Day 3 The Loop to Spanish Bottom, 13 miles, 4 hrs 30 min.
I had coffee on at 7:50 am. With such a short day we were in no rush to get going and we all just sat back and ate a lazy breakfast watching the sunshine creep into the canyon.
Our final destination on this day would be where we would end our trip on the river at Spanish Bottom just above Cataract Rapids. We had but one stop planed for this day at Anasazi Bottom (unofficial name from the guide book) about 4.5 miles from our camp. There was suppose to be multiple Anasazi structures to see. Back on the water we first had to finish paddling the loop which was another 4 miles.
While it was not easy to access Anasazi Bottom it was well worth the effort. We spent just under an hour exploring the area.
We had no more planned stops until we arrived at our final destination on the river at Spanish Bottom. We passed by two more large canyons, Salt Creek and Elephant Canyon. Both canyons allow for hiking opportunities but neither provide access to the rim or have any historical points of interest.
After passing by Elephant Canyon the next point of interest was actually on the river, a feature known as The Slide. The Slide is simply a large rockfall that slid from the western cliff of the river with the debris of the slide causing a slight constriction in the river. Interesting in the guidebook the author lists possible camping spots but does specify only in times of low water. Unless it was getting dark I would avoid camping at The Slide and would stop at either Salt Creek or Elephant Canyon.
After passing the slide it is a quick 1.5 miles, 25 minutes, to the confluence with the Green River. There are some hiking opportunities along the river but they all require a significant investment of time and there are no Anasazi ruins or art to see.
After passing the confluence it was just 35 minutes before we pulled ashore at Spanish Bottom the canoe portion of our trip finished. The last section did have some excitement as there was another ripple in the river that was not mentioned in the guidebook. We ploughed straight through without any issues but maybe we should have been more careful. When the river forms an upstream “v” it is indication of a submerged obstruction and you should avoid the apex of the “v”. A downstream “v” indicates unobstructed flow. We had an upstream “v” and we basically paddled through the apex. Sometimes you have to have a little luck on your side.
Not sure what was going on between the time we landed and dinner as I do not have any photographs. I am sure we set up the tent and explored the area. Spanish Bottom is 120 acres in size making it the largest bottom on the river. The common geological explanation for Spanish Bottom is that underlying the area is a layer of salt left over from an ancient sea. The salt has moved away either by plastic flow or dissolved in ground water. This removal of the salt as a material allowed the rock above to collapse into the void left by the salt forming the dropped down surface we see as Spanish Bottom.
Our afternoon was not entirely peaceful as the Park Rangers we had seen the other day were working across the river with chainsaws removing tamarisks from the water’s edge.
Our plan, my plan really, was to get up before 5 am and hike up a trail from Spanish Bottom to the Doll House to watch the sunrise. The hike rises about 1200 ft (375 m) over 1 miles (1.6 km). Neither of the kids were overly enthusiastic about the idea. We ate early in anticipation of going to bed early. Had the water on the stove to rehydrate our dinners at about 5:20 pm, guess there was no fresh food left. This was another big lesson for a river trip, you do not need to bring lightweight dried food. The canoes can carry so much gear if you are only going 3 – 7 days weight is not a problem so packing fresh food is the preferred option.
There was one other group at Spanish Bottom. A couple of ladies had brought their own kayaks and had paddled down the Green River. They had camped right beside the river so we had to walk right past them as we unloaded our canoes. Their canoes were caked in mud from getting stuck a couple of times on the Green River in shallow water.
Despite having to wake up early for our hike the next day the easier day on the river had us staying up a little later than planned. Darkness settled in around 8 pm and with it the stars came out. Living in cities we never really had the opportunity to see the stars in a truly dark environment. On our previous trip to Canyonlands NP we stayed up and watch as the Milky Way appeared overhead, one of Nature’s truly magnificent sights to behold. As it steadily grew darker I started playing with my camera taking photos in the low light. I also did my first attempts at astrophotography. I did not have a tripod or any idea of what I was doing as evident by the shaky photos with the stars appearing as streaks. Regardless of the outcome at the time it was fun to play around and you have to start the learning process at some point.