Float the Green River

View redrock cliffs and spires as you float through Stillwater Canyon in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.

"America's best float trip." Those four words will be the first out

of your mouth at the take-out after a leisurely expedition with a constant backdrop

of redrock cliffs and spires. With bighorn sheep scrambling atop mesas, side

hikes down narrow tributary canyons to Puebloan art and cliff dwellings, the

Green River through Stillwater Canyon in Utah's Canyonlands National Park features

some of the most exotic yet accessible scenery in the country. Plus, the Green's

easy flatwater allows novice boaters and families to do it sans guides (though

they're available if you want). Outfitters provide river gear and transportation,

eliminating complex DIY logistics—one less thing to think about as you

lounge, beverage in hand, on sandy beach campsites.

Numbers

This section snakes for 52 miles from the put-in at Mineral Bottom to the confluence

with the Colorado River; take out on any beach between the confluence and Spanish

Bottom, four miles downriver. Five to six days leaves time for side hikes, but

you can do it in as little as three. Season Mid-April through May and September

through mid-October are the best times to combine floating, hiking, and swimming.

Summer highs often top 100°F; snow and cold winds can occur in early spring

and late autumn.

Key Gear

A wide-brim hat or ball cap and frequent sunblock rubdowns are mandatory. Pack

a Stream Machine Water Launcher (rei.com)

to blast other boaters; it serves double duty as a bilge.

Water Level

Snowmelt runoff generally peaks in May, making the river swift in spring. Loaded

rafts may average 5 to 6 miles per hour (touring kayaks and canoes are faster).

At lower levels in the summer and fall, rafts may average 2-3 mph, but a greater

area of campable shoreline will be exposed. Paddle in the morning to avoid afternoon

headwinds.

Camping

The park does not reserve or designate campsites along the river, and competition

can be stiff. Snag a campsite by 3 p.m. to get in on the best ones, like Tent

Bottom (mile 13) and an unnamed camp on the east bank at mile 45.

Hydrate

Pack at least a gallon per person per day, more if your cooking plans require

lots of boiling.

Fresh Fruit

Believe it or not, ice blocks will last four to five days in coolers on this

desert float. Fill coolers with perishables not needed until later in the trip,

and tape them shut to preserve the ice. This is a great time to go luxe with

food, drink, and gear, since the weight isn't on your shoulders.

Low Impact

Fire pans and portable toilets are required and available from outfitters. Permits

Required from Canyonlands, but all applicants receive one (the park has no daily

launch limit). They cost $20 for up to 40 people. (nps.gov/cany)

Outfitters

Tag-a-Long Expeditions (tagalong.com) and Tex's Riverways (texsriverways.com)

rent touring kayaks, canoes, and other river gear, plus provide shuttle. Reserve

at least three months in advance. Rent rafts and 2-person touring kayaks from

Canyon Voyages (canyonvoyages.com).