Green River Floating and Rafting
Fun for families, couples, and solo explorers, the West’s iconic Green River beckons to be discovered. From its beginnings in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming to its terminus at the confluence with the Colorado River, this waterway winds hundreds of miles and provides the perfect spot for an abundance of recreational activities.
Spanish and Mexican explorers called this river the Rio Verde, or Green River, and some think that this is because of the verdant vegetation along its banks. What’s more, the river actually achieved its green hue more recently, after it was dammed; the color is a product of silt.
Even with one dam on its length, the Green River is still largely a wild river, and boaters and floaters flock to its cool waters annually for play. The options are many — from the Gates of Lodore two hundred miles north at the beginning to famous jaunts through Canyonlands to the south— but when using the town of Green River as your river base camp, however, there are a few really outstanding settings for your trip. Their names are Desolation, Labyrinth and Stillwater.
Petroglyphs, wildlife, scenery, sunsets, soaring cliffs — you name it, and Green River provides. Three of the most popular areas near Green River include Desolation, Labyrinth, and Stillwater canyons (in order from upstream down). You can enjoy incredibly calm water in the latter two canyons. These are ideal for multi-day rafting trips or for mellow single-day canoe and kayak trips; there’s no better way to experience the solitude and beauty of such lovely canyons. Desolation Canyon is for the more serious adventurers, totaling 84-miles from the put-in at Sand Wash to the take-out at Swasey’s Boat Ramp. It’s typically done as a six to seven-day trip to allow ample time for its 60 rapids, which come at the rate of one per mile for 60 miles, and to allow for ample time to enjoy maximum solitude and exploration.
Keep your eyes peeled for the canyon’s abundant wildlife, including wild horses, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, mountain lions and black bear. Take advantage of the many hiking opportunities to view native american rock art, skiffs abandoned by early river-explorers, abandoned ranches, including one where Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch often swapped horses with owner, Jim McPherson, and even a prohibition-era whiskey outpost. Beware of the common afternoon canyon winds, which can be fierce and make downstream travel seemingly impossible. Most importantly, plan for a rare opportunity to unplug from the pace of everyday life and to receive one of the most memorable experiences of your lifetime.
River trips can become logistical Olympics, so make your life a little easier by hiring a commercial outfitter; Tex’s Riverways or Holiday River Expeditions are two great places to check. Whomever you choose, they will generally provide all of your equipment, a shuttle service, and expert knowledge and stories about the river and surrounding landscape. Just remember, you’re on “river time” and little else matters while you’re out there, whether it’s a few hours or several days.
If you do decide to stake out on your own, permits and advance planning are often needed. Inquire with the Bureau of Land Management at the Price Field Office (435-636-3600) for more information. And remember, temperatures are most ideal in summertime; in the spring, there are higher water levels with bigger rapids, but colder water; in the fall, the water is warmer, but flows at lower levels.
These coordinates are for downtown Green River, a great starting point for hiring a guide: 38.993761, -110.143150