Fall foliage with a blue overlay

Through the Gates of Lodore

February 6, 2024

Hi, Betsy here. I’m the Marketing Manager here at NOC and a long- time adventurer. I’m excited to share with you my first experience on a whitewater rafting trip west of the Mississippi! So come along with me on a 5-day Women’s Wellness Trip as we paddle and explore the Green River through Dinosaur National Park and the Gates of Lodore. 

Day 1 – Omg, what was I thinking? 

Arriving at the put-in, you already feel like you are miles away from anywhere. As I looked up at the towering quartzite cliffs above the bank on the Green River, I couldn’t believe I was about to embark on a 5-day river journey. Most of my whitewater trips were a few hours or maybe a day! I felt a mix of nerves and excitement as our guides made introductions and provided a safety briefing on the beach. Did I offer to hop into a duckie with someone I just met for the first leg of the trip?! Of course, I did; this would be an adventure! My doubts about this life choice dissolved as Megan, my new paddling partner and I got into a rhythm. I knew then, this was going to be an incredible trip.  

The Gates of Lodore welcomed us with the most breathtaking canyon I’ve ever witnessed. The towering red walls, which I estimated to be about 40 stories high, seemed to touch the sky. Our double duckie synchronization with the river grew with each rapid and the experience of scouting Disaster Falls and rafting through it was exhilarating. The evening culminated in a serene campsite by the river, where the camaraderie with the other women was palpable. From setting up tents to enjoying a sumptuous dinner of salmon, asparagus, and rice pilaf, every moment of the first day felt unreal. 

After the first day on the river, I was sure the Gates of Lodore would live up to its legendary reputation and that my goal was to embrace every opportunity to bask in the warm sun rays, take a dip in the river or a creek, join the hikes, and make a connection against the backdrop of the ever-changing natural beauty of the canyon’s walls.  

As we settled into our first night’s camp, with only my backpack in tow, I contemplated the items inside as we continued to distance ourselves from civilization. I followed the packing list, I checked the weather and did my research, but somehow, I overpacked, I had a lot of stuff. Additional layers for every part of my body, even a straw hat! (Ironically, dragging the hat across the US and down the river would end up leading to its demise.) As I sunk into my sleeping bag, my anticipation and anxiety faded away. I realized that if I had forgotten anything, it was now in the past, as we were paddling forward, and sleep came quickly! 

Mornings in the Canyon 

Waking up to the sight of the canyon walls bathed in the golden hue of sunrise was magical. Our days began with some beach stretching, yoga, and a delightful breakfast of French toast and fresh fruit. As we rafted down the river, the changing rock formations and the occasional rain shower added to the charm. Experiencing breathtaking scenery every day felt straight out of a movie. The way the sunlight transformed the walls of the canyon and created mesmerizing and ever-changing shadows is indescribable. We could not help but point out each formation and the features of the canyon as we floated through. Even when we stopped to scout some Class III rapids, we felt like true adventurers of the canyon and crew as we supported our guides in whatever lie ahead. 

I didn’t have to cook for 5 DAYS. 

As the person in my household who decides what we eat, shops for it, prepares it and then usually ends up eating it for the following three days… the food was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip! As an avid backpacker, I was expecting simple trail food… peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oatmeal (ew), “stew”. I was surprised and delighted by the hearty meals completely prepared by our guides. I knew these culinary luxuries in such a remote location was a feat and I greatly appreciated it. Hot breakfast every morning, a fresh riverside lunch and each night, a delicious meal complete with dessert! There was always enough and more to go around. Lasagna night was the HIT of the week. Plus, the views were always a bonus, adding to the overall five-star experience. 


It was more than just great rafting! 

I love whitewater, and boy, is it fun, but the slow pace of the river in between was where I saw the magic happen. It allowed meotters, horned sheep, foxes, and more. As we paddled down the Green, we were captivated by the ever-changing landscape and its giant rock formations, all of it unlike anything I have ever seen in real life. Lots of water splashed into my huge grin! 

The river led us through Echo Park, where we screamed our dreams at the echo wall and gazed at the petroglyphs and pictographs, images, and carvings over millions of years old. Like the fountain of youth, it makes you feel young. 😉 The confluence of the Yampa and Green River was a sight to behold, the clear water and temperature difference blending as the rivers flowed on. 

One morning, I had no intention of going on the optional morning hike. I wanted to snuggle in my sleeping bag for as long as I could. But after going to bed early I needed to hit the groover (i.e., restroom in the woods) early in the morning. I decided to sneak across the campsite towards the river. There, I was spotted and saw others waiting for ladies to join the group hike. Since I was already up, I let them talk me into another adventure and thought, “why not?”. The hike ended up being less than half a mile round trip, and it was steep. However, the view at the top made it completely worth it. I literally woke up like this!  

On our fourth day, we didn’t raft but stayed at the same campsite for two nights. The layover camp provided a break from packing and unpacking our tents, so we felt settled in. It also gave us more time to relax or hike! Some ladies decided to stay back and relax on the beach while we took a hike to Ely Creek Falls. Now, we lovingly refer to it as Butt-Dam Falls! No one missed the opportunity to sit under the waterfall and in great anticipation wait for the absolute rush of the cold water over your entire body! The hike was a testament to the region’s rich history, evident from the pictographs and ancient seashells embedded in the rocks we passed by and the canyon we ventured through. 

The Last Day 

Packing up on our last day and heading out of the canyon, with reality looming ahead, I was determined to squeeze in one final adventure, something risky! With a tinge of sadness at the end of this incredible journey, I decided to try paddleboarding on moving water for some added fun! Eventually I confirmed my initial assumption that I would swim while attempting but loved it no less! I took the opportunity to cherish the last few miles of the river from a raft. Once we reached the takeout and unloaded, we visited the fossil excavation site at Dinosaur National Monument, marking the perfect conclusion to our adventure.  

Ready For The Next One! 

This trip was amazing. I connected with so many wonderful women whom I had more in common with than I ever expected on my first solo adventure trip. Being able to disconnect from the world, to connect over an open fire with others, getting the beta on life or scouting the next rapid ahead. During the journey back home to the southeast, a few thoughts came to me about this trip, and I wanted to extend this advice: Go, go, and embrace the beauty of the canyon and seize unforgettable experiences at whatever age. As the youngest among ten remarkable women on this journey, I couldn’t help but question why we might delay indulging ourselves in such incredible opportunities. We shouldn’t miss out on the ever-changing allure of the canyon, the mesmerizing wildlife, and the life-changing experiences it holds. Who knows what thrilling adventures await once we fully embrace new encounters? 

I arrived back in NC, overflowing with gratitude, excitement, and reverence for this beautiful area and the amazing people who shared this journey with me, it was truly an inspiring and memorable experience. 


Stay cool and comfortable with these handy tricks I learned on my first trip out West!  

  • Stay refreshed easily with this simple trick! Dip your shirt in cold water during warm hikes or river rides and let it slowly dry on your skin to keep cool. Don’t forget to bring a sarong or breathable layer to make the most of the dry climate. 
  • Keep your tent sand-free with this clever tip! Since your sleeping pads double as rafting seats, they may get wet or sandy. Place your camp pad under your tent to prevent sand from getting inside. This way, you can enjoy a clean-er and comfortable sleep. 
  • Keep the environment clean and go with the flow! When nature calls, it’s okay to pee in the river. Dilution is the solution to pollution. The groover, for other “duties” was a beautiful and pleasant stroll to a secluded area, most of the time with a view! Everything you need is provided for your convenience. 😊 

Check out these full-size photos from the trip:

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