My brother-in-law Kenny invited me to go on a 4-day, 94-mile float trip down the Green River through Gray and Desolation Canyons. Most people do this trip in 5 or 6 days, so we had our work cut out for us. But the good scenery and good company (mostly Kenny's coworkers) made the time fly and I was pretty sad when the trip came to an end.
The put-in for Desolation Canyon is at Sand Wash. This is accessed via a long and dusty dirt road south from Duchesne. Sand Wash used to be one of the only feasible crossings of the Green for 100s of miles before the modern highway was constructed through the Uintah Basin. A ferry was owned and operated here by the Stewart family from the 1920s to the 1950s. The Ferry is long gone but a few of the Stewarts' cabins remain.
Low hills surround Sand Wash, with little else to indicate the impressively deep canyon that you find yourself in just few miles downstream.
Ancient lake beds of the Tertiary Green River Formation comprise the canyon walls for the first couple of days.
An old, abandoned wooden skiff boat just off of the river. We got pretty lucky finding this as we only had a few vague clues as to its wherabouts.
A Blue Heron on the rivers edge.
Above: morning sun on the canyon walls at our first camp.
Above: lunch under the cottonwoods on day 2.
Petroglyph panel near Flat Creek.
Looking down on camp 2 at Rock Creek.
We found this old tent stove in an overhang above camp. At first, I thought maybe we had found some hidden loot of the Wild Bunch (who frequented this area), but it just had a geocache log with some signatures.
I managed to wake up a little early and run up a nice trail through Rock Creek Canyon that ends at another petroglyph.
We weren't on the river long on day 3 when we stopped to check out the Rock Creek Ranch that was occupied during the 1910s and 1920s.
The isolation of this place has left it frozen in time and it truly is an outdoor museum.
Tools still lie on a work bench as if the rancher had just left yesterday.
Curious about the ranches' inhabitants, I was able to dig up these old photos from the University of Utah Special Collections Archive. They show the hardy Seamount brothers and family that made a tough living at Rock Creek.
Today, you can still see much evidence of their farming efforts including abandoned machinery and a hand-dug canal.
Above: view of the flood plain near Rock Creek Ranch. Back then you could probably see the ranch buildings from the river with only a few scattered cottonwood and willow trees lining the banks. Today, the river banks are full of the invasive tamarisk (salt cedar) plants creating a small jungle that hides everything beyond.
Above: cowboy Ted McIntyre at Rock Creek Ranch nearly 100 years ago.
Above: old pack trail on the way to Rock Creek Ranch.
Day three brought us to our first major rapid at the mouth of Joe Hutch Canyon. A few weeks prior, an intense thunderstorm dropped several inches of rain in the area that triggered this massive debris flow that came crashing down the side canyon and into the Green River.
The debris flow has completely changed the character of the river here, and Joe Hutch rapid was upgraded from a class II to a class III rapid.
Above 3 shots: Wayne navigating through Joe Hutch Rapid.
Above: Kenny staying calm while I (in the front with tan hat) paddle frenetically for my life.
Above: The geology throughout the canyon is very simple. This small fault was the only structure I saw on the whole trip.
Above: camp #3 was on a huge sand bar.
Wayne spotted this striped whipsnake, and I of course, had to catch it for further study.
Above: I thought this was pretty amazing. Somehow, when the flood waters receded, this log balanced perfectly on the tip of this rock.
Above: Nefertiti Rock. Named after the famed Queen Nefertiti, mother-in-law of King Tut. See the resemblance?
Above: Gunnison Butte: named after explorer Captain John Williams Gunnison who crossed the Green here in 1853 while scouting out a route for the transcontinental railroad. A few days later, he and most of his party were massacred by Pahvant Indians north of Sevier Lake.
The very weak and easily erodible Cretaceous-age Mancos Shale forms the lower slopes where the Green emerges from the Book Cliffs at the end of the trip.
Thanks again to Kenny for another excellent trip. I can't wait for next year.
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