UT - Green River - 2004/05/03 to 2004/05/06 - Part 2 - Fort Bottom to Spanish Bottom

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After a layover day hiking at Fort Bottom, we are back in our kayaks on the Green River, Utah. We day hike to the Maze in Canyonlands before our final takeout at Spanish Bottom and return by jet boat up the Colorado and back to Moab, Utah.

The next morning the sun once again was on the rock rims, red and orange contrasting with the darkness of the camp which was still in shadow. As I packed up my gear, the shadow of the cottonwoods began their march across the tall grass in the campground. Out in the wash, the flowers were fresh from their overnight blooming. White evening primrose and orange mallow and purple, three foot long spikes of Prince's Plume (close-up from top) and perfect balls that perfumed the air with their sweet smell. The latter I have not been able to identify, even with the help of several web based flower guides. Anyone know what it is?

We followed the wash back into a deepening canyon. Flowers covered the sandy floor of the wash. On little ledges in the walls, animals lined their precarious homes with bits of leaves and stems. Lizards scurried across the wide wash, leery of our advance. Large areas of undisturbed and highly fragile macrobiotic soil were everywhere. A wall of mud was frozen in mid drip. We returned to camp across the amazingly bedecked desert floor. Dried mud and these bright floral jewels were the only evidence remaining of the rains of two weeks ago.

By the time we finished our walk and packed all our gear into the boats, it was 11:30 A.M. But that still left plenty of time to make the 20 miles that we needed to average each day. So the morning's leisurely pace was no problem. We floated on down the river, passing a famous named formation, Buttes of the cross. Formed by two disparate formations some miles across, it appears as a horizontal cross when approaching it along the river. The Powell expedition was the first white men to see it and this was there first view. Further downstream, the separation of the two formations is very apparent, hence the plural ButteS of the Cross.

On all the previous days we had paddled through increasingly deepening layers of rock. New colors and types of formations appeared up along the banks as we continued down river. Today however we would paddle through an area where the reverse was happening. The high walls were well back from the river and the close-by walls were disappearing, the strata gradually disappearing as the river rolled on. This was particularly evident in a section of

The layers continued to disappear until the Navajo sandstone once more was close overhead. The red rock walls had returned to river level and the harder rock provided steep sides for the river's course. We passed through a slight riffle, the only fast water that we would see this entire trip. After so much flat water, it was nice to get a little bounce from moving water.

As afternoon wore on, we approached a great turn in the river. In the center of the big loop was a formation of cream color sandstone called the Turks Head, because of its turban shape. The inside of the loop was a riot of dense, large tamaracks, nearly impenetrable in their tangle of branches, both living and dead. On the far side of the loop we found a long sand bar where we pulled in for the night. The moon rose up over the layer wall as we prepared our camp. Rick paddled across the river to climb up the opposite bank and explore the small canyon on that side.

The next morning we packed camp in the shade of the the same wall over which last night's moon had risen. The paddling was lazy as we headed out between the lower stair stepped banks. One good water cave along the bank drew us in for an unusual shot down river.

At Jasper Canyon we pulled over to the bank and visited the grannary not 100 feet from the bank. Some of the work was clearly a reconstruction in more recent times, but a good bit of it seemed to be the original mud and stone. Harding climbed up and looked carefuly inside the ancient structure.

We continued up hte canyon which had a slight trickle of water flowing along the sandy and rock strewn floor. Bits of red obsidian were scattered about, its glassy blood red surface cleaved into sharp edged shards. Its value as scrapers, arrowheads and spear points was obvious. The canyon ended in a high pour off with a mini water fall drizzling drops over the overhanging edge. With so little water coming down it was easy and safe to stand under the falls and look up to watch the drops hurtle at you from several hundred feet up. The wind blew the shower around over a fifty foot circle, so we run here and there trying to catch up or stay in the cooling mists. grown p eople running around like children in a sprinkler. At the very head of the canyon, a quiet deep pool collected the water of the falls before seeping out the canyon to join the Green River. Joel mentioned that last time he was herer there was a bolt on the smooth sandstone wall that could be used to climb up over the steep wall and walk up the rest of the canyon to the Maze. We later learned that the canyon has been closed to visitation for restoration of natural habitat. The bolt had been deliberately removed no doubt.

