Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float
Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float
Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Since 1977 we have been sharing the joys of river canoeing and desert camping with a small group of students one weekend at a time.  This trip is perfect for first time canoeists.

We will paddle and float 32 miles of the “Lower” Colorado River finishing just north of Yuma, AZ.

Putting in on the California side we will meander past desert mountain scenery under clear skies enjoying a slower pace to life.  We will often “raft-up” by tying the canoes together to enjoy lunch or snacks and take stretch breaks along sand bars. 

The current on this flat water section of the Colorado River fluctuates between 3 and 6 miles per hour providing us with the pleasure of observing a diversity of migratory birds and waterfowl.

“Trip was great and I met a bunch of great funny people, I loved the scenery. It was long and tiring but I feel very accomplished with myself!”

“This was one of the most fulfilling outdoor experiences I have ever participated in.  From start to finish.  I fully enjoyed meeting all the leaders and members of the group.  I will remember this trip forever in my heart”.

“I honestly am so happy I did this! I was definitely nervous at first because I’m not that good of a camper but I caught on.  My favorite part was sleeping under the stars because I had never done that before and it was a whole new experience. I had so much fun!!!”

“Absolutely great time, will never forget, just like out of a good book”


Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Pre-Trip Meeting

Pre-Trip Meetings are required and are held the Monday, the week of your trip, from 6-7:30pm in the AMC rooms, right outside the ARC. You will meet the leaders and other trip members, as well as cover all details such as weather, menu, safety issues, and clothing requirements. You will also be issued all of your equipment at this time (sleeping bags, pad, tent, etc.).

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Day 1: Departing on Friday at 5:00pm, we will stop at a locally owned restaurant in El Centro, CA for dinner.  Then it’s on to Walter’s Camp, by 10pm, for our first night sleeping on the River.  Walter’s Camp is very primitive, but has decent bathroom facilities a short walk from our sleeping area.  Like many desert trips we provide the choice of sleeping under the stars or in tents. 

Day 2: Wake up to the sunrise early Saturday morning.  We will be facing east and the horizon is low over the River.  First, breakfast will be enjoyed overlooking the river and then your trip leaders will take you through a tutorial of everything dealing with canoeing. Proper paddling strokes and on water safety will be the primary focus.  Once canoes are loaded, the sixteen mile paddle down river toward Carrizo “Boat-In” Camp begins.  We will enjoy exploring an old miner’s cabin and many scenic views along the way.  Rafting up for lunch there is plenty of time to socialize and relax while floating towards camp.  Once at camp we will unload all gear, secure the canoes and prepare dinner together.   Afterwards we can take a sunset hike to explore the area and of course enjoy a campfire and S’mores to wrap up a great day.

Day 3: Another sunrise wake-up call from the east or Arizona side of the River.  After a filling Sunday breakfast we will restore our campsite leaving no trace.  Canoes are then loaded and we hit the water for another 16 miles of floating and paddling.  The River will widen after six miles and we may encounter windy conditions that will either speed or slow our pace.  Either way, we usually take out at Martinez Lake where we store our canoes and pick up our van that was shuttled down river by their helpful staff the day before.  If we are off the river by 3:00pm we usually get back to SDSU before 8pm.

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Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Packing List

We are limited on space, and the less stuff you bring, the less you have to carry around. Ask yourself…What would I want in the coldest weather or the hottest weather? Pack to be prepared for both!

