Green River Canoeing

May 27, 2015

Last week I embarked on a canoe and began a 52 mi trip down the Green River for 5 days. Each night, we'd make port off to the side of the river wherever we found a good harbor, set up camp, and then repeat the next day.

This was my first time on a boat trip longer than a day. While I had the backpacking dialed in already, the seafaring I wasn't as sure about.

The trip started at the boat ramp in Mineral Bottom on the Green River in Canyonlands National Park where our group of 5 put in two canoes filled with pack supplies and one kayak. We floated and paddled all the way down past the Confluence with the Colorado River where we were picked up by a jet boat run by Tex's Riverways.

Day 1

Logistics for the trip were different than your normal backpacking trips. This stretch of the river is very calm, so canoes can be loaded up with lots of beergear and floated down river. Each of our two canoes could supposedly carry 1,400 lbs, so we were able to bring two coolers, large stove, cast-iron dutch oven, tables and chairs, portable toilet, ~30 gallons of water, etc. Tex's rented us the boats and much of the gear, as well as arranged transport to/from the river. Then they gave us a few pointers and told us they'd (hopefully) see us again in 5 days.

A NPS ranger at the boat ramp also ran through a few rules and regulations:

And off we went, fresh and clean at Mineral Bottom.

We had maps of the whole river with us. Devon from Tex's gave us some great pointers about where to find campsites and a few points of interest along the river. I was able to keep up with the turns and canyons in the river and knew exactly where I was. However, as we approached areas where we wanted to pull out of the river I was unable to find any port to exit the river. The river was running high and the riverbanks were right up against what seemed like an impenetrable wall of Tamarisk.

Tamarisk denying all access to the river shore.

We passed several areas where I knew there was supposed to be a campsite and didn't see any spot to pull out of the river. Eventually Jim caught up to me (I was in the lead boat) and explained that the access points were very narrow breaks in the trees that you could hardly see until you were right on top of them. I had already passed several and had traveled much farther downstream than we had planned for this first day.

Eventually we found a tiny rock ledge where we were able to pull up all 3 boats and we settled in for the first night with some delicious sloppy joes and smores. Our spot was across the river from the area known as Potato Bottom. There were no clouds in the sky by the time we were sleepy, and not a single bug flying around, so we didn't bother pitching tents. I just watched shooting stars until falling asleep.

Rock ledge right below camp.

First night campsite.

Day 2

When we had first checked in at Tex's before the trip, they asked us if we could do them a big favor. Apparently they put a group on the river the day before our departure but they had forgotten to give them their cozy canoe chairs. We were entrusted with finding this group on the river and delivering canoe chairs. We were told where to expect them to be camping, but when we arrived at that point on Day 1, they were no where to be found. In fact, we hadn't seen anyone else on the river the entire day. Today was a bit less secluded.

Along the way, we met several boaters who we inquired as to their canoe chair situation. None of them were the group we were searching for. Some folks camping on the shore told us that they thought they saw a group matching our description that had passed along that point hours before us.

We also passed up the 'party boat' who were planning on continuing all the way down to lake Powell. Despite flying a pirate flag on my canoe, we were unable to convince these guys that they had too much beer and should jettison some.

For lunch we pulled into Anderson Bottom, an interesting feature geologically. It's a canyon that the green river used to flow through until it eventually eroded the wall in between it's sections and became shorter. Up to the north was a narrow slot canyon which we headed out to. Unfortunately it was flooded, preventing us from exploring into the canyon.

Anderson Bottom which the Green River long ago flowed through.

Along the hike, we saw a few other hikers also exploring the same area. We got their attention and were surprised to learn that they were the group missing canoe chairs. They had camped at a different campsite along the same bottom from the one we pulled into and were out hiking as well. Everyone was surprised how lucky we got to find them during this one random hike we made for lunch. They apparently were veterans, having done this trip several times. As we were to hear from many others we met along the route, they took a longer trip: 11 days. They gave us some tips on where to camp for the night, an easy-access canyon named Holeman a few miles further down the river.

Shallow water in Holeman Canyon made for easy loading/unloading of the canoes for the night.

For dinner, we made a charcoal fire and grilled up some steaks! That night was by far the warmest on the entire trip. 80F or so, and a tiny bit of rain forced us all into our tents. Worse were the high wind gusts that would blow the fine sand up underneath the tent fly and through the tent mesh. I decided to bury myself in my roasting mummy bag to hide from the sand. I didn't sleep terribly well that night.

Day 3

We all had agreed that Day 2 had been rushed. We took too long getting up, taking down camp, progress on the river was slow due to upriver winds, we didn't make as much river distance as we had planned putting us slightly behind schedule, and we had gotten into camp later than we wanted. On Day 3, we reversed the trend. Up early, quick packing, on the river before 10am.

I'm going to leave out locations due to the photos I'm going to post. We decided to do a hike / scramble up and out of the canyon a bit. We ended up in an area of archaeological interest with lots of petroglyphs that were not on the map. The excitement of finding these on your own really makes them far more special than those found behind rails and signs and next to parking lots.

Petroglpyhs in an unmarked canyon.

Day 4

As we were on a 5-day trip, we would be exiting the river tomorrow morning. We had to be packed and pulled out at a suitable spot below the Confluence with the Colorado River by 10am the next morning. Rather than try to rush it on the last morning, we decided to camp somewhere tonight that we could be picked up from in the morning. Fortunately we didn't have too many miles to go.

Our exploration today ended up being Water Canyon. On the way in, we ran into a small family of bighorn sheep.

'You don't look like you belong here' -Bighorn Sheep

Water Canyon was aptly named. We saw more water in this canyon than the rest we had explored combined. It wasn't flowing that much, but there were little pools everywhere we could have filtered from. Fortunately we had brought plenty of water and didn't have to mess with getting more from these pools.

Beautiful canyon with cascading pools of water.

Along the way, Katie spotted a layer of fossil bearing rock. I got a bit distracted taking photos and looking at the fossils.

Water Canyon should be called Fossil Canyon.

Back on the river for the final time...

Back on the river for the final time...

Camp was on the Colorado river this time. The view was amazing, this photo doesn't do it justice. The only problem was that our spot was a bit overgrown.

Me at the last camp, not ready for it to end.

That night we finished our beers, cooked cornbread and chili. Dessert was dutch oven peach cobbler. We shared the site (and stories of the trip) with another group also exiting the river the next day.

Day 5

Pickup day. An easygoing, slow morning. We had to clean out the silt from our boats and pack up for Tex's to pick us up in their jetboat. We got to jetboat up the Colorado river for two hours. Not too eventful.

Pro-tip though from someone who learned this the hard way. Regardless of the ambient air temperature, the jet boat ride is cold. It moves pretty fast and the wind whipping past you pulls all the heat out of your skin. Do not pre-pack your only jacket within a dry-bag within another dry-bag that gets thrown on the jet boat in an inaccessible place. Have warm clothing handy for the ride even if it's 100°G.