Canoeing through time
One of the more unique trips that we have done was canoeing down the Colorado (2015) and Green Rivers (2017). When we visited Canyonlands NP in Utah in 2013 and the area simply captivated me. In my research I had discovered that it was possible to explore the area by paddling the two rivers that bisect Canyonlands, the Colorado and the Green. The rivers through the majority of Canyonlands NP are both devoid of rapids and are considered float trips. No moving water experience is required. Proceeding south past Spanish Bottom at the south end of the park takes you to Cataract Rapids which is only for experienced river travelers.
When I decided to first organize a river trip I had the choice of paddling either river and for no particular reason I chose the Colorado River. The section of the Colorado that we were to canoe is called Meander Canyon. Meander Canyon is a 51 miles (80 km) trip starting just west of Moab at a place called Potash and finishing at Spanish Bottom. One advantage of this section is that you can be picked up at the end of your trip at any point along the river. If you paddle the Green River you must make it all the way to Spanish Bottom for the pick up. The maximum daily recommended distance is 15 miles which makes Meander Canyon a four day trip.
I gave my kids the trip as a Christmas present to take place during my Spring Break in late March 2015. After doing initial inquiries I settled on using Tex’s Riverways as our outfitter. My first mistake, of many, came when after doing the initial inquiries, June of 2014, I did not book the trip right away. When I actually got around to making the booking, November 7th 2014, I was not able to book the recommended four day trip for the dates we had available so we had to settle for a three day trip.
The river trip was part of a jammed packed two weeks that due to several reasons did not give us much flexibility. While Siobhan and I both had the full two weeks off from school Micah was working full time and could only get one week off. To start the Spring Break Siobhan had her final speed skating competition of her career in Toronto finishing on the first Sunday. The plan was to then fly back home Sunday evening from the speed skating competition and pack on Monday for the river trip. The three of us, Siobhan, Micah and myself, would fly to Salt Lake City on the Tuesday and then drive to Moab. This meant that we would not able to start the river trip until Wednesday and with Micah’s schedule we had to be done by Saturday. This would have worked out fine had I booked soon enough but due to my tardiness in booking the return shuttle (a jet boat) was full on the Saturday, so we had to settle for a three day trip finishing on the Friday. We did use our extra day to do a hike in Capitol Reef NP and enjoy the berry pies they sell at Fruita. After sending Micah off on the plane Siobhan and I would have a relaxing day in Salt Lake City where we watched a film at the Clarke Planetarium on Pandas. The second part of our trip would see Siobhan and I then driving to Zion NP where we would met up with Laura and Alex. We would then spend a few days in Zion before heading to the Grand Canyon and finishing the week off at an NBA game in Phoenix.
Once the trip was booked it was time to do some hard research and planning. I purchased “River Guide to Canyonlands National Park” 2nd Edition by Michael R Kelsey and the Belknap’s Waterproof “Canyonlands River Guide” map.
The River Guide would be my primary source of information. The book holds a tremendous amount of information. Along with a description of the river trip including location of ruins, petroglyphs, pictographs, other points of interests and camping locations the guide also had the modern history of the rivers. What makes the guide challenging is that the history is woven into the river description. While it was interesting to read about a guy trying to grow watermelons by the river or who shot who, for planning purposes it made the book cumbersome to use. I took the information from the guide book and wrote in the important points onto the maps using a sharpie.
My kids say that no trip is a real trip until dad has a spreadsheet, so here it is……
We would finish the trip with a hike up to the Doll House from Spanish Bottom to watch the sunrise on the last day.
The trip was utterly fantastic. It was unique, beautiful and somewhat isolated (we saw very few people) and an amazing experience. One of the great features is that you could come back and do the trip again stopping at different places and have entirely different experience along the same river.
What we learned:
- can bring more luxuries in a canoe than a backpacking trip
- bring a dual burner car camping stove as opposed to backpacking stoves. The car camping stove is easier to use, more stable than upright canisters.
- Camping chairs are not a luxury, they are a necessity.
- a block of ice in a standard cooler will last for a 3 – 4 trip
- can bring fresh food, do not have to eat backpacking freeze dried food
- take the shortest flight reasonable. Traveling can be tiring and an exhausting journey to get to your vacation can get the trip off on the wrong foot. Next time I will fly direct to Salt Lake City.
- If someone has a sleeping mattress malfunction, if there are three people, just turn the sleeping pads sideways so that the backs of the sleepers lie on the sleeping pads and put clothes or or other padding, like backpacks, under the legs, so that everyone can enjoy a descent nights sleep.
Travel Day Canmore to Green River
Day 1 Potash to Little Bridge Canyon
Day 2 Little Bridge Canyon to Campsite on the Loop
Day 3 Campsite on the Loop to Spanish Bottom
Day 4 Spanish Bottom to Potash