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The Complete Guide to River Rafting the Provo River

The Provo River is one of the most popular rivers in Utah, and for good reason. Winding its way through mountains, the Provo River is truly a beautiful sight and a great place to fish. It’s known as a blue ribbon trout stream and draws thousands of anglers to its waters every year. It’s also the closest river to both the Salt Lake and Provo/Orem metropolitan areas. 

When summer rolls around, families and groups of friends flock to the Provo River, usually in Provo Canyon, to swim, float, and raft the Provo River. Floating a river can be challenging if you don’t know what to expect and how to stay safe. We’ve put together a complete guide to Rafting the Provo River, including how to stay safe, which outfitters offer guided trips, where to find gear, and even specific put-in and take-out spots. This is a must-read before any Provo River rafting trip!

Safety Information
Outfitters
Self-Guided Trips
Put-In & Take-Out Spots
Trip Length
Rental Locations
Class II and III Sections of the Provo River

Safety Information

Check Water Conditions

The condition of the Provo River changes each year, so make sure there isn’t any significant flooding or a large CFS flow rate, especially if you’re coming from relatively far away. You can check the flow rate for the section of the Provo you’ll be floating here. The ideal range for floating is between 300 and 900 cubic feet per second (CFS). Any more than that and it gets more dangerous; any less and floating becomes difficult in places. 

Wear a Life Jacket

It should go without saying, but always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) while on the water, especially if you aren’t a strong swimmer or used to swimming in rivers. Even if you are a strong swimmer, the current of the river makes it dangerous and unpredictable.

Additional Safety Information

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Stay Warm

The Provo River takes a while to warm up. The most popular stretch of the River in Provo Canyon is fed by water at the bottom of Deer Creek Reservoir, which means it stays cool longer. Even on hot days in early summer, the water in the river can be chillingly cold. If you’re planning on visiting the river before July, you might want to consider a wetsuit. Even with warm air temperatures, cold water can easily lead to hypothermia.

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Avoid Cuts and Bruises

Provo River is full of sharp rocks, sticks, and other debris. When tubing in particular, be careful not to scrape your body against the riverbed or float into sharp sticks or submerged logs. Some of this is unavoidable, but the majority of injuries, both large and small, can be avoided by being careful.

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Be Extra Careful Rafting with Children

Rafting is a fun family activity, but make sure your children or the children in your group know the dangers and take precautions to stay safe. Consider using a raft, kayak, or tube that allows children to raft with adults or tethering their tubes to an adult’s tube. Very little children should not participate in river rafting on the Provo River.

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Go Around Wildwood Railroad Bridge, Not Under

The most dangerous part of the Deer Creek float is the Wildwood railroad bridge. The bridge spans a part of the river that makes a natural sharp curve. At the same time, the tresses of the bridge make narrow passages, and collision with the wooden tresses is very likely. This can lead to serious injury and has caused ruptured tubes, cuts, and even broken bones. The current is strong under the bridge and has even led to near drownings. There is a portage on the right side of the river before the bridge that outfitters recommend taking to skirt the dangerous bridge. There are even petitions seeking to replace this bridge with something safer.

Outfitters

If you want the fun of river rafting without the headache of packing and inflating tubes or rafts and shuttling everyone from the put-in to the take-out, consider scheduling a guiding rafting trip with one of the several outfitters guiding on the Provo River. These outfitters also often have private put-ins and take-outs that the public can’t access.

High Country Adventure

As one of the most popular outfitters, High Country Adventure offers three different methods of traveling the Provo River: tube, raft, and kayak. This outfitter has all the equipment needed to have a safe and fun time on the river. They even offer an optional BBQ meal on the shores of the river. For pricing and additional information, check their website.

What’s Included

  • Shuttle
  • PFDs
  • Tube/raft/kayak
  • River navigation
  • Cooler tubes available for an additional fee (you bring the cooler)
  • Wetsuit and river booties available for rental at checkout
  • Small paddles available behind check-in office near life-jackets

What to Bring

  • River sandals/shoes that strap to your feet (flip-flop sandals highly discouraged)
  • Long-sleeve to reduce scratches and inner arm chafing
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses

Pro Rafting Tours

This outfitter also offers tubing, rafting, and kayaking on the Provo River, promising to beat the competition’s price by a minimum of a dollar per person in the group. To see exact prices and other relevant details, check out their website. This outfitter can easily take large groups of people or multiple smaller groups.

