“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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Pack at least a gallon per person per day, more if your cooking plans require
lots of boiling.
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.
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)
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).