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White River, Utah
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 45 (Bonanza) to Green River
~ 48.0 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Green River is a very long stream forming in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains in Bridger Teton National Forest of Sublette County, Wyoming, then winding its way south into Utah, turning east into Colorado and finally back south down into Utah where it terminates at the confluence of the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park in San Juan County. The featured section is the 48 mile run on the White River tributary from SH 45 near Bonanza to its confluence with the Green River between its confluences with the Duchesne and Willow Rivers.

The White River forms as the North and South Forks in the White River National Forest of Garfield County, Colorado, then flows west after joining near Buford in eastern Rio Blanco County between the Yampa and Colorado Rivers, entering Utah near the small town of Bonanza, just south of US Highway 40. Its confluence with the Green River is southwest of Ouray, in Uintah County. Though beginning as a Class V+ hairboat kayak run, the White River mellows into a Class I to II stream with a gentle gradient that is runnable in canoes, kayaks and, with adequate water, rafts. Runs begin at SH 45 near Bonanza, and continue about 48 miles to the Green River between its confluences with the Duchesne and Willow Rivers. This high desert run is very remote and quite scenic, offering something for just about everybody except hairboaters. Cottonwood groves along the river offer excellent primitive campsites, and paddles may be treated to viewings of mountain lions, black bears, bighorn sheep, coyotes, mule deer, bobcats, raptors, geese, ducks, lizards, bats, many species of songbirds and who knows what else. Permits are not required unless paddling through or parking on Ute tribal land, which you do if going to the Green River confluence. Contact tribal headquarters at (801) 722-5511 for information and permits. Access is very limited, and there are no river-related services to be found near this run. Expect to see very few, if any, people other than those in your group. This is a long 2-day or easy 4-day trip when the river is navigable.


Central Uintah County, flowing into Utah from Colorado through Bonanza just a few miles south of US Highway 40. Vernal is the closest sizeable town.

Distance from major cities

Salt Lake City 190 miles; Grand Junction 135 miles; Durango 305 miles; Denver 381 miles; Albuquerque 565 miles; Phoenix 718 miles; Oklahoma City 954 miles; Dallas 1,110 miles; Austin 1,220 miles; San Antonio 1,228 miles; Houston 1,350 miles; Little Rock 1,281 miles; Kansas City 991 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 in the White River is very good to excellent, flowing clean, clear and cold, but not drinkable without purification. Navigable flows are generally limited to mid-spring through early summer.

Best times to go

April through June is the prime season for running this section of the White River. Mid- to late-summer rains can provide temporary flows that are boatable, but don't rely on that in this desert region of low annual rainfall.

Permit requirements

If passing through, parking on or accessing from the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation, then permits from the Ute Nation are required. These may be obtained by contacting the Ute Nation headquarters at (801) 722-5511. Their offices are located in Fort Duchesne, Utah. No permits are required for other sections of the White River in Utah, or in Colorado.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards on this section of the White River. Rapids are Class I to II rock gardens, with no major waterfalls or tree debris. The gradient is a gentle 10 fpm, and the current is slow except in or near flood stage.

River Access Points

SH 45 near Bonanza south of Vernal at 0.0 miles; Green River confluence south of Ouray at about 48.0 miles. There are no other access points for this White River run.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along this reach of the White River. Natural campsites can be found all along the river, but leave no trace of having been there. Numerous great campsites are available above the Green River confluence in the section above Jensen, Utah.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no outfitters located along the White River in Utah. Plan on bringing everything you need and running your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

Most paddlers will never see this section of the White River, but for those who venture here when it flows the run is fun and scenic, offering a differeent view of this river to that seen in most of its Colorado length. It is a high desert run of about 48 miles between Bonanza off SH 45 and the Green River confluence just below Ouray. This run is far off the beaten path, and shuttle distance dwarfs the downriver distance. The last half of the run passes through the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge with its populations of birds, animals and reptiles. The area is home to several species of rattlesnakes, copperheads and scorpions, among other things, so be careful where you walk, reach and camp, especially after dark. The river runs best from late spring through late summer is wet years, and may be too low to paddle in drought years. This is not a primary paddling destination for most boaters, but makes an excellent addendum to trips on the Green River if it has adequate water. The canyons of this area are gorgeous, sandstone formations that harken back to the age when dinosaurs roamed this area of the western United States. In more recent times, though still long ago, camels and wooly mammoths called this area "home", though they probably had some other name for it.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to II
Length 48 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in SH 45 at Bonanza
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Green River confluence
Lat. / Long. 40.0621986 / -109.6785965
Elevation msl
Gradient 10 fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Watson
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Typically, April through July or August
Permits Yes, if passing through Ute Nation land - call (801) 722-5511

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Utah Whitewater Club - Canoeing, Kayaking and Rafting

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

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

Green River
[ Green River Homepage ] [ Flaming Gorge Dam to Browns Park NWR ] [ Gates of Lodore to Split Mountain Campground ]
[ Split Mountain Campground to Ouray ] [ Ouray to IH 70 ] [ IH 70 to Colorado River ]

[ Duchesne River ] [ Nine Mile River ] [ Upper Price River ] [ Middle Price River ]
[ Lower Price River ] [ Upper San Rafael River ] [ Lower San Rafael River ] [ Uintah River ]

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Last updated September 14, 2014

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