Driving from E.C. Manning to Vancouver takes you through the little town of Hope. Hope has a special place in my heart after our weekend there. The community is friendly, the camping spots are beautiful, and there are some sweet Othello Tunnels to visit for sightseeing. Make sure you visit in the summer so you can enjoy a concert in the park as well.
This is the view from our camping spot in Hope. We were right on the river (nearly all spots are right on the river). Loved this area!
These are my cute boys sitting enjoying the view as the sun gets ready to set. Ignore the super messy trailer in the background. I’d like to say that is not normally how it looks, but that is almost always how it looks. Pretty sad for the organizing queen…sigh.
This halfway eccentric photo of us with the Vancouver band, ‘The Pretties” is how Hope won my heart. All summer long Hope hosts “Concerts In The Park” on both Saturday and Sunday. We came through Hope in August and caught the very last concert in the park. The Pretties were great, sort of punk rock style. They even welcomed a photo with us to document Seth’s first concert. We then entered this photo in the “Hope Concerts In The Park Photo Contest”, and because of little baby Seth and the tie-dye shirt, we took 2nd place!
Now for those Othello Tunnels.
These easy to access tunnels run through a canyon, on the side of a gorgeous blue green river, and were a crazy feat to create since they are carved into sheer cliff faces. There are 4 tunnels in all. 3 are connected with bridges.
It’s really cool to stand in front of one tunnel and look through to the next. 2 of the Othello Tunnels are so long you can’t easily see out the other side. You may even want to bring a flashlight for the longest tunnel. We used our phones for light.
Floating the Provo River in Utah is a favorite activity for a hot summer day. The Provo River within Provo Canyon is coming from the bottom of Deer Creek Reservoir, so the water is really cold. This means that you want the outside temperature to be hot hot, and for any fishermen, the fishing is great! The water has a few light rapid areas, but nothing that requires technical skills.
Short Version Details
The best place to float the Provo River (in Provo Canyon) is by starting just below the dam, 4 miles past (Northeast of) Vivian Park, turning off highway 189 onto Lower Deer Creek Road. You get out of the river at or just before Vivian Park (approximately 4 miles of river). The total floating time is usually an hour or less. Life jackets are required, and be prepared for cold water. No technical skills needed for this section of the Provo River.
Best Time To Go
I have been floating the Provo River a few times a year for over a decade, and I have to tell you, over the years it has become an increasingly popular summer activity. Saturdays in the summer between 12 and 3 are the busiest times for floating the Provo; you will have a hard time finding a parking spot. I would recommend going in the afternoon any day of the week, or in the middle of the day during work days.
What To Bring
Shoes that can get wet. I like Chacos or Tevas; sandals with straps around your heel. Slip on water shoes are also great for the Provo River. Flip flops are not suggested since they are easily swept away by the current of the water when you get in, get out, or flip.
Water & Chapstick. Like any other water activity, you can get dehydrated quickly without realizing it. I suggest bringing a water bottle with a strap or clip so it doesn’t float away if you flip.
Sunscreen. You will be out in the sun for an hour or two.
A Life Jacket. It’s a law that you must wear a life jacket when you float the Provo. Although I have never been checked, I have heard of people getting tickets for not wearing life jackets.
Something to Float On. You will see everything on the river from kayaks, tubes and rafts, to canoes, duckies, and even air mattresses. Each floatation device gives you a different experience on the river. Checkout the Other River Options section below for my comments on each floatation device.
If you need to pump up inflatable kayaks or tubes, plan 15-20 minutes based on how many you have and what type of pumps you have. Once you get on the river, you will be floating 2-6 mph, so the 4 mile stretch will take you 45 minutes to an hour to float. Once you get out at Vivian Park, you will likely need to have some members of your group wait at the park while your drivers go back to the top to pick up your drop-off vehicle. The drive to the top takes around 7 minutes, so expect your drivers back in around 15-20 minutes based on traffic. The total adventure should be around 1-2 hours from beginning to end at Vivian park.
Getting To The Provo River Launch Area
There are two options for getting there. The first is to shuttle yourself. The second option is to park at Vivian Park and take a shuttle to the drop off.
How To Shuttle Yourself
You will want to have 2 vehicles, one to drop people off at the top and one to pick up your drop-off car when you are done. Start by leaving your pick up car (the pick up car only needs to hold the car drivers) at Vivian Park (approximately 5.6 miles up Provo Canyon). Then pack all the river go-ers in your drop-off car and head up the canyon (HWY 189) toward Deer Creek. You will be getting off the highway onto Lower Deer Creek Road, 4 miles past Vivian Park. If you crossed the dam, you went too far.
