The Cisco to Moab section of the Colorado River is run by boaters much less than other sections of the river. After exiting Westwater Canyon the Colorado River slows down significantly and begins a slow course through wide flat valleys for 11 miles passing through private ranch lands and braided islands. The lack of camping, calm water and private lands between Cisco and the Dolores River deter the adrenaline powered boaters of Westwater Canyon and offers unmatched river solitude within the Colorado River watershed. For those who stand at takeouts and stare longingly downstream, wanting to continue traveling with the river, the Cisco to Moab section is an absolute must.
The first eleven miles of this trip has little opportunity for shade, whitewater or camping but after leaving the hordes of whitewater boaters and perhaps most of your trip participants at Cisco Landing, the quiet solitude and expansive views can be quite relaxing. As the blood returns to your white knuckles a true river experience envelops boaters as boating becomes a mode of travel rather than a recreational opportunity. Highway 128 comes into view after 10 miles and the river enters into the scenic canyon many boaters have seen from the road to Moab. The canyon narrows and within 2 miles the Dolores River enters on river left, cutting through Entrada Sandstone cliffs. Soon boaters pass under first the historic Dewey Bridge, then the new Dewey Bridge and a possible Take-out, Put-in or camp site.
The next 6 miles offers classic, towering red rock canyons with potential campsites along the right bank of the river. Excited honks and waves from passing vehicles remind boaters that floating to Moab is the only way to travel. As the canyon widens commercial trips, river guides and other private boaters begin to fill the river at the Day-Trip put in and river culture permeates. The 23 river miles to Moab offers class II-III whitewater, red rock canyons, views of fisher towers and the La Sal Mountains and excellent, though popular, campsites. This trip is an experience in river travel and boaters are rewarded with ice cream, hamburgers and cold drinks upon arrival in Moab.The Cisco To Moab section offers wonderful opportunities for wildlife. Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Red Tail Hawks, Great Blue Herons and the rarely seen but often heard Canyon Wren are common along this stretch of the Colorado. Heron rookeries may be seen along the banks with large nests guarded by vigilant parents. The evening brings flocks of Violet-Green Swallows and White Throated Swifts. The Matheson Wetlands Preserve west of Moab provides habitat for many migratory and nesting birds which may also be seen along the river. Keeping open eyes, ears and field guides will ensure a positive wildlife experience for any boater.
The geology of this section is majestic, varied and second to none. From Cisco Landing to the point where highway 128 meets the river at Sagers Wash, the Morrison Formation of shale, siltstone and sandstone dominates the geologic strata. Other groups along this section include Dakota Sandstone, Cedar Mountain Formation, Kayenta Formation, Mancos Shale and Entrada Sandstone. The confluence with the Dolores River brings narrower canyons and more diversified geology. Navajo Sandstone, Kayenta Formation, Wingate Sandstone, Chinle Formation, Moenkopi Formation and Cutler Group Undivided can all be seen at or near river level from the Dolores confluence to the boat ramp in Moab. The Fisher Towers seen from the river are comprised mainly of the Cutler Group topped with Moenkopi Formation caps and offer spectacular views backed by the distant La Sal Mountains. The extreme diversity of the strata along this section can be hard to digest and a river guide with good geology notes improves the experience for those interested in rock identification.
Any river runner would be thrilled to experience this section of the Colorado River, and those who have traveled highway 128 to Moab will enjoy taking in the majestic scenery from the river level. The river culture, wildlife, geology and the ability to raft to Moab make this an unforgettable experience for boaters of all skill levels.