UT - Green River - 2004/05/01 to 2004/05/06 - Ruby Ranch to Spanish Bottom - 99.9 miles

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Kayaking on Green River Utah is one of the best flat water stretches in the West. From Moab, we put in at Ruby Ranch and spend 5 wonderful days paddling through high canyon walls, past the Confluence with the Colorado and take out at Spanish Bottom.

When I heard my friends were planning a trip to the Green River in Utah, I knew immediately I wanted to go. Rick planned and coordinated the whole thing. We were going to fly into Salt Lake with cheap flights from Baltimore on Southwest. We would rent a car there and drive to Moab. Starting at Ruby Ranch, a private ranch on the east shore of the Green River north of Moab, five days on the river would get us 100 miles down river to Spanish Bottom. Just past the confluence of the Green River with the Colorado river, we and our rented boats would be transported back up river to Moab. Joel, who had paddled there before and expounded at length on its beauty, got the two permits, one for the BLM section and one for the Canyonlands National Park section. We selected Canyon Adventures to provide the kayaks and Tag-a Long to deliver us and the boats to Ruby Ranch and pick us up at Spanish Bottom. All the details were worked out at a meeting a month before we left. Rick would fly in from Las Vegas, after managing a work assignment there. Tom would meet us in Moab after driving up from Texas with his own boat.

The morning flight out of Baltimore Washington International was a total mob scene. Fortunately everyone had arrived 2 hours before flight departure and we needed all but 10 minutes of it to get through the horrible lines inside and outside of the terminal. The long line at the security gate moved quickly and we made the flight with some minutes to spare. The long 5 hour flight to Salt Lake went slowly. We arrived around noon and were soon driving south in the Salt Lake valley, past Provo and on to Moab.

We checked into the motel and went up to Canyon Voyages Adventure Company to fill put the remaining paperwork on the kayak rentals, then over to Tag-A Long to check out the boats and equipment. All was in order with the four kayaks, one Mad River Canoe and the necessary equipment, paddles PFDs, throw ropes and all important groover. The large aluminum box for the human waste we would generate during the trip would occupy the center section of the canoe. A kayak only trip would have to make other arrangements, as the large, heavy groover would surely capsize a kayak.

We went to the restaurant that was a part of the Big Horn Motel for an excellent steak dinner. With options for a vegetarian (Joel), the primary fare was steak and I had a very nice T-bone. The prices were quite reasonable. During dinner, Tom decides that his bad back flare up will not allow him to join us on the river. Instead he will spend the week around Moab, visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. He will see us again when we return to Moab. We will miss him on the trip.

We assembled at Tag-A-Long the next morning at 8:00 AM. After each of us signed the release forms, we loaded our gear into the bottom of the trailer and helped the driver load the boats onto the trailer superstructure. We then climbed into the old, old bus and began the 45 minute drive to Ruby Ranch. The transmission and engine in the truck ground along like it would soon burst. It was so loud that conversation was impossible, so we each sat silently watching the arid landscape of Arches National Park and the surrounding desert pass by the windows. Every several miles

An alternate starting point is the town of Green River Utah on Interstate 70. This is about 20 miles upriver from Ruby Ranch. The terrain between Green River and Ruby Ranch is much less interesting than that immediately south of Ruby Ranch. We had decided to save the 20 miles and one day and get right into the really good stuff. Our driver backed the truck down the dirt ramp under a grove of cottonwood trees and we helped unload the boats. It was a good thing that we had checked our equipment before leaving town. Evidently, an earlier group had not been quite so satisfied with their rental.

The morning was a crisp 60 degrees. The water temperature was in the high sixties, with a high temperature for the day in the mid eighties. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. What perfect weather for a paddle trip! We slathered on the sun protector, lip balm, zinc oxide and all the other modern conveniences to keep ourselves from burning under the intense sun. Our 14 foot plastic Touryak boats were laid out on the sandy bank, ready to receive our gear.

Map of trip area

As always, it looked as if all the gear would never go into the hatches. For some, the extra gear got lashed onto the fore and aft decks. Joel and Kathy just dropped everything into their cavernous canoe. There are advantages to such an undecked boat. Our driver got us started off in the right direction when he advised, "Go down stream!" We shoved off from the bank and started down the Green River, following the path of the famous one-armed river adventurer, John Wesley Powell. The camel colored low banks, lined by bright green tamaracks, channel the heavily silted water into a 1 knot current. We were finally underway.

Soon the banks of the river began to rise up with cliffs of sandstone along the broad river. Layers of shifting sand compressed under the weight of overlying rocks had turned into a soft stone that told the story of its origin. We moved down stream easily along with the current. The heavily laden canoe moved along quickly, powered by two paddlers using extended double bladed paddles.

It had rained during of the previous week, a rare and wondrous event in the desert. Now there were flowers blooming wherever moisture accumulated the precious moisture. We stopped at several campsites to check them out and take notes on the river guide for future trips. The cactus blooms were magnificent, in red, pink and yellow varieties.

We decided to pull off the river after about 20 miles in Tenmile Bottom, setting up a mid day visit to the spectacular Bow Knot bend for mid day the next day. Up on the high bank in among the tamaracks, we found some nice flat areas to pitch our tents. In back of the camp site, a dry wash pushed back deep into the interior up Tenmile Canyon. We walked back as far as the red rock wall would allow. The almost full moon rose well before sunset. The brilliant reflection off the red walls lit the evening camp, deep in the shade of the surrounding walls.

The next day we were on the river by 8:30 A.M. The walls shot up much higher as we continued into the Labyrinth. Desert varnish of black manganese and iron oxides formed draperies on the massive stone cliffs.