Getting to Vivian Park from the bottom of Provo Canyon is around 5.6 miles. Going from Vivian Park to the drop off for floating the Provo River (Little Deer Creek Circle Road-ish) is around 4 miles.
There are two main places you can get into the Provo River. The further North option gives you a few hundred yards of warm up on the river before going through your first bridge. I like to start new floaters at this spot because this is a good practice bridge since it has 3 areas you can go through, 2 supports for the bridge in the water creating 3 channels. The next bridge you go through isn’t for a few miles, but is a little tougher. With both bridges, it is a good idea to hug the right side of the river. The right side on both bridges has the slower, calmer water.
The second bridge you come to is a little past the half way point and is just after a bend in the river so the current pushes you strongly to the left side of the river. The easiest way to go under the bridge is by staying to the right as much as possible. This second bridge has 4 supports, creating 5 channels. I prefer to go through the 2nd from the right. The further right you go, the calmer the water. When I go down the river I see many tubers who get out a little before the bridge, then walk around it, instead of going through it. If you choose to go through it, you will see why. There are often popped tubes bent around the bridge supports or stuck to the walls of the supports.
Near the end of the river run you will come to “The Rock” or “Monsen’s Rock” which is a large rock in the middle of the river that many people will stop at and jump off of. This rock has been in the river a long time, so the water has dug out just beyond the rock, making the depth between 7 and 10 feet deep depending on how high the river is running. The current is strong around the rock so once you hit the water, you will be immediately pushed around 10 feet down stream. That’s what makes this rock so much fun. You’ll have to swim against the current sideways to get to shore after you jump in. Don’t worry, you can’t miss this rock in the summer. There are always people there, often with people waiting to time their splash for tubers floating by.
Getting out. After the rock you have a calm, but deceptively fast flowing portion of the river that is relatively straight. You will see the concrete bridge where you enter Vivian Park. Once you can see the bridge, you can get out anywhere on the left of the river that you feel comfortable before the bridge. If you wait until after the bridge you can still get out, it is just much more marshy upon exit.
Other River Options
My family loves to take inflatable kayaks on the river. They give you the feel of tubes without sitting in cold, butt-numbing water the entire time, and also allow you to steer your way through the bridges and avoid any low hanging branches.
Here are some other common options:
Hard Kayaks. Very fun options to take. The ‘rapids’ aren’t so bad that you need to know how to Eskimo roll, but they are fun enough that they give the average go-er a little thrill.
Tubes. If you have the option between a tire tube, a snow tube or a boating tube, take the boating tube. Tire tubes and snow tubes pop easily, especially with hidden branches and debris in the water. Boating tubes usually have a protective cover, and they also are large enough that you don’t have to be partly in the freezing water the whole time.
Tube Rentals. There is a tubing company, High Country Adventure, who rents out boating tubes and will shuttle you up. You don’t have a guide, they just drop you off, send you on your way, and you return the tube at the bottom.
Canoes. These are one of the faster options when floating the Provo. I don’t love taking canoes mostly because it is much more difficult to get in and out with a large canoe, but I have done it, so it is doable.
Rafts. I don’t suggest rafts (4 person rafts or larger) because the Provo river is a tame river and the ‘rapids’ aren’t large enough to make a raft experience exciting.
Air Mattresses or Pool Floaties. You must be a very adventurous person to take an air mattress or pool floaty down the river. You will be very cold, and will be fighting with the river the entire way. That said, there are always people taking pool floaties and air mattresses down. I have seen one very successful air mattress trip I should make note of. The group had a king size air mattress with a queen size air mattress on top, and they brought paddles. They were able to fit 2 guys, 2 girls who were laying out getting sun, and 1 dog all comfortably on top. They seemed to be riding in style and comfort.
You can also enhance your Provo Floating experience by bringing some extra toys and luxury items.
Water Gun. There will be some locals that will spray you or members of your group with their hoses and water guns. It’s nice to have a water gun ready to fight back, or even just spray your group members when you feel that they are getting too hot.
A Cooler. You may see some ingenious floaters who tie a leash to a tub that they float behind them, which has a cooler wedged in it. This allows you to bring snacks or other cold refreshments to enjoy on the river or when you finish.
Nerf Balls. You can play tag or ‘keep-away’ with Nerf balls since they can be full of water and will still float so you won’t lose them.