We continued just a short way farther down river to Shot and Water Canyons where we pulled in for the night. It was still quite early in the day, so we made a nice hike up the canyon, climbing 1500 vertical feet to the saddle between Water and Shot Canyons. The pungent smell of old pinion pines wafted along the floor of Water Canyon. From there we could see the La Sal mountains, snow capped in the distance. Veins of red obsidian rained little chunks of the fascinating rock over the otherwise smooth sandstone. Harding was captivated by its color and luster and kept picking up pieces of it for close inspection. "Look at this one!" he exclaimed. "Oooh, look at that one!." as he hopped over to yet another. We returned fairly late in the afternoon to set up camp under some ledges high over the river. With the rocks and ledges so close by, we knoew we were in for a mouse infested camp. that night, one ran across my sleeping bag as I lay out under the stars.

The next day we planned to stay at the same camp and spend the day hiking up Shot Canyon and into an amazing area known as the Maze. We started early, taking some water but knowing that we would be able to fill our Dromedary bags from the water pools we had seen the day before. We took our water filters for refilling those bags from the pools, a probably unecessary, but prudent, thing to do. We hiked up the steep start of Water Canyon and onto the saddle between the two canyons, where we had turned around the day before. From the saddle we could look down and out onto the open floor of Shot Canyon or back into Water Canyon along the sloping sandstone we had just traversed.

The trail traveled up the center of a dry wash in the wide shallow bottom of Shot Canyon. Eventually, it narrowed and the walls ot higher until there was nowhere to go but straight up. At this point about half the party returned to camp while Rick, Joel and I continued on.

We soon were on the top, traveling on white Navajo Sandstone strewn with primrose and paintbrush. Our path was clear as we followed cairns of rock on the smooth white sandstone, headed for a solitary monolith called Chimney Rock. We reached the feature at the end of the dirt road that enters the Maze area from the northwest. By the time we rested and ate some trail food, it was 2:30 PM. We concluded that we would not have time to complete our planned loop trail down into the maze and return to camp before dark, so we walked a couple of miles out on the ridge east of Chimney Rock along the top of Jasper Canyon. From there we could see other free standing rocks, particularly some square dark brown rocks named the Chocolate Drops. We returned to Chimney Rock and retraced our path back down Shot Canyon, which included a descent over a bowl onto some precariously placed rock piles.

The next day we packed up for the last time and continued on to the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River. We pulled onto a sandy bank at Spanish Bottom and prepared our gear for the Tag-a-Long jet boat that would take us 50 miles upriver to take out near Moab. The all aluminum boat was powered by a Ford automotive enjine driving an impeller jet. We helped load the boats onto the racks on top of the jet boat, and then we and two other groups began our ride back up river. The jet boat did about 15 knots, passing rafts headed downstream to the whitewater just below Spanish Bottom. We weaved from one side of the river to the other to avoid the sand bars marked by subtle differences in the water. Glen, the jet boat captain, wore special contrast enhancing glasses that helped him read the water.

Standing on the back of the boat, we saw more scenery in a few hours than we saw in several days on the green. A particularly interesting feature was a layer of bright white stone about half way up a wall in one turn of the river. The layer was only a couple of feet thick and of limited horizontal extent. Probably a small lake or salt pan that existed for a couple thousand years before being buried in the much redder stone typical of this portion of the Colorado.

We reached the landing and unloaded our personal gear. A bus was waiting to pull the boat with the kayaks on top onto the tarmac. We climbed into the bus and we on our way back to Moab. A brief stop at some petroglyphs high on the canyon wall next to the road, and then we were back at Tag-A Long. We walked down the street to Canyon Adventures to get our deposit back and then we drove back to the motel and out to a nice restaurant for dinner. It was good to have a few creature comforts after 6 days on the river. All that remained was a drive back to Salt Lake city and a long plane flight to Baltimore. What a great trip.
Return to Part One of Sea Kayak Green River......




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