Day 1 Potash to Little Bridge Canyon, 17 miles, 6 hrs 35 min.
One of the truly special moments when traveling occurs when people go above and beyond what they have to. The host at the Budget Inn, Green River Utah, Wayne, is beyond friendly and helps you any way he can to make your stay more enjoyable. Wayne spent he younger days working on road crews across the American South-West. Now in his golden years he managers the Budget Inn and every morning he provides fresh, hot blueberry muffins for the guests. It is people like Wayne that you remember long after the trip is over.
We were up early as we had to be at Tex’s Riverways by 8 am. We had our breakfast and blueberry muffins at 6:30 am and were on the road just before 7 am. We arrived before 8 am at the office for Tex’s and the adventure was beginning to feel real.
The office at Tex’s had a small number of items for sale. I remember asking about bug spray but they said at this time of year it was not necessary. Had a small orientation with another group. They did warn me about using my personal locator beacon, SPOT in my case. They said once activated the rescue specialists will bring you out, even if you have gotten your situation under control. Nowadays Tex’s rents the more modern two way satellite devices. At the time we were traveling the personal locator beacon were one way devices only. After the orientation we went out to see where they were loading up our equipment. We had rented two canoes called Grumman, they were aluminum, beat up and beautiful to us. Since there was three of us and we were all novice paddlers Tex’s had recommended that we use a T-CAT. The T-CAT is a device that connects to the two canoes together, makes it sort of like a pontoon boat. For us it was a fantastic idea. We stayed right together for the entire trip. Close enough to talk but no risk of colliding.
The river is the only reliable water source and is the colour of a good mug of hot chocolate. We did not have a way to filter our water so we rented three 5 gallon water containers. I think we only used one and half of the containers.
Since the environment in Canyonlands is a desert you cannot just bury human waste as it will not decompose. Our toilet instructions for the the trip were if when person needed to urinate we were instructed to use the river, for bowel movements we were to use a small toilet that we had to rent. We named our toilet Terry. It was always important to know where Terry was and to never leave Terry behind.
We all got loaded into a passenger van to be transported to the put in at Potash. We had the canoes in the water and were loaded up and ready to go at 9:15 am.
We decided to put Mikah and Siobhan in one canoe with Mikah at the front and I was solo in the other canoe. A plus for having our first canoe trip on a gently flowing river is that you do not have to be a strong paddler. In fact it is called a float trip. On this section of the river you can actually just let the river take you along. We did paddle but at an easy pace. Since our hands were not used to paddling we all had cycling gloves to wear to protect against blisters.
We made our first stop at 11:20 am landing at Alfalfa Bottom. Alfalfa Bottom received its name because it was an old dry lake bed and a coupe of farmers just threw alfalfa seeds down on the cracked lake bed and the seeds grew into fields of alfalfa. I quickly learned that open toed sandals are not ideal footwear in the desert. Lots of prickling plants make their home in the desert. Our point of interest was an ancient mud granary. It was a nice break to get out of the canoes after being on the water for almost 2 hours and covering 5 miles.
After a good 40 minutes exploring Alfalfa Bottom we headed back to the canoes. We paddled for another 45 minutes before we decided it was time to break for lunch. We could not see any obvious place to stop so we beached up on a sandbar and ate lunch by the river. The time was 12:55 pm.
Running along much of the riverbank is a small tangle of a tree called a tamarisk. Tamarisks are not native to North America and were brought over from Europe. Tamarisks become intertwined with each other and makes accessing the shore difficult for boaters. From the United States Geological Survey:
Tamarisk is an invasive shrub or small tree that is found across the American West. Also known as saltcedar, tamarisk favors sites that are inhospitable to native streamside plants because of high salinity, low water availability, and altered streamflow regimes created by dams. Researchers debate the extent of tamarisk’s negative impacts, but this invasive species can and does alter habitat quality for some wildlife, water use by floodplain vegetation, and the frequency and intensity of wildfires.https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-tamarisk
Thelma & Louise is a 1991 female buddy film starring Geena Davis as Thelma and Susan Sarandon as Louise. The film was groundbreaking in its time staring two female actors in the lead roles with no male leads. At the end of the movie after a long police chase Thelma and Louise refused to surrender to the authorities and the film finishes with the iconic scene of them driving off the cliff into what is suppose to be the Grand Canyon. The cliff used in the film is actually at this point along our route in Canyonlands NP, which has been renamed Thelma and Louise Point.
I will admit I am not 100% sure I have the correct cliff for Thelma and Louise Point. But the cliff is located between where we stopped at Alfalfa Bottom and Horse Bottom where we will stop to see the petrified logs. Looking at the map there are no other left hand turns in the river with such a large steep cliff in the 3 miles along the river between Alfalfa and Horse Bottom. So I am 98% sure I am correct.
Our next stop was not very far away. We planned to stop at Horse Bottom to see petrified logs that were exposed close to the river. It was 1:30 pm when we returned to the river and we arrived at Horse Bottom at 1:55 pm, we had traveled a little over 10 miles on the river since we put in at Potash.
It was 2:20 pm when we pushed off from Horse Bottom. We had about 6.5 miles to go to our planned first camp at Little Bridge Canyon. As we started off down the river we proceeded around a long left hand corner know as the Goose Neck which lead us onto the longest straight stretch of river we paddled on for the day at a little over 2 miles long.
Had a moment of excitement as we approached Little Bridge Canyon. We were in the middle of the river but we started to run aground. There was a few seconds of mad backward paddling to prevent us from getting stuck. Mikah spent most of the trip in the front of the canoe and became the person in charge of navigating. This was the only time we were really in danger of getting stuck. I think it was simply the river was very wide at this point making for a lower depth than we had anticipated. We arrived at Little Bridge Canyon at 4:05 pm. We had paddled 17 miles in 7.5 hrs with numerous stops along the way. Roughly when paddling we could do about 3.5 miles/hour.
After dinner Mikah and I went to explore the canyon. Siobhan had picked up a poorly timed cold just before her speed skating competition and was still suffering lingering effects of her illness so she turned in shortly after dinner. We saw numerous animal tracks on our little hike but did not see an obvious way out of the canyon. Guess animals are more creative than we were.
Good night from Little Bridge Canyon.