Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Colorado River : Source to Sea

I’m re-reading Colin Fletcher’s River: One Man’s Journey Down the Colorado, Source to Sea describing his six-month, 1700 mile solo raft trip in 1989 from the Wind River Range in WY to the Gulf of California.  Since first reading it, I was so inspired that I've rafted, canoed, or kayaked 670 miles of the river on various adventures, and now in re-reading the book, it’s fun to re-live my trips through his narrative.

 Fletcher studied the river and decided that the true "ancestral waters" of the Colorado River start in Wyoming's Wind River Range, and that these drops of water from springs high in these mountains, trickle down to the Upper and Lower Green Lakes and then down the Green River to its Confluence with the Colorado River.

Explanation is required here: The "Colorado River" originally referred to the waterway located on the Colorado Plateau below the junction/confluence of the Green and Grand Rivers in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. At that time, no part of the Colorado River actually ran through the State of Colorado. In 1921, politicians in the State of Colorado managed to get the "Grand River" (which flowed out of Grand Lake in Colorado below Rocky Mountain National Park, through Granby and later Grand Junction -- notice the Grand in these names) renamed Colorado River. Thus the original Colorado River, along with the formerly called Grand River, together became the longer and current Colorado River.

But Fletcher and many others feel that the Green River, which is 300 miles longer than the former Grand River and drains a larger area than the old Grand River, is therefore the "master stream."

 In the photo below, I sit in the front-left of a raft on a rapid in the Colorado River...




Here is a shot of one of my two 120 mile canoe trips down the Green River from Green River, UT to the Confluence with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park, at which point a jet boat from Moab picked us up and returned us up-river to Moab because canoes cannot negotiate Cataract Canyon's rapids below the Confluence (which by the way was so named by John Wesley Powell in 1869 when he made his first trip here.)  


Here's a video I made of my 2 excursions canoeing the Green River...




But on both canoe trips, as I camped at the Confluence waiting for the jet boat, how I longed to make that right turn and continue down through Cataract Canyon, but of course couldn't. Finally, a few years later I did! The Sierra Club offered a service project removing invasive Tamarisk at the Confluence.  By necessity, we had to raft to the Confluence from Moab, do our work, and then exit through Cataract Canyon's rapids.  What a great raft trip that was!

Below is a photo of the Colorado River from up above on the mesa...




...and here's a photo as we entered Lake Powell at the end of Cataract Canyon, beneath the Highway 95 bridge (also called the Hite Crossing Bridge)...




Here's a video of both our Tamarisk removal project and our wondrous and exciting and wet raft trip through the rapids of Cataract Canyon...





After Cataract Canyon, the Colorado River becomes Lake Powell National Recreation Area, thanks to the Glen Canyon Dam at Page, Arizona.  Below are two aerial shots of magnificent Lake Powell and a few of its side canyons, several of which we explored by houseboat and kayak on my two houseboat adventures there (in 2003 on the western end, and in 2012 one on the eastern end of the 186 mile-long long lake.)






Kayaking the side canyons is a wonderful way to explore Lake Powell...



Here's a video I made of my second houseboat/kayak adventure trip on Lake Powell, this one at the eastern end of the lake...





Fifteen miles after Lake Powell (below Glen Canyon Dam) you arrive at Lee's Ferry, the put-in for raft trips through first Marble Canyon and then Grand Canyon.  I was fortunate to raft the entire Grand Canyon in 1999 and here are a few photos and comments.

Then in 2002 I kayaked 50+ miles from the base of Hoover Dam (Lake Mead Recreation Area) through the Black Canyon/Lake Mohave portion of the Colorado River.  Here are some photos and info from that 5 day kayaking/camping Elderhostel program.



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