What’s Included

  • Tube, kayak, or raft
  • Paddles (if applicable)
  • PFD
  • Shuttle service to put-in location
  • Wetsuits (as needed based on weather)

What to Bring

  • Water bottle, sunscreen, and lip protection
  • A shade hat
  • Sunglasses with a secure strap
  • Swimsuit and quick-drying shirt and shorts
  • River sandals with straps or sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet
  • Dry towel, clothes and shoes for after your trip
  • Cash for trip guide gratuity
  • Optional: waterproof camera with an attached securing strap and flotation device

Provo Canyon Outfitters

This is the company that operates from the large area just below Vivian Park. They’ve been operating along the Provo river for decades. What started as a campground slowly turned into a rafting and tubing operation. They don’t have a website, but you can learn more about them here.

What’s Included

  • Tube or raft
  • Personal floatation device
  • PFD
  • Shuttle service to put-in location
  • Parking at take-out location

What to Bring

  • Water bottle, sunscreen
  • Shade hat
  • Swimsuit shorts
  • River sandals with straps or sneakers you can get wet
  • Dry towel, clothes and shoes for after your trip

Self Guided Trips

If you’d rather float the river at your own pace, consider doing a self-guided trip. A self-guided trip is when you use the equipment and shuttle services of an outfitter but don’t have a guide from the outfitter with you on the water. This is a good option for those who are more experienced, are great swimmers, or want to save time or money during the float. The outfitters also take care of the shuttling service, making sure you’ll have a ride to the put-in spot and won’t have to coordinate different vehicles and make multiple trips. Most outfitters offer a self-guided option for those interested.

Put-In & Take-Out Spots

The most popular put-in spot is Deer Creek State Park, Lower Provo River Area. Heading east on highway 189, take a right onto Lower Deer Creek Road, stay left, then take the first right. You’ll end up in a parking lot right next to the river. There are vault toilets for your convenience as well. 

There are several parking areas along the river. Most are relatively close to the underground tunnel near the turn-off to Sundance. Those looking for shorter floats can put in at one of these places for a quick float back to the take-out spot down river.

The most popular takeout spot is Vivian Park. The land just before and after the park is private property, so make sure you exit the river just before or just after the bridge at Vivian Park on the left side of the river. There’s no great place to exit, but the shoreline near the parking lot has several spots that are doable.

Trip Length

The trip between the most common put-in and take-out spot is about 5.5 river miles. Depending on the condition of the river and whether you’re kayaking or tubing, the trip can take anywhere from 1.5 to three hours. Two hours is the average time it takes to complete the float. If you’re doing a longer stretch of the river or continuing to the mouth of Provo Canyon, plan for more time.

Rental Locations

If you’re looking to make the trip without a guide or outfitter, here are a few locations where you can rent rafting equipment.

BYU Outdoors Unlimited: Equipment is rented from their location near BYU. Rentals last the entire day, which means you can spend all day on the river if you want.

High Country Adventure: Rent equipment at their base of operations on the Provo river. 

Class II and III Sections of the Provo River

Most floaters and tubers get out near Vivian Park because it’s the last convenient takeout spot before entering sections of the river that are much rougher and narrower. The upper parts of the river have class I rapids, but lower sections with more of a steep descent are rated class II and III. These sections are usually tackled in rafts designed for whitewater. These lower sections of the river are only passable with higher flows, so double check the CFS and maybe scout out the conditions before attempting some of these more advanced runs. 

The class II and III sections of the river can be floated in a tube, but it is not recommended; only the most brave or foolish attempt this. There are several low bridges you may have to contend with as well. If this is something you’d like to do, consider going with an outfitter first. Here’s a map that details a route with put-in and take-out spots.

Living in Orem means you’ll have access to the best of both worlds: shopping, restaurants, and entertainment and the beauty of nature on two sides! If you’re looking for a place to call home in the Provo/Orem area, consider checking out The Exton at University Place Apartments.

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