Between the Soapstone Access below Jordanelle Reservoir and Deer Creek Reservoir the Provo River flows as a pristine Class I to IV whitewater stream of immense natural beauty and scenery in the high Uinta Mountains of northcentral Utah. This reach of about 25 miles offers limited access, light traffic and spectacular trout fishing for those who also want to catch dinner while making their way downriver. In fact, some areas of the Provo River have counts as high as 7,500 trout per square mile, with records exceeding 17 inches and 30 pounds. While very close to Provo and not much further from Salt Lake City, the Provo River seems like it is very remote. Natural beauty is all around. The snowmelt waters are cold, clean and clear with easy to moderately challenging rapids and drops that make river running exciting. Dam-released water usually keeps this stream flowing, though not always at navigable levels, so be sure to check the gauge before making a trip here.
The Middle Provo River is an interesting whitewater run that can be a long single day or moderate two-day trip, depending upon paddler preferences. Kayakers and rafters will most often opt for a two-day adventure, while canoeists may choose to run this reach in a single day, then continue down the Lower Provo on the second day. Flow rates will play a major factor in determining downriver speed, and finding a place to camp will play a significant role in how much distance is covered in a day. Access is limited, so be sure you know where you are and where you are going before beginning a trip. Much of the land along the Provo River is privately owned, and camping on private land should only be done with advance permission. Other nearby streams include the Duchesne, Uinta, Strawberry and Whiterocks Rivers, all of which feed Utah's premiere Green River above Ouray. Like its nearby neighbors, the Provo has a limited season, though it may flow longer than the others due to its dam-released water source. This gorgeous reach starts near US Highway 40/189 and flows through the Uinta National Forest as it approaches Deer Creek Reservoir. Wasatch Mountains State Park and Deer Creek State Park offer excellent camping opportunities near the bottom of this run.
Wasatch County of northcentral Utah, about 30 minutes from Provo and 90 minutes from Salt Lake City. US Highway 40/189 nearly parallels the river along most of this run, though not close enough to be bothersome.
Provo 35 miles; Salt Lake City 40 miles; Grand Junction 280 miles; Denver 526 miles; Durango 393 miles; Albuquerque 600 miles; Phoenix 635 miles; Oklahoma City 1,091 miles; Dallas 1,247 miles; Austin 1,211 miles; San Antonio 1,324 miles; Houston 1,432 miles; Little Rock 1,428 miles; Kansas City 1,095 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Water quality in the Provo River is generally clean, clear and cold flowing from the dam at Jordanelle Reservoir. There is usually adequate flow for paddling, though the river may not be navigable during periods of prolonged drought.
Due to winter temperatures the best time to paddle the Provo River is late-March through June and late-September through October, though the river may be navigable during other seasons, as well.
Below Jordanelle Dam there are numerous Class I to IV rapids that can pose difficulties for boaters, especially those with less experience. The cold water temperatures, seasonal air temperatures and general remoteness combine with the rapids to make paddling the Provo a place to be careful, though none of the hazards are particularly dangerous to competent boaters at or below normal flows. Paddlers in canoes and kayaks should have solid intermediate or higher level whitewater skills to safely and successfully navigate the Provo River.
Campground facilities are available at several state parks and USFS campgrounds on or very near the Provo River, including: Jordanelle State Park (435-649-9540), offering 4 campgrounds in two camping areas with facilities for tent camping, modern restrooms with showers, a restaurant, a marina store, boat fuel, 2 laundromats, 3 group-use pavilions, 41 day-use cabanas and other amenities; Deer Creek State Park (435-654-0171), offering 14 tent sites (May - September), 58 RV sites, modern restrooms with showers and other amenities; Wasatch Mountains State Park (435-654-1791), open April through October, offering 57 tent sites, 139 RV sites, modern restrooms with showers and other amenities; Shingle Creek Campground (USFS), Beaver Creek Campground (USFS) and Rockport State Park. Visit the Utah State Parks web site for additional information, reservations, etc.
There are no known outfitters or liveries operating along the Provo River. Check with members of the Utah Whitewater Club, local paddlers, law enforcement agencies or sporting goods stores for information on available rentals and shuttle services, as well as river access.
If you are in the Provo or Salt Lake City area when the Provo River is flowing, then you might be fortunate enough to catch a really beautiful run on a moderate whitewater river where trout outnumber hazards by a significant margin. Anglers can combine paddling and camping with fishing for brown and rainbow trout that often are near record size. The surrounding area is simply gorgeous, yet it is surprisingly close to Utah's two major population centers. While access to the Upper Provo River is more limited due to private property restrictions there are great runs available on the Middle and Lower Provo almost any time there is a navigable flow from the dams at Jordanelle and Deer Creek Reservoirs. State parks and USFS campgrounds on or very near the river offer excellent camping opportunities to round out an exciting trip to Utah, and if you have been a good girl or boy, then you might also be treated to navigable flows in the Duchesne, Strawberry, Uinta or Whiterocks Rivers which feed the Green River just northwest of Ouray and a few miles east of the Provo River.