MISSION

DRBA promotes responsible recreational use and balanced flow management of the Dolores River, while working to protect the watershed for the health of the natural environment and the livelihood of future generations.

Recreate Responsibly. Covid-19 Boating Update.

DRBA offers the following recommendations based on the governor’s “Safer at Home” guidelines and our research and contact with many public land agencies, towns and counties where the Dolores flows.    

An important consideration is that the Dolores River runs through small towns and rural counties in Southwest Colorado and Southeast Utah, and many of these places do not have extensive medical facilities and have very few confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.  

Please follow local government recommendations. (links below)

  • If they request that you stay away, please respect these requests. 
  • Avoid stopping for supplies or fuel in these places.

The governor’s Safer at Home orders include the following guidelines that affect outdoor recreation:

  • Local and personal recreation outside OK when you can observe 6 feet of distance between participants and limit group sizes to 10 or fewer (walking, jogging). 
  • Outdoor recreation must be within one’s community and/or no further than 10 miles from residence.  

Private Property access is always off limits without permission from landowners.  Thus far the river stretches that are in BLM land will be open to camping, with the exception of the Utah Moab Field Office where camping is currently closed which includes all BLM land along the Dolores in Utah.  Public officials have told us clearly that if there are too many people congregating at access points they may be forced to close them to the public.  

Do not endanger yourself or others.  If you do go boating, only run sections close to home that are easy for you and below your normal skill level.  Stay sharp.  Don’t be the boater that has to call for help. Search and Rescue does not need additional risk this year. And don’t get hurt. Hospitals need to maintain space and supplies in the case of new local Covid cases. 

In the midst of this public health emergency, it may not be the best year to go boating. If you find yourself inclined to go boating, here are other recommendations to consider:  

  • Avoid high risk and remote areas.
  • If you have to ask for directions or look at a map, it’s too far.
  • Don’t congregate. This includes at the boat ramps, parking areas, on the river and after you are done (this concept was expressed by many public officials.)
  • Shuttling in the car with a boating partner you’re not already exposed to is not advised.
  • Boat and shuttle with family members, roommates or shelter-in-place partners that you have already and consistently been exposed to. Always maintain good social distancing and excellent hygiene.   
  • If you normally have to ask bystanders at the ramp for help getting your boat on or off your trailer, or dragging it to the river, then maybe your boat is too big this year.
  • If the stretch of river you want to run is a place you have not ever been before, then this is not the year to test it out.
  • Further, we recommend that you do your own due diligence and research public health orders and other restrictions for places you are considering traveling to and through.  
  • If local officials are asking you not to come into their area, then stay away. 
Be good stewards, practice Leave No Trace techniques, and be a smart, safe boater.
(posted 4/30/2020)

Many local governments have enacted their own restrictions and these will likely change over time. If you go boating, check with these local authorities on ever changing conditions and recommendations with respect to COVID-19. The following are the hyperlinks for the Sheriff’s offices and County and Regional Departments of Health of the Dolores watershed.

Many local governments have enacted their own restrictions and these will likely change over time. If you go boating, check with these local authorities on ever changing conditions and recommendations with respect to COVID-19. The following are the hyperlinks for the Sheriff’s offices and County and Regional Departments of Health of the Dolores watershed.

River flows

Boating the Dolores River is a unique and exciting experience.  Whether you are enjoying the upper Dolores on a day float to town, or if you have the opportunity to experience the lower Dolores River below McPhee Dam, you need to pay attention to flows. Stream flow gages along the Dolores will help you assess your options.  While the upper Dolores River flows are dependent on the natural hydrograph of snow runoff and precipitation, the lower Dolores River flows are dependent on both snowpack and the management of McPhee Reservoir. Be sure to check the stream flow gages before embarking on your river adventure, and please note that the lower Dolores River through the Dolores River WSA is a multi-day adventure.  For any multi-day trips on the lower Dolores, check in with the Dolores Water Conservancy District to find out if dam releases and flows will allow safe passage for the number of days you are planning on boating.

Flow Chart

Boating Safety
updated 05/28/20

River Use Requirements: On all stretches of the Dolores the BLM requests that you follow proper river etiquette.  Here are some requirements and expectations. At the launch, the group or permittee must have the following:

  • Private groups between Bradfield Bridge and Gypsum Valley Bridge are limited to 25 people/group
  • Private groups launching at Slickrock or Gypsum Valley Bridge are limited to 16 people/group through the Wilderness study Area
  • Do not camp near archaeological sites to protect resources
  • a first aid kit adequate for the size of the group and type(s) of activities, and sufficient for treating serious injuries
  • a repair kit or kits with adequate materials to repair the types of boats used on the trip,
  • an air pump or pumps adequate to inflate boats after repairs,
  • a washable, leak-proof, reusable toilet system that allows for the carry-out and disposal of solid human body waste in a responsible and lawful manner; the toilet system must be adequate for the size of the group and length of the trip. 
  • a durable metal fire pan at least 12 inches wide with at least a 1.5 inch lip around its outer edge and sufficient to contain fire and remains even if stoves are to be used for cooking
  • a fire blanket for use under the fire pan is recommended to facilitate total ash removal
  • a strainer for dishwater 
  • a “scrim” material is recommended for use as “kitchen” flooring 
  • properly-sized (whitewater type I, III, or V) life jackets in serviceable condition for each member of the group
  • each raft, dory, or canoe must have: an extra oar, paddle, or motor capable of maneuvering the vessel, and a bail bucket or bilge pump (does not apply to self-bailing boats).
  • parties using low capacity vessels (kayaks and inflatable kayaks) must carry one spare paddle for every three vessels
  • each boat 16 feet or longer must have a type IV throwable device or a commercially made rescue rope with at least 40 feet of line
  • dogs must be kept under control at all times and all dog waste must be carried out of the river area

Western rivers, no matter what the regulatory authority is, need our utmost effort to help in their preservation. We also need to boat safely. The following are additional safety and leave no trace expectations. 

