nearby, so paddlers coming to Grand Junction can choose between whitewater and flatwater runs, depending upon the season and the availability of water in other streams. The year-round flow in this section makes it ideal for paddlers wanting to run a river when other streams are too low.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to II
Length 35 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in IH 70/US Highway 6 @ SH 65
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Loma Launch Site off IH 70
Lat. / Long.
Elevation 4,800-4,440 feet msl
Gradient 7-8 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Palisade
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Canoeman River Guide Services offers river trips, trip planning and instruction on rivers in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Click HERE to visit the web site of Rocky Mountain Canoe Club

Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club

Lone Star Paddler - the paddlesports web site of Marc W. McCord

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Colorado River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

Colorado River
[ Colorado River Homepage ] [ Blue River to Piney River ] [ Piney River to Barrel Springs ]
[ Barrel Springs to New Castle ] [ New Castle to Plateau Creek ] [ Loma to Westwater ]

[ Upper Blue River ] [ Lower Blue River ] [ Buzzard Creek ] [ Fraser River ]
[ Piney River] [ Plateau Creek ] [ Rock Creek ]

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