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Desolation Gray - Green River Permit, UT

part ofDesolation Canyon Recreation Management Area, Bureau of Land Management
Photo: Desolation Gray - Green River Permit


The Green River enters Desolation Canyon just north of Sand Wash as it exits the Uinta Basin. Canyon walls are stream and lake deposits of the Eocene age then transition into the Cretaceous delta and sea deposits of Gray Canyon.

Along the river, the riparian zone holds willow, cottonwood, box elder and other woody riparian species and provides critical habitat to neo-tropical migrant birds, nesting waterfowl, and wintering deer and elk. Moving away from the cool shade of the riparian zone, one immediately enters a desert environment dominated by salt shrubs and bunch grasses. There is a small sagebrush zone that gives way to pinyon and juniper slopes. The view is always dominated by rock and cliff. Douglas fir finds a home in protected, well watered alcoves.

Over sixty riffles and rapids punctuate the trip. None are particularly difficult – a dozen or so can cause some trouble for the unprepared traveler. Camping tends to be idyllic on a clean sandy beach in front of a grove of cottonwood trees which offer shade and a windbreak. More than 60 side canyons descend from the plateau to meet the Green River. Every side canyon holds a surprise. In a few, a cold, clear stream pours into a warm silty river. Prehistoric rock art is prolific along with the ruins of dwellings, towers and granaries.

Between Sand Wash and Nefertiti Rapid, users set their own itinerary. There are a number of hiking trails in the canyon. Of the 84 mile long river segment, 66 miles are within the Desolation Canyon Wilderness Study Area – the largest in the lower 48 states.

The Desolation Canyon National Historic Landmark (NHL) extends one mile on either side of the river from Nine Mile Creek to Florence Creek. The NHL was designated by the Secretary of the Interior in 1969 as part of the centennial celebration of the 1869 exploration of the Green and Colorado Rivers by John Wesley Powell.

There is a primitive boat ramp at Sand Wash, a primitive eight-site campground, a contact/information station, staffed ranger station and toilets. Trash receptacles and water are not provided. With the remoteness of the area groups can camp the night before at Sand Wash. Due to frequent mosquito plagues, Sand Wash offers four campsites with screened cabins. This contrasts with the more developed Swaseys Boat Ramp where there is a large concrete boat ramp along with improved parking, toilets and trash removal services.

The east side of the river, from Gold Hole to Coal Creek is Ute Tribal Land. The Tribe has decided not to sell permits for this section of the river in 2015. Please respect their decision and do not access their land between Gold Hole and Coal Creek on the east side of the river.

Know Before You Go

Trips may be delayed or permits invalidated if these stipulations are not met. Failure to comply with stipulations or launching without a permit may result in penalties under Federal or Utah law and regulations. Penalties may include criminal action, civil action, and denial of future permits.

  • The permit is not transferable without prior approval of the issuing office and must be in the possession of the permittee on the trip. Permittee must provide photo ID at permit inspection.
  • The permittee must allow rangers to complete permit checks to determine the validity of the permit, ascertain that the group has all required equipment, and orient participants about river etiquette and safety.
  • The permittee must have at the launch:
    • a group of 25 people or fewer and not greater than the number pre-paid for on the permit,
    • a first aid kit with adequate materials for the size of the group and sufficient for treating serious injuries,
    • a repair kit or kits with adequate materials to repair the types of boats used on the trip,
    • an air pump or pumps adequate to inflate boats after repairs.
    • a washable, leak-proof, reusable toilet system that allows for the carry-out and disposal of solid human body waste in a responsible and lawful manner. The system must be adequate for the size of the group and length of the trip. Leaving solid human body waste on Public Land or dumping it into vault toilets or trash receptacles at BLM facilities is prohibited.
    • a durable metal fire pan at least 12 inches wide with at least a 1.5 inch lip around its outer edge and sufficient to contain fire and remains. Fire pans must be carried on all trips, even if stoves are to be used for cooking. Fire blankets under fire pans are recommended to facilitate total ash removal.
    • a properly-sized Type I, III, or V Personal Floatation Device (PFD) (approved on the label for paddling, whitewater, kayaking) for each member of the party.
  • Each raft, dory, or canoe must have at the launch:
    • an extra oar, paddle, or motor capable of maneuvering the vessel, and
    • a bail bucket or bilge pump (does not apply to self-baling boats, kayaks, and inflatable kayaks).

  • Parties using low capacity vessels (kayaks, inflatable kayaks, or canoes) must carry spare paddles as follows: 1-3 such craft require 1 spare paddle; 4-6 craft require 2 spare paddles; 7-9 craft require 3 spare paddles, etc.
  • Each boat 16 feet or longer must have a Type IV throwable device or a commercially made rescue rope with at least 40 feet of line.
  • The permittee must ensure that all trip participants:
    • carry all charcoal, fire ash, garbage (dishwater strainers recommended), solid human body and pet waste out of the river area,
    • adhere to the Utah Boating Act (Title 73, Chapter 18), which includes the wearing of life jackets where required (children ages 12 and under must wear PFD’s at all times when boating on the river, and all persons must wear a PFD from Jack Creek Rapid to the take out.), and registration of motorboats,
    • do not engage in commercial use as defined by 43 CFR 2932.5, i.e., 1) make a salary or profit or increase his or her financial standing as a result of the permitted trip, 2) charge other participants a fee or charge that is not strictly a sharing of trip costs, or 3) collect money or compensation in excess of actual expenses for the trip. Normally participants are not in a commercial use situation if they equally share the actual trip costs,
    • list any trip sponsor or affiliated organization, e.g., scout group, school, etc., associated with the trip on the permit application,
    • keep side canyon streams and springs free of soap and other contaminants,
    • not remove, damage or destroy archaeological, historical, or ecological resources, including antlers, or cause unnecessary or undue damage to the natural and cultural resources of the public lands.
    • not camp or build fires on Public Land within ½ mile of the mouth of Rock Creek.
    • make campfires only in fire pans and limit the use of gathered wood for campfires to driftwood found along river banks and beaches,
    • not engage in upstream motorized travel except for emergency purposes, or engage in downstream motorized travel at other than a slow, wakeless speed
    • launch, travel (stay within visual contact), and camp together as a group. No boats may be sent ahead to secure campsites. Groups launching separately may not camp together if such action would result in more than 25 persons occupying a campsite, and
    • leave boat tags issued by the river ranger attached to boats for the entire trip.
  • Pets are prohibited on the Desolation and Gray Canyons section of the Green River year round.
  • Minimum trip length is 3 calendar days. Maximum trip length is 9 calendar days.
  • Download a copy of the "Bureau of Land Management - River Use Stipulations"

    Trips may be delayed or permits invalidated if permit stipulations are not met. Failure to comply with stipulations or launching without a permit may result in penalties under Federal or Utah law and regulations. Penalties may include criminal action, civil action and denial of future permits.

    Pets are prohibited on the Desolation and Gray Canyons section of the Green River year round.

    Minimum trip length is 3 calendar days. Maximum trip length is 9 calendar days.

    Contact Information

    Bureau of Land Management
    Price Field Office
    125 South 600 West
    Price, Utah 84501

    Phone Park for More Information:

    Information:  (435)636-3600
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