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Green River stretch great for quiet and even canoes

Posted: Friday, July 05, 2002

OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Years ago, when river-running started to make big commercial noise in Moab, area outfitters got together and decided on a common goal -- to keep the Green River quiet.

People like Carrie Main are glad they did.

The 23-year-old Alaska native recently canoed down a portion of the river for four days, calling it a ''spiritual journey.''

The recent University of Utah graduate is used to whitewater rafting down some of Alaska's larger rivers, and considered the Green a welcome change of pace. ''That water is so peaceful.''

The 120-mile stretch of the Green between Green River, Utah, and the confluence of the Colorado River is considered some of the best big river flat water in the country. That's why outfitters decided they would keep motors off the river.

''The Green is considered a canoe river,'' said Bob Jones, co-owner of Tag-a-long tours. ''For the most part, we keep the Green River a quiet river.''

Tag-a-long tours and other outfitters offer guided tours and rent canoes, kayaks and rafts to private parties. They also shuttle users to and from the handful of put-in points along the river, and will also boat down the Colorado to pick up river-runners at the confluence and bring them back to Moab.

The solitude and serenity the Green provides is in sharp contrast to other river-running opportunities in the Moab area. The whitewater excitement of Cataract and Westwater canyons attract many river-runners looking for an adrenaline surge. While a stretch of the Colorado River just north of Moab is crowded with thousands of day-use recreationists during the season.

The Green is becoming a popular alternative. But some would just as soon the ''Quiet River'' remain a secret.

''I'm hesitant to talk about some of my favorite places along the river,'' said Dennis Willis.

Willis, though, is +outdoor+ recreation coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management's Price Office, so its his job to manage use of the upper half of the stretch of river, and in a way promote its use.

''It's really not a river trip you want to do if you are in a hurry,'' he said.

Willis has been down the river more than 50 times in his 22 years on the job. He still finds each trip rewarding. ''You really feel like you are being absorbed by the canyon walls.''

That's also what impressed Main the most.

''This was a whole 'nother experience, floating down a river with 2,000-foot cliffs,'' she said.

The river is divided into two sections: Labyrinth, the 70-mile stretch from Green River to Mineral bottom, which is administered by the BLM; and the Stillwater stretch, which runs from Mineral Bottom to the confluence through Canyonlands National Park and is administered by the National Park Service.

Most river-runners will do either section, which have a different flavor, in one trip. There is only one other place to put in along the river -- Ruby Ranch, which is located about halfway down the Labyrinth section. That is where Main and her canoe party took off on their trip.

Jones advises that parties plan a five- to six-day trip for either section. He said this gives users plenty of time to explore the numerous side canyons, geological features and Indian ruins along the way. Also, the Green is not a river you rush down.

''It's a wilderness experience that takes time,'' Jones said.

Main said her party only encountered two or three other parties on their midweek trip earlier this month.

Highlights of the Labyrinth section include Crystal Geyser, and abandoned test well that occasionally spurts; Trin-Alcove Bend where three canyons enter the river; and Bowknot Bend, where the river makes a tremendous turn coming within 600 yards of itself. A climb to the ridge of the bend offers a breathtaking view of both legs of the river.

There is also the river register where river-runners since the 1930s have added their names, and, sometimes bizarre graffiti creations, to the rock wall. The site is considered historical now, so current river-runners are discouraged from leaving their mark.

The most interesting inscription, though, can be found between Hey Joe Canyon and Bowknot Bend. In 1836 French trapper Denis Julien carved his name in the rock as he sailed upstream. He is the earliest known white explorer of the river.

If you did time-lapse photography of a journey down the Labyrinth section you could see the canyon walls actually grow higher and higher.

Willis reluctantly acknowledges that the more spectacular portion of the river is the second half through Canyonlands. Here there are more side canyons to explore, Indian ruins to climb up to and more spectacular geological features, such as Upheaval Bottom, The Sphinx and Turks Head.

There is also Outlaw Cabin, believed to be one of Butch Cassidy's many hide-outs in the area. Nearby is a tower ruin, that commands a view up and down the river, but archaeologists can only speculate as to its age and use.

Currently the river is at an all-time low because of the drought, but Jones and Willis say that has no impact on river-running. They say there are more sandbars exposed than normally at this time of year, offering better campsites for users.

Main said this was her first experience on a Utah river and she's glad it was the ''Quiet River.''

''The whole trip was amazing,'' she said. ''I was in awe the whole time.''

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