The Green River, called Rio San Buena Ventura by Spanish explorers, 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 124.8 mile run from the Town of Green River to the Colorado River confluence in Canyonlands National Park.
The last reach of the Green River begins about 1 mile above IH 70 at Green River State Park, then flows past the San Rafael River confluence on river right (across the river from Ruby Ranch private access), through Labyrinth Canyon, around Bowknot Bend, through Stillwater Canyon and Canyonlands National Park to its confluence with the Colorado River about 121 miles below the state park access as a Class I stream plus about 3.2 miles on the Colorado to the final take-out at Spanish Bottom. Trips can be shortened by starting or ending at Ruby Ranch above Labyrinth Canyon, or at Mineral Bottom between Labyrinth and Stillwater Canyons. Trips through Stillwater Canyon typically take out at Spanish Bottom on the Colorado River and then await a pre-scheduled jetboat shuttle back to Moab. All trips on this reach of the Green River require a free BLM permit at all times. Trips below Mineral Bottom require a free backcountry permit from Canyonlands National Park, which MUST be obtained prior to entering that area. The use of fire pans and reuseable toilet systems is mandatory. Most trips, including those guided or outfitted by licensed commercial outfitters, end at Mineral Bottom (Labyrinth Canyon), or along the sandy beach at Spanish Bottom on the Colorado River (Stillwater Canyon) just above the rapids that indicate the start of Cataract Canyon.
Topography along the way is awesome! After putting in at Green River State Park the river flows through an open valley on a very shallow gradient and flatwater where light blue and slate-colored marls and shales are capped by buff, gray and brown rocks. Crystal Geyser, a mineralized, terraced formation of ancient origin, drops water into the stream on river right, about 4.6 miles below the state park, and serves as an alternate access point. After about 23 miles, the San Rafael River flows into the Green on river right, just above the start of Labyrinth Canyon. From this point to the end of the trip paddlers are treated to spectacular views of sandstone canyon walls rising several hundred feet above the river along both banks. You have just entered the canyonlands of southeastern Utah! Cliffs of reddish-brown and orange rock are adorned with shades of dark brown and blue-black resulting from leeched mineral deposits carried to the surface and down the walls by escaping rainwater. Riverbanks host beautiful shades of green saltcedar, willows and reeds amid massive formations of tan and beige sandstone domes and purplish-red Kayenta towers.
There are numerous side canyons to see and explore including Trin-Alcove, where three separate canyons open at the same point beside the Green River. About 69 miles below the state park is a 7.5 mile loop called Bowknot Bend, where the river turns sharply to the east, curves south, then heads west again, back to the north-south line of the river's natural flow just about 1,200 feet below where it started, taking paddlers through an imposing narrow channel of magnificently scenic rock formations. The Mineral Bottom access is just below this point and just above the entrance to Stillwater Canyon, where the last 52 miles offers a winding journey through Canyonlands National Park to the Colorado River confluence. Those who choose to explore the side canyons should be aware of the presence of one species of copperheads and three species of rattlesnakes, taking precautions to avoid snakebites in a place where emergency medical assistance is not readily available.
This area is rich and diverse in wildlife, birds and plants. Catfish are easily caught from boats or along the banks. Paddlers are likely to see badgers, coyotes, beavers, porcupines, deer and other animals, as well as great blue herons, egrets, killdeer, swallows, vireos, magpies, buzzards, yellow warblers, rock and canyon wrens, red-tailed hawks, ravens, mourning doves, mockingbirds, catbirds and many other species of birdlife. Snakes may be encountered under rocks, sunning themselves on ledges (usually in spring and fall months - they generally avoid the hot, summer sun when they can), or around the bases of trees and other ground vegetation. This is a wild and natural place of incredible beauty. In case it needs to be stated, BRING YOUR CAMERA!
Eastcentral to southeastern Utah, flowing along the Grand-Emery County Line into Wayne County and Canyonlands National Park, where it meets the Colorado River. Manti La Sal National Forest is just south of the Colorado River confluence. There are no major towns or cities nearby, and towns that are in the general vicinity are very small.
