Spotlight: Experience Desolation and Gray Canyons on the Green River, Utah
What You’ll Find
The Green River through Desolation and Gray Canyons or “the Deso/Gray” is a popular multi-day float trip, known for its easy rapids, great scenery, varied wildlife sightings, moderate hiking and interesting historical locations. Most of the run is flat water floating. Two rapids are in the class three range, while all others are class two or less.
The canyon is called Desolation in comparison to the much greener sections upstream. But compared to sections further downstream or the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, this canyon has lots of greenery. Because of the dam controlled flows, the banks of the river are dense with brush. It can be difficult to find easy routes through the brush to get past the river’s edge. This also limits the locations that boaters can pull over and land. During low flow periods, there are many nice sand bars and beaches on which to land and camp.
Put-in: From Vernal, Utah, head some 90 miles southwest to the town of Myton. Just west of Myton, turn south off US 40 on the first paved road and follow the signs to Sand Wash Boat Ramp.
Take-out: Return to US 40 and head west to Duschene and south on US 50 to Green River, Utah. Turn left onto Hastings Road, just past the bridge over the Green River, and drive upstream about 10 miles to the take-out.
Make Sure You
Stop first at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Price, Utah. This natural history gem contains the densest concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever found. Over 12,000 bones (belonging to at least 74 individual dinosaurs) have been excavated at the quarry. Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry has helped paleontologists learn a great deal about the Jurassic period, yet the site presents at least as many mysteries as it helps to solve.
Continue your adventure in Green River, Utah. Plan to spend about 3 hours at the John Wesley Powell Museum where you’ll see original and replica boats. Be sure and watch Journey into the Great Unknown, a movie about Powell's first run (and what a first run!). Also in Green River, you’ll find traditional boater hangouts like the well-known restaurant where you can order a cheeseburger the size of a plate and see tons of photos and boating memorabilia!
There is much history (and prehistory) in Desolation Canyon. Ancient ruins left behind by the Fremont people tell a tale of life in the canyon before Europeans arrived. The east side (river left) of the river above Coal Creek is Ute Tribal Land.
John Wesley Powell documented his expedition through the canyon in 1869; Powell and his crew named all the rapids on the river and many of the side canyons. Ranchers moved into the area before 1900, transporting everything by horseback. Outlaws frequented the Green River territory, often swapping horses with ranchers in the canyon.
Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch found that the rugged terrain offered a perfect hiding spot in Rock Creek Canyon. As you float the river, you’ll know when you arrive at Rock Creek because its confluence with the Green appears like an oasis, with old ranch outbuildings shaded by apple trees. Pause here for the chance to escape the summer heat before you continue downriver.
Your Fees at Work
The fees you pay for your permit ensure continued quality management of this river. Fees keep river rangers on the ground and help maintain the unique experience on the Deso-Gray!
Apply for your permit and remember to practice leave no trace river camping practices. This is a “pack out everything” river!