Everything you need to know to explore the incredible landscape of Utah’s Green River Canyon
“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.”
I know spring is here and it’s the perfect time to be on the water in Florida, however; it is also time to be planning and acquiring permits for the end of summer out west. In addition, I’ve been itching bad to write up my favorite western river for a long time. What makes this particular float trip awesome is its remoteness, its historic and cultural past, the ease of the paddling, and just the absolute vastness of Canyonlands. This is a fantastic river for families with small children and perfect for beginners. Old pros will also enjoy the float.
To begin with, the Green River through Canyonlands National Park, is one of the most spectacular flat-water paddles in the country. Mile after mile of ever deepening canyons brimming with yellows, reds, greys and whites. The area was first explored by John Wesley Powell in the late 1800’s. The area is rich in geologic as well as historical sites to visit. In many spots the canyon walls will rise above the water to over a 1000 feet.
To begin your journey, drive to Moab and park your vehicle at Tex’s Riverways. They can shuttle you north to the put in. best place to start is the State Park in the town of Green River, Utah. The first twenty miles is mainly Summerville Formation and Manco’s Shale. Your first major observation will be the Crystal Geyser, which is a cold water geyser which erupts about 30 feet high. Its frequency is very unpredictable. The historic site of Dellenbaugh Butte will rise above the river within the first day of paddling. Named by John W. Powell for a member of his exploration party.
As the river cuts deeper into the canyons, the more geologic wonders appear. Entrada and Navaho Sandstone with its red and orange colors will make you wish you had brought more film for your camera.
Entering Labyrinth and Still Water Canyons you will begin to feel how small a person you really are. The Chinle and Moenkopi Rock formations will rise 1000 feet over the river like giant buildings in a large city. But only solitude and the occasional canyon wren will be heard.
Another highlight will be climbing up to Bowknot Bend where the river makes a complete loop coming back to a point where it is only a few hundred yards where it passed some seven miles back upstream. The view from the “Post Office” Register will give us a good view of how the river cut though the rock over the last millions of years.
You are bound to encounter the remains of the past. Looking carefully and you will see the ruins of the Anasazi Indians who once inhabited this land some 700 -1500 years ago only to disappear without a trace. Looking high on the canyon walls and we will see their food grainerys and storage walls where they kept there food supply. Petroglyphs are found at nearly all the side canyon walls.
A short hike up Hell Roaring Canyon and you’ll find the inscription of trapper Denis Julien who passed through here etching his name and the date of “1836 3 Mai” along with a sun and boat on the canyon wall.
Your last day on the river will be at the confluence of the Green and the Colorado Rivers. You must arrange for a jet boat to pick you and your boats up. The jet boat will take you up the Colorado River to Moab. After a week on the water it will be time to hit the Brew Pubs.
OUTFITTERS, SERVICES, and REFERENCES
Tex’s Riverways: Canoe and Kayak rentals, shuttles, jet boat shuttles from the confluence, and all the local knowledge.
Canyonlands National Park: Permits are required.
Belknap’s Revised Waterproof Canyonlands River Guide, by Bill Belknap
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jarred Diamond
Down the River, by Edward Abbey
Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon, by Edward Dolnick