Salt Lake City 260 miles; Grand Junction 90 miles; Durango 260 miles; Denver 336 miles; Albuquerque 520 miles; Phoenix 673 miles; Oklahoma City 909 miles; Dallas 1,065 miles; Austin 1,175 miles; San Antonio 1,183 miles; Houston 1,305 miles; Little Rock 1,236 miles; Kansas City 946 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 fair to good, flowing salty, cold and silty. It is usually not drinkable, even with purification. Take an adequate quantity of drinking water with you. Navigable flows are generally year-round except during periods when the river ices in winter.
April through October is the prime season for running this section of the Green River. Labor Day weekend is the most popular period. The peak runoff season for snowmelt is between April and June, during which time the river will be at its normally highest levels. Paddlers should bring adequate clothing for hot, cold, wet and dry conditions. Wetsuits or drysuits with a water-repelling base layer are strongly recommended for running the river anytime of the year other than late-summer or early-fall due to snowmelt water temperature.
All trips on the Green River through Laybrinth and Stillwater Canyons require permits at all times. Permits above Mineral Bottom (Labyrinth Canyon) are free of charge. Permits for trips below Mineral Bottom (Stillwater Canyon) require a fee of $36 per group reservation deposit plus $25.00 per person permit fee. Permits can be obtained from BLM offices in Moab or Price (435-259-2100), any office of Canyonlands National Park (435-259-4351), Green River State Park, John Wesley Powell Information Center or the Moab Office of Utah Division of Lands and Forestry. Permits are also available through several private outfitters. Requirements to get and keep a permit are extensive, and are strictly enforced by BLM rangers. Permits MUST be in the possession of the trip leader at ALL times while on the river.
For full details please see Green River Permits, or call BLM at 435-259-2100 for details and permit applications.
This section of the Green River has no rapids or waterfall hazards if ending trips above Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River. However, upon reaching Cataract Canyon about 4 miles below the Colorado River confluence, Class III to IV rapids with Class IV to V consequences because of the remoteness of this area where there is no easy access to the river or any way to call for assistance, are serious hazards for all but very experienced paddlers in properly outfitted boats. The river is swift, and the rapids come one after the other over a short distance. When flows exceed 40,000 cfs (the annual high flow is usually around 45,000 cfs) holes are created that can flip large rafts like a piece of paper. These drops and/or holes are called Mile Long, Big Drop and Satan's Gut, a huge hole/reversal located at Big Drop #3. These hazards are to be taken very seriously. They are usually the most severe in May and June, but become a little more manageable starting in July, when the river drops. Paddlers should have swiftwater rescue training and at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills unless on a commercially-guided trip. Do not proceed below Spanish Bottom on the Colorado River unless you possess the skills, experience and gear for the much more difficult Cataract Canyon run. While not directly applicable to this run, the information about Cataract Canyon is presented here as a warning of what is directly below this run, which will quickly turn from a flatwater run into a raging torrent with few, if any, options for egress.
Boaters running this section of the river should be accomplished wilderness paddlers and campers who are fully prepared with adequate food, water, medical supplies, boating and camping gear and a strong mental attitude. Less experienced paddlers can enjoy this reach of the river, but should contract with a licensed, experienced outfitter for guided trips. Much of the river channel has become overgrown with Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) trees that choke off access to campsites. All campsites are on a first come basis. Later in the season sandbars rise to form good campsites, but beware of possible rising water conditions. High canyon walls make egress difficult, at best, to impossible, at worst. Be prepared for weather and climate conditions. Watch for snakes if hiking or exploring the side canyons area, where you might find Mojave, Timber, and Rock rattlesnakes or copperheads under rocks or sunning themselves on ledges. Carrying a MAJOR First Aid kit is required - see the Green River Permits section, or call BLM at 435-259-2100 for full details.
Emergencies may require air evacuation, the cost of which is charged to the injured person. Walking out of the canyons will take several hours to several days, and should not be attempted except under dire circumstances. Satellite phones are available for rent from several commercial outfitters licensed to operate in Utah. See the emergency services section for specific details and contact information for the Green and other Utah rivers.
