Green River – Desolation and Gray Canyon

Welcome to my blog! This is my first post. I’ll be putting up photos of my past and future trips here, as well as a few videos.

On September 18th, some friends and I embarked on a rafting trip down 84 miles of the Green River in eastern Utah. We started at Sand Wash and passed through Desolation Canyon, or “Deso,” as rafters call it, then through Gray Canyon, ending at Swaysey’s Rapid. The route is well known for its isolation and rugged scenery. John Wesley Powell and his crew floated through Desolation Canyon and Gray Canyon on their way to the Grand Canyon in 1869.

A petroglyph we saw at Flat Canyon. Our guidebook mentioned its location, but had no details on its age or origin.

The trip was organized by Chad, a long-time partner in adventure. Chad is from Penryn, CA, the same small town as my brothers and I. He works as a wilderness ranger in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Chad and his coworker Jaz drove out from Pinedale, WY and met us in Vernal, UT. I was the coordinator for the California group, which included my brother Colin, his girlfriend Laima, and our buddy Pete. We had planned to start rafting on the afternoon of the 17th, but the shuttle took 8 hours, so we started on the 18th. We had four nights on the river, and reached the end point on the 22nd.

Highlights of the trip included petroglyphs, shooting stars, bighorn sheep, big anthills, catfish, lots of rock outcroppings that looked like faces, a few days of rain, lots of cheap beer, campfires on the beach, plein air paintings by Colin and Laima, and running some big rapids.

I’m more accustomed to adventures on foot, so there was some notable new vocabulary for me. Some of these terms are standard rafting jargon; others were particular to our group:

IK = Inflatable Kayak (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Inflatable Kayak, or IK. Note the relaxed posture and carriage of the single occupant.

Figure 1: Inflatable Kayak, or IK. Note the relaxed posture and carriage of the single occupant.

Groover = An ammo can fitted with a toilet seat and miniature septic tank for capturing solid human waste. We packed it all out. It helps reduce impact along the river corridor.

Hydraulics = Overlapping waves that move across a rapid, caused by current reflecting off of obstructions.

Hole = The void behind a big rock, where water can pull a boat downward and cause it to capsize.

Oar Boat, a.k.a the Turd = The big raft with all the gear, piloted by a single person wielding two oars and usually facing upstream for maximum power (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2: the Oar Boat. Note the lone pilot and source of locomotion. Passengers may adopt any number of positions.

Figure 2, the Oar Boat. Note the lone pilot and source of locomotion. Passengers may adopt any number of positions.

Shreddin’ the Gnar = Successfully navigating a difficult rapid with style and panache.

We ran the river at about 3,000 CFS (cubic feet per second), which is considered low flow, but raftable. We found Three Fords to be the toughest rapid. Pete was rowing the oar boat at the time, and he ran it stern first (backwards, to the lay folk). I was perched on the stern, yelling directions to him so we could avoid the biggest rocks. On another rapid, Laima actually went overboard and was clutching a rope for a few seconds, until Pete saw her and pulled her in. There were a few close calls, but no injuries. It got spicy, as Chad would say.

Overall, I’d say this trip was a smashing success. The scenery was sublime, the rapids were thrilling, and the company was pleasant. If I was going to do it again, I’d plan it for a day or two longer. We had a few long days when it would have been nice to get off the river earlier and enjoy the afternoon on the beach. I may plan another trip to Deso and do just that.

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4 thoughts on “Green River – Desolation and Gray Canyon

  1. Colin says:

    Sweet blog brother! I gotta say it is nice to actually read a description of the trip and what happened. Puts things into perspective and prevents it from blending with trips from years past.
    I have another term for your vocabulary list: “Chadism: Any piece of poetry, folklore or song spoken with extreme repetition during an outdoor adventure. Typically, the constant repetition obscures any and all former meaning. Lyrics from the singer Kenny Loggins or the band Electric Six are a frequent choice.”

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