Things that should be packed inside your personal day pack and kept with you inside the van:

  • Small day pack
  • Money for road meals
  • A warm layer
  • Headlamp
  • Travel size pillow
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Camera


  • Sunglasses w/retainer strap
  • Personal stuff- extra contact lenses, chap-stick, sunscreen, baby wipes, baby powder, ear plugs, hand lotion, medications you usually take…
  • 2 durable crush proof one liter water bottles or a hydration pack
  • Toilet paper in a Ziploc bag
  • Small, lightweight fast drying camp towel


  • Wide brimmed shade hat
  • Beanie/ stocking cap
  • Bandana
  • Cotton or synthetic blend hiking shirt (breathable layer)
  • Cotton or synthetic camp shirt (a clean shirt to wear at camp)
  • Synthetic Long Sleeve Top(s) – Polypro, Capilene, or polyester.
  • Fleece jacket or sweatshirt
  • Sports bra
  • Windbreaker
  • Rash guard
  • Nylon shorts
  • Bathing Suit
  • Light weight long pants/ cotton or synthetic hiking pants
  • Rain Pants (Aztec Adventures can provide this if you don’t have your own!)
  • Sweatpants
  • Underwear
  • Synthetic long underwear (top & bottom)
  • Gloves
FEET: No Flip Flops!!!!
  • Tennis or Hiking shoes with good ankle support
  • Socks
  • Water Shoes:  Sport Sandals with secure ankle straps or old pair of tennis shoes.   

Personal Equipment Provided by Aztec Adventures:

  • 0 or 20˚ sleeping bag and Thermarest sleeping pad
  • Ground Tarp
  • Tent with rain fly (sleeps 2-3)
  • Head lamp
  • Camp chair
  • Rain gear (if you don’t have your own)
  • Coffee mug, bowl, and utensils
  • Waterproof Pack Bag: to hold all of the above items PLUS your personal gear and clothes
  • Spray Jacket

Group Equipment that Aztec Adventures will provide:

  • Expedition First Aid Kit Ground Tarp
  • Stoves, fuel and all cooking gear-pots, pans, utensils, spice kit etc.
  • Repair kit for tents, stoves, packs, etc.
  • Water bags -2+ gallon bags for camp use
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts
  • Satellite Phone
  • Climbing equipment: including climbing shoes
Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Physical Challenge

Paddling a canoe can be very strenuous for some because it requires the use of the entire upper body—not just one’s arms. All trip members must be confident in their swimming ability as there is always the possibility of a capsize. In addition, trip members will be carrying canoes and other gear up and down the river bank and launch ramp. From now until the trip begins, we highly encourage you to get in shape.

TRIP RATING 2 out of 3 – Should expect upwards of 16.5 miles of paddling a day, traveling for 7 hours, over flat water with occasional steady winds. Pace of travel is a relaxed cadence requiring someone to be in fair physical condition.

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Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Risks/ Hazards/ Safety

River temperature varies year round (60-80° F). Extended time in the water due to capsized canoe can lead to hypothermia (lowering of body’s core temperature). Other hazards include heat illnesses, dehydration, motorboats, high winds, desert plants and animals (rattlesnakes and scorpions are often observed on trips). Trip members must make a conscious effort to be safe.  This includes, but is not limited to avoid swimming in the strong current of the river, avoid wandering off by oneself, wear your PDF zipped at all times while in the canoe and absolutely NO cliff/rock jumping.  Shoes must be worn at all times during the trip. One person’s disdain for safety will always result in hardship for the group. If we do have an accident or injury that requires medical attention beyond the scope of our leader’s experience, the trip is immediately over without refund. Our leaders are trained to administer first aid in an outdoor environment, however, while they may be able to treat injuries, they cannot always prevent them.

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Canoeing the Colorado River, Chocolate Mountains Paddle & Float

Hygiene & Comfort

No showers will be available. Toilet facilities with running water are available on Friday night and Saturday morning at the campsite and canoe launch. Our river campsite will have pit toilets, picnic tables, and a campfire ring, but no running water. Aztec Adventures will provide tents, warm synthetic sleeping bags, foam pad, and ground. Our first night will be on hard packed dirt/gravel alongside our Aztec Adventure van within close proximity to the river. The second night on the river will merit a fantastic view and be comprised of soft packed dirt. We will bring a hand wash station along with us to keep up our hand hygiene and Aztec Adventures will provide drinking water along with the rest of the group gear. Full facilities will be available Sunday at the take-out spot.

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