  • Carry out all human (and dog) waste using an approved toilet system.
  • Urinate only in the river or in your designated pee bucket by the toilet, which then gets dumped in the river
  • Pack it in and then pack it out by carrying out all charcoal, fire ash, and garbage.
  • Keep side canyon streams, springs, and pools pristine and free of soap and other contaminants.
  • Make campfires only in fire pans. Bring your own firewood and limit wood gathering to driftwood found along river banks and beaches.
  • Carry whistles on your life jackets. The sound of a whistle will carry over the sound of a rapid better than your shouts. Have your group agree to emergency signals before you launch. 
  • Bring a spare PFD for every boat bigger than an inflatable kayak (IK). If all you have are IK’s, bring an extra PFD for every 5 people on your trip. 
  • Bring a Type IV throw-cushion and/or 40-foot throw-rope.
  • Bring a satellite phone, In-Reach, or SPOT device for emergency use and know how to use it responsibly. Many man-hours are wasted and the safety of rescuers is endangered every year through inadvertent or unthinking calls for assistance. Don’t be that person. 
  • Note the public land boundaries shown in this guide and respect private property.

Local and regional river ethics specific to the Dolores River are encouraged. As an un-permitted river in the age of industrial recreation, responsibility falls on the boating community to promote an enjoyable experience for everyone and minimize human conflicts.  When blessed with recreational flows the desire to run this precious river means a huge amount of use.  The river can handle this use when people utilize leave no trace ethics and adjust their trip planning and expectations. These ethics include the following:

  • If possible, plan your trip for the weekdays. The solitude will be worth it!  
  • Access points can be chaotic.  Communicate and cooperate. Move your gear out of the way. Launch or derig as quickly as possible. If you are rigged and waiting on your shuttle drivers to return, float downstream a bit to make room at the ramp. 
  • Avoid launching on Friday afternoon and Saturday mornings.  Perhaps plan to rig and launch in the evening and camp just a few miles downstream. 
  • Communicate cordially with other river runners about camping plans.
  • Leave large camps for larger groups. Plan on fitting lots of people into each camp. 
  • If your camp can accommodate other people, invite them to join you. Make new Dolores friends! 
  • Help others and be extra safe when landing your boat. In many places access to camps is in swift water, with steep cutbanks that can be covered in vegetation.  Safely landing a boat may require two people. Plan ahead. 
  • Consider planning to sleep on your raft. 
  • Don’t layover at a camp on the weekend.
  • Consider leaving your dogs at home, particularly on weekends when the impacts are highest.
  • When playing music, keep the volume low so only your camp can hear it.  Keep your dance party private!
  • Camps on the Dolores may be overgrown due to infrequent use.  If you are clearing vegetation to access a camp do so modestly and carefully. Cut vegetation so that sprigs don’t have a sharp angle that will poke rafts or feet.
  • The economic impact of recreational boating can have a huge impact on the local and rural economies.  Please be courteous and spend your money in the communities along the Dolores River.

Campsites on the Dolores may be overgrown due to infrequent use. This is particularly the case at the beginning of a rafting season that follows a year or more of no recreational releases from McPhee Reservoir.  The sites shown in this guide are those that are most commonly used and were cataloged by the BLM and verified in recent years.  At first glance from the river, they may not appear to be camps at all. None of these camps can be reserved and are first come, first served. Please do not send a single boat down river to snag a camp. Leave each camp in better condition than you found it.  Do not build structures or leave piles of driftwood used as firewood. Not all campsites in this guide may be usable at all water levels.  For the purposes of this guide, a small camp can accommodate 2-3 rafts and 4-6 people.  A large camp can accommodate the max number of people in a group allowed by the regulations of that river stretch.  As noted above, in many places access to camps is in swift water, with steep cut banks that can be covered in vegetation.  Safely landing a boat may require two people. Plan ahead.

Dolores River shuttle services
updated 06/06/19

Dolores River Boating Advocates (DRBA) provides this information as a public service.  Prior to using any shuttle service, it is your responsibility to check that your insurance covers shuttle services and confirm that the shuttle providers have the correct insurance and are permitted by the BLM to operate shuttle services.

Dolores River Shuttle Service
Shuttle service for all stretches of the Dolores River
Located in Dove Creek, CO
Jamie Huskey 970-677-2301 or 970-739-4561
Torie Davis 970-560-1475
summerskye72@hotmail.com

Bedrock Shuttle Service
Shuttle all stretches from Bradfield to Bedrock.
Located in Bedrock, CO
Jennifer and Mark 970-859-7441

Ramona’s Shuttle at Bedrock
Operates from Bradfield to Gateway.
Located in Bedrock, CO
Ramona 970-859-7445

Western Slope Rides
Shuttles from Bedrock to Moab on Dolores/Colorado Rivers, and from Naturita on the San Miguel River to Dolores River
970-626-5121
info@goWSR.com

Wolfs River Shuttle Services
Operates from Bradfield to Gateway
Located at Bedrock, CO
Wolf Nentwich 970-428-7278