The low angle of the morning sun meant much of the river was shaded as we paddled through the twists and near loops of the river below Tenmile Canyon. In the shade it was cool and it was nice to reach the warmth of the sun as we alternately turned east and then west, winding our way southeast toward the Bow Knot. As the sun rose higher, less and less shade was available. Eventually we were paddling along in the full sun on the milk chocolate water.

We stopped at River Register to look at the historical markings of earlier adventurers on the Green. A short scramble up to the overhung high wall gets one to the bottom of the mixture of historic and petty inscriptions carved into the soft stone. Picking out the ones of historical significance from the impudent clutter of less deserving authors is not easy.

At eleven A.M. we pulled over to the bank and scrambled up about 750 feet of hiker created trail to the saddle at the bowknot. This section of the river forms a bow tie shaped loop where the river almost and one day will cut through a thin ridge separating almost eight miles of river. Without a wide angled lens I was only able to get pieces of the river into the shots, looking back up river to the northwest, immediately down river to the northeast, down river 8 miles to the southeast and our exit from the Bowknot to the southwest.

Back down from the saddle we continue down river. At the apex of the Bowknot we rejoin Bill who had forgone the climb. Spread out on a sandbar under a tent for shade, he works hard to repack the items into his kayak, praying that it will all fit in again.

Paddling down the river, the white Navajo sandstone is now long gone and the red rock dominates the scene. Monoliths of stone stand as sentinels on the ends of the big walls. We pass the saddle from which we had looked on this very portion of the river more than two hours before.

By three P.M. we had made our mileage for the day. We stopped on a beautiful sandbar in the middle of the river. We arrived just ahead of a party of 20 canoes of loud, beer guzzling fellows, an illegally large group. They stayed for a while and then, most happily, moved on. I can not say that we were overly friendly to them.

We spent the afternoon under the tarp, swimming in the river and relaxing on the sandbar. I was surprised that despite the appearance of the brown silted water, the water was quite pleasant to swim in. The suspended particles are so fine that you can not feel them on your skin or in your clothes. They leave a film of brownish residue behind, but that is only noticeable on your glasses and camera lens.

Tonight the nearly full moon rose just at sunset and clear the rock wall to our east just before dark settle in on the camp. It would be a comfortable night in the soft sand.

The next day dawn cold and clear. Look like another perfect day of weather. We broke camp and headed down river by 8:30 A. M. floating down the peaceful river under bright blue skies.

By midday we had reached Mineral Bottom, a popular put in and take out for the Green River. Many of the canoe groups that we had passed were taking out here. Others were just starting their Green River trips headed for the same take out as we were at Spanish Bottom. A road ran along the river bringing new river travelers to the launch site. I pulled out on a stone bank and walked up the road overlooking the river. True to its name, I found several mineral laden rocks including a geode and a iron nodule. There was also a campsite between the river and the road under a huge cottonwood. The deeply furrowed bark of the old tree shown golden in the midday sun. I was soon joined by Harding who rested comfortably in a seat carved by a previous visitor into the soft bank. Joel and Kathy soon found our retreat.

After a brief rest we continued on down river toward Fort Bottom, paddling the smooth water reflecting the large red rock reefs set well back from the river's edge. Some sported phallic spires on their flanks.

We reached Fort Bottom shortly after leaving Mineral Bottom. We pulled over onto the muddy gooey bank and scrambled up the trail to the long abandoned cabin. The porch roof still provided shade, but the main roof had long collapsed into the interior of the building. The "front lawn" sloped down to the bend in the river. It was filled with a riot of orange mallow, yellow and purple flowers and many delicate blooming cactus. Stupidly I had stepped off the hard packed trail to take a picture of this beautiful cactus. When I looked back I saw that my feet had made deep impressions in the rocks and stoned making up the surface of the desert. My moment of thoughtlessness would now remain for years, absent the rare strong downpour. That realization sadden me and put a damper on my visit to this site.

We followed the single track trail up to the mesa in the middle of the loop of the Green River. The river wound around at least 300 degrees, nearly making the site into an island. Up on top the 500 foot high mesa was a two cylinder tower. Constructed of laid stones with little or no mortar, this structure's architecture is of the earliest king known in the area. Wood used in its construction was still visible poking out from the rough stones. It has been carbon dated at more than 900 years old. The purpose of the structure is unknown.
We headed back down the trail and Rick became enthused about walking a trail back over the mesa to the north. After changing into his hiking boots, he set out on the trail. The rest of us continued on to the camp less than a quarter mile from the outlaw cabin, on the other side of the river. It was very early in the day to be putting into the camp, but we had made our mileage and it was a great spot to stop. I needed to dry all my camp equipment which I had packed away soaking wet that morning because of the very heavy dew the prior night that had not had any time to dry on the sandbar shadowed by the cliff.

Our new camp was a meadow of rye grass under a small collection of cottonwoods. I spread all my gear out to dry overtop the rye grass. In less than 10 minutes everything was dry. I folded it up and repacked my bags. The sun continued on its arc and the camp was soon in shadow. The amphitheater of the high canyon walls was lit with the golden rays of the late afternoon sun. The scene across the flowered wash in front on my site was magnificent.

As the sun continued to set, we sat on a ridge of stone overlooking the camp and the river. As evening stole over camp, the cloudless sky became a deeper blue. The moon rose over a deep red butte as the last rays of the sun lit the towers of Fort Bottom. Soon only the highest rim of the surrounding walls reflected the light of the end of day.
Continue to part two.....................




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