Canyonlands Green River Canoe Trip

This summer I planned a June canoe/kayak trip down the Green River in Utah. We took five days and four nights to travel between Mineral Bottom and the Confluence with the Colorado River. There were nine of us this year, which included my three sons, my 78 year-old father, a co-worker friend and another father and his two sons.
The Green River through Stillwater canyon was just as it sounds. Very slow and gentle . . . basically, flat water. We took 3 canoes, a tandem kayak (which I built a few years back) and a single kayak.
We hired Tag-A-Long Expeditions to provide the shuttle service for us as the only way back to civilization is to paddle up the Colorado River or hire a shuttle service. The shuttle ride to Mineral Bottom on Sunday morning was over an hour long and we stopped for some photos before traveling down the switchbacks just before you get to the river. When we arrived at the boat launch there was a large group taking out after a week-long float from the town of Green River. The launch is pretty muddy, meaning deep mud as soon as you put your foot into the river. But, overall the loading went pretty well.
A note about reference materials: The Belknap River Guide is good, especially for seeing large sections of the river giving perspective, however if you like to hike around and find things in the area, e.g. petroglyphs, Anasazi ruins, old cabins, etc. and/or like some history about people and events along the river, the Michael Kelsey book is required reading.
Our float looked like this:
Day 1
The weather was perfect and we put-in at 1PM and floated a short ways to the Catfish Mine area, river right, and got out and explored a little and ate lunch. Supposedly there is a sunken D8 Cat tractor in the river around there but we couldn’t see it.
After lunch we continued our float to Horsethief Canyon where we planned to camp and hike to some petroglyphs. It turned out that the water was low enough to make hauling our gear to camp difficult, so we hiked to the petroglyphs and then continued our float downstream for a mile or so to the dry wash at Murray Cabin river left. Here we camped on a great spot in a sandy area near the river. That night the boys captured toad and held races, while a couple of us hiked up the wash to a campground nearby. It even had a bathroom.
Day 2
We launched by about 9:30AM after a tasty breakfast of eggs and ham on Bagels. We floated a while unable to find a place to land and hike to the stone cabin on Mule Bottom, river right. So, we continued on to or Bottom or so I thought. My father and I continued on, but we lost the others. It turns out they decided to do a few leaps from the cliffs into a deep part of the river. My father and I landed on Fort Bottom and he stayed with the boat waiting for the others while I hiked over to the walker cabin ruins and then up to the Moki Fort. From that vantage point I could see my sons and the other family had paddled around the island, past our landing, and were now paddling back up stream to meet us. Lots of work. I hiked back down and ate lunch with the others. After lunch we floated down stream until we got to a nice place to land to see the Boater’s Signatures on Unknown Bottom, river left. There were some places to camp, but instead we paddled across the river to Anderson Bottom/Bonita Bend. The shore was a little steep, but the camp was really nice and like the first night there was nobody else around. We took a short hike that night over to a cave blasted out some 60 years ago or so and is now used by the Park Service.
Day 3
It was quite windy this morning. We ate breakfast and then headed out looking for some cabin remains and a cliff dwelling but couldn’t find either. But, but my middle son found the concrete dance floor created for an annual river event many years ago.
When we got in the boats it was windy, but the wind was at our backs. Making the turn at Valentine Bottom turned us into the wind and floating became paddling. Fortunately, we planned to get out to look for Chaffin’s Rowboat, Anasazi ruins and some petroglyphs. We landed at a nice flat beach, but then spend well over an hour trying to find a way through the Tamarisks. It was miserable. We got back into the boats and paddled down a little further, near the end of Valentine Bottom and found a place to get out. But everyone was a little tired and hungry. After eating, Jeff and I headed out for a hike while everyone else took naps, fished or goofed off.
The temps near the river were pretty nice but getting more than 30 yards or so inland proved to be really hot! Jeff and I hiked around and eventually spotted the rowboat. The boat was left there in the 1920s or 1930s and was still fairly intact. Then we headed for the cliffs and eventually spotted the petroglyphs way up high, which were quite viewable from down low, and the ruin. We couldn’t get to them because the cliff walkway had given out, probably a long, long time go, which probably helped preserve them as well.
We hiked back to the river and got everything loaded up and started paddling only to find it very difficult to keep the boats straight even when paddling hard. The next few hours proved to be the worst part of the trip for the canoe, though the kayaks, especially the tandem, seemed to have a blast in the choppy water. After a couple of hours we landed at Cabin Bottom, river right. This was another awesome place to camp. We were able to hike into the canyon behind camp and also found the ruins of Tibbett’s cabin which burned down in the 1930s or so. The beach had a rocky shelf which allowed sitting along the river and it was shallow enough that the boys walked out into the river on sand bars. There were plenty of trees with spots for tents.
Day 4
Much to our relief the air was calm today. We planned to float down to the three petroglyph and rock art panels on a trail river right near the end of Cabin Bottom, but we were concerned the wind would pick up and delay our trip, so we kept floating past them and the ruins on Turk’s Head. Instead we kept floating all the way to Jasper Canyon, where we got out and hiked and climbed around finding the ruin on the upstream side and the ruin on the downstream side.
We floated a little more and stopped and ate lunch on a sand bar. It was hot, so it wasn’t long before everyone was getting drenched in the river.
The wind was almost non-existent to so we kept going all the way to Shot/Water canyon. Here we found a place to land near the drainage, but the better camps were further upstream so we paddle back up and found a place to land. The camps here are spread out along the cliffs making for a really unique camping experience. It was great! Our cook area had some rock shelves at the perfect height to set our stove and cook and it had a large open area for us to set up chairs and have a fire in our fire pan. The evening was beautiful, perfect for a few beers before a late dinner and a couple of shots a little later on.
Day 5
This day was another calm day allowing us to really relax the last few miles before the confluence. We considered hiking to Powell’s overlook, but having never hiked it before we weren’t sure if we could get there and back and then down to the Colorado River to meet the jet-boat pickup at the designated time. So, we skipped it and continued on to the meeting place. It’s fortunate we didn’t take the hike as the jet-boat was early. It took a while to load all of the gear and tie down the boats, but it went pretty smooth. The ride in the jet-boat ride was wild. Fast and smooth we passed a lot of boaters along the way and we cruised upstream towards Moab. The nice thing about floating the Green is that there seems to be fewer people on it, plus we get to see the scenery of the Colorado River as well when the shuttle takes us back to our vehicles.
Overall, it was a really great trip. Everyone said they really enjoyed it, including my father who has travelled to Utah some 30 times but never before got to see Canyonlands National Park from the river bottom.

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One comment on “Canyonlands Green River Canoe Trip

  1. […] went as smoothly as trips I planned myself, such as the Green River Labyrinth Canyon trip  or the Green River Canyonlands Trip . They were […]

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