Desolation Gray Canyons of the Green River

Desolation Canyon, Near Vernal, Utah

Desolation Gray Canyons of the Green River does not offer reservations through Please take a look at the area details below for more information about visiting this location. Enjoy your visit!



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. Contact the Bureau of Land Managements (BLM) Price Field Office for cabin reservations at (435) 636-3600. 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.