Saturday, August 29, 2015

Canoeing Utah's Green River (2006)

We put in just a couple miles downriver from Green River State Park at Crystal Geyser, river mile 115.5, , a sporadic geyser created by the unsuccessful drilling of an oil well. The well head pipe can be seen in the upper middle of this photo next to the man. Constant water bubbles up there and at times water erupts from the pipe. I particularly liked the artistic creation of travertine patterns it has created as the water runs down to the river.

The first miles displayed low cliffs with desert terrain atop. The Bureau of Land Management controls much of the land down to Canyonlands NP, which is operated by the National Park Service. However, there is some private land along the river, including some farming operations which utilize the river water to grow melons. The photo below shows Gerry in the kayak and Greg in the canoe.

But soon the walls rise and the red rock dominates. The water carries the silt from the rocks and becomes more and more brownish-red as you progress down the river.

This is a small section of Registry Rock in Labyrinth Canyon which has "signatures" of many of the earliest travelers here (and some more recent ones.)

Later in our nine day paddle, we had several storms, one of which is about to hit us in the photo below as we relax in camp. After these storms, much sediment was flowing along with us, but our first days had clear blue skies and warm temps, often in the 90's (beginning of September.) Blue heron were our daily companions and we saw evidence of river beaver. Swallow mud nests are abundant in grottoes and rock overhangs. Uranium mining still exists, though reduced from past amounts.

One thing I was not prepared for was the ubiquitous mud on every shoreline, often deep enough to bury your leg up to your knee and suck your footwear off. This Utah mud is worse than the Mississippi River mud I encountered kayaking there but is cleaner. Our assistant guide, Quock, and 12 year old Austin, played in the mud often and sometimes were joined by his sister, Anna, and Greg. The river drops about a foot and a half per mile and generally moves at about 3 miles per hour.

A short climb rewards one with fantastic panoramic vistas in all directions and reveals the desert terrain atop these cliffs, markedly different from the verdant riparian environment alongside the river. At river level, willows and occasional cottonwood trees provide welcome shade to paddlers, as do the invasive tamarisk which are crowding out the indigenous flora. It is said that each tamarisk sucks 15 gallons of water from the river every day, water thereby unavailable for agricultural and human needs. Beginning at Mineral Bottom (where a ranger may check your river permit) you enter Stillwater Canyon.

The cliff dwellings and granaries are a "must see" on this trip and one of the highlights for me. Here a short climb brought us to the structures seen halfway up to the mesa. and climbing a bit higher put us atop Turk's Mesa where the Anasazi (500-1275 AD) used the abundant flint rocks to manufacture arrowheads. Large rocks and bits of shard cover the huge mesa and make for interesting study.

Here Donna, Greg, and Jan sit as Rich stands.

The paddle ended here at the confluence with the Colorado River (river mile 0) in Canyonlands National Park, where we were picked up by our outfitter, Tex's Riverways out of Moab, Utah. They loaded our gear and then jet boated us up the Colorado River 47 miles at 27 mph, utilizing the boat's dual 460 HP jet engines. It was quite a ride with magnificent scenery the entire way up Meander Canyon.

I loved this trip so much that I repeated it in 2008 with Greg. And both times, while here at The Confluence with the Colorado River, I've wanted to make the right turn and continue through Cataract Canyon just like John Wesley Powell did. But Cataract Canyon is class IV and V rapids and not for canoes! Well, in 2010 I had my chance with the Sierra Club and the photos and video are here.


The intrepid adventurers :

Austin (on sand in yellow)
front row: Virginia, Donna, Anna, Gerry, Rick
back row: Jan, Jim, Chuck, Greg (our guide), Quock (assistant guide)

Guide Greg Pflug's offered this trip through his adventure company, Adventures in Florida.

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