The Green River is a very long stream forming in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains in Bridger Teton National Forest of Sublette County, Wyoming, then winding its way south into Utah, turning east into Colorado and finally back south down into Utah where it terminates at the confluence of the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park in San Juan County. The featured section is the approximately 38 mile run from below Flaming Gorge Reservoir in northeastern Utah to Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge just above Lodore Ranger Station in extreme northwestern Colorado.
Leaving Flaming Gorge Dam on the Utah-Wyoming border, the Green River flows generally southeast to Browns Park NWR in northwestern Colorado over a distance of about 38 miles starting in Daggett County, Utah and ending in Moffat County, Colorado at the NWR off CR 164 from SH 318. This is a Class I to III run, though it is mostly good Class II rapids that are fun, but easy enough for most competent boaters in canoes and kayaks, and a breeze for almost anybody in a raft, especially a guided raft. Scenery along the run is just awesome, presenting a blend of high desert, deep sandstone canyons and beautiful water that, unfortunately, has a very short season in late spring and early summer. Fall releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir are possible in years when there is sufficient snowmelt and/or rainfall in the watershed above the reservoir, extending the season by a few weeks.
This run ends at Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge a few miles above Lodore Canyon, but paddlers who arrange for permits in advance have the option of continuing down the Green River to Echo Park and the confluence with the Yampa River just before the Green River flows back into Utah, or down the Green River to Split Mountain Campground through Whirlpool and Split Mountain Canyons. To paddle between Brown's Park NWR and Lodore Canyon requires a free daily play permit from DNM. Paddlers with a daily play permit MUST take out at the Gates of Lodore Campground and MUST NOT enter Lodore Canyon before or after the date of their permit for Lodore, if they have one. Camping is available at the start of the Lodore Canyon run at the Gates of Lodore Campground. Typically, this is a April-to-October trip, but it is boatable anytime there is a significant release at Flaming Gorge Dam, weather permitting. The canyons are majestic, and enhance the grandeur of this excellent trip that can be made in 2-5 days by most boaters, though several shorter trips of one-half to full-day runs can be made above Swallow Canyon.
Daggett County in far northeastern Utah and Moffat County in far northwestern Colorado close to, well, nothing! This is a wilderness trip far removed from civilization. The nearest major city is Salt Lake City about 3-4 hours to the west.
Salt Lake City 210 miles; Grand Junction 180 miles; Durango 350 miles; Denver 426 miles; Albuquerque 610 miles; Phoenix 763 miles; Oklahoma City 1,000 miles; Dallas 1,155 miles; Austin 1,265 miles; San Antonio 1,273 miles; Houston 1,450 miles; Little Rock 1,326 miles; Kansas City 1,036 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Water quality in the Green River is excellent, flowing clean, clear and cold from Flaming Gorge reservoir, but not drinkable without purification. Navigable flows are generally limited to late spring through early summer, though dam releases can extend the season by several weeks in years of significant snowmelt and/or heavy rainfall in the drainage basin above Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
May through June is the prime season for running this section of the Green River. Other times can include fall releases or other periods, depending upon the reservoir level at Flaming Gorge.
This section of the Green River has no significant hazards for competent boaters at normal water levels. The Taylor Flats Bridge at about mile 16 below the Flaming Gorge Spillway is unrunnable at flows starting around 6,000 cfs due to insufficient clearance between the river and the bottom of the bridge - extreme caution should be exercised when flows exceed 6,000 cfs. Some of the rapids reach Class III status, and may present some problems for canoeists and kayakers having less than intermediate level whitewater skills. There are almost no real concerns for paddlers in rafts. The high desert run does necessitate taking along plenty of drinking water or a system for purifying river water. Rapids are the boulder garden type that sometimes produce holes and standing waves, but the river is wide enough to maneuver around many of them.
Put in off US Highway 191 below Flaming Gorge Dam at the Spillway Boat Ramp at 0.0 miles; Little Hole Public access at about 7.0 miles; Taylor Flats Public Access at about 16.0 miles; Swallow Canyon Public Access at about 23.5 miles; Swinging Bridge Campground off Colorado SH 318 in Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado at about 30.0 miles; Crook Campground on river left off Colorado SH 318 in Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado at about 38.0 miles (restroom at the take-out.) There are no other known public access points on this section of the Green River.
There are no campgrounds located along this section of the Green River except near the take-out in Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, where camping is available at Swinging Bridge and Crook Campgrounds, both of which offer river access for non-motorized boats. Crook Campground is hard to see from the river, but is accessible via road from Moffat County Road 164. However, numerous excellent natural riverside campsites are available all along this run, which is very popular, so please be courteous to other paddlers and try to occupy a space adequate for your group size, leaving larger spaces for large groups. There are also four exellent campgrounds above the put in for this run on the south, east and north sides of Flaming Gorge Reservoir near US Highway 191. Be sure to carry everything you need to leave no trace of your having been there.
There are no outfitters located along this section of the river. Numerous outfitters from Utah, Arizona, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Texas and other states frequently bring groups to this river, so it may be possible to arrange shuttles from one of them. Otherwise, plan on bringing everything you need and running your own shuttles.
The Green River run from Flaming Gorge to Browns Park NWR is just about like running Lodore Canyon without the hassle of the NPS permit system, which may or may not work for you (or me!) Trip length is roughly the same and the topography is nearly identical. The run passes through deep sandstone canyons that rise hundreds of feet above the river in a place nearly forgotten by time. This area is very remote and rugged, with no visible signs of civilization, paddlers included (I have it on good authority that we paddlers are NOT a civilized lot!) This is a high desert run, so be sure to pack a variety of clothing for all weather and climate conditions, and lots of drinking water. A camera is a necessity on Green River trips. If you are fortunate enough to win a permit lottery slot from the NPS, then you can start your Lodore Canyon trip at Flaming Gorge Dam and run about 90 miles down to Echo Park in Colorado near the Utah border. With or without running Lodore, this is an excellent trip that nearly anybody can enjoy. Be sure to dry in anything that you do not want getting wet, because some of the waves around the larger rapids can deposit a significant amount of water in your boat.