Green River State Park (N 38° 59' 19.30" / W 110° 09' 00.91") at the Town of Green River and IH 70 at 0.0 miles (access fee is $7.00 per person / $5.00 with senior discount over age 62); Crystal Geyser (N 38° 56' 18.42" / W 110° 08' 10.46") on river left at the end of Crystal Geyser Road about 5 miles southwest of IH 70 at about 4.60 miles (GPS and high clearance, 4WD vehicles strongly advised for this road); Ruby Ranch Access (N 38° 46' 37.98" / W 110° 06' 18.46") at a sandy beach on river left (private - fee required: $5/person + $10/boat) at about 23.0 miles; Mineral Bottom Access (N 38° 31' 29.74" / W 109° 59' 36.48") at boat ramp on river left about 17 miles off Hwy. 313 at about 68.5 miles; Spanish Bottom Take-out (N 38° 09' 24.61" / W 109° 55' 59.62") is a river taxi pick-up point back to Moab on the Colorado River about 3.2 miles below the confluence on river left at about 124.8 miles. There are no other known access points for this Lower Green River trip. Access fees and backcountry permits ($36 non-refundable reservation fee plus $25 per person) from Canyonlands National Park office or authorized agencies including several outfitters in the area) are required for trips starting at Mineral Bottom and passing through Canyonlands National Park.
There are no campgrounds located along this section of the Green River (unless you are a mountain climber.) Green River State Park, with excellent camping facilities and amenities, is located just below IH 70 outside the Town of Green River. Numerous natural campsites can be found all along this reach of the river. Natural campsites may be inundated with Tamarisk tree infestations that partially or completely block access. Later in the season sandbar campsites emerge asa the water recedes. If you pack it in, then pack it out! Leave no trace of your having been there. Take only photos - leave only footprints. The use of fire pans and reuseable toilet systems is mandatory for all trips along this reach of the Green River at all times. Gelled waste bag systems, if properly contained in a spill-proof container, are permitted for toilet systems.
There are numerous BLM-permitted outfitters offering rentals, shuttles, air shuttles, guided trips, river information and other services for this reach of the Green River. Contact BLM at 435-636-3622 for a current list of licensed outfitters.
NOTE: There is no vehicle access at the bottom of Stillwater Canyon at the Colorado River confluence. Trips ending here MUST have pre-arranged a motorized (jet boat) water taxi ride to Moab where, hopefully, you left your car.
Boaters who enjoy long, multi-day river camping trips will love the 124+ mile run from the Town of Green River down to the Colorado River confluence in Canyonlands National Park. This canyon run is awesome in its scenic beauty and even more awesome in its remoteness. With limited access and no nearby major towns, this run is for those who are fully prepared for 3-7 (or more) days of river running. Trips are well suited for canoes and rafts, but kayaks can make the run only if they have canoe or raft support to carry provisions. All along this reach of the river are side canyons to explore, and photographic opportunities everywhere you look. There are also rattlesnakes and copperheads in the rocks of the canyons, so look before you step on, step over or pick up anything. Refer to the Safety section for information on snakebite, heat and hypothermia treatments and prevention. Swiftwater rescue and First Aid training would be good to have on this trip - the water is not usually fast, but the techniques could be helpful for a number of situations in which a paddler could find himself or herself in an area where outside help would be hard to summon and harder to access. The final take-out is at a sandy beach below the Colorado River confluence called Spanish Bottom. Many paddlers opt to pre-arrange a motorized water taxi ride from the Colorado River confluence to Moab after a long downriver trip. When your trip is over take a couple of days to relax in Canyonlands National Park and enjoy the amenities paid for by your tax dollars.
Recent reports (June, 2022) state a heavy concentration of Tamarisk (Salt Cedar) trees growing in profusion along the river banks making access to campsites difficult to impossible. Having a couple of sharp machetes might be a great piece of equipment not normally carried, but helpful in getting to campsites. Check with rangers first, but they probably do not mind having help clearing Tamarisk. Supposedly the park service and BLM are working to open up some campsites, but they may not be where you are when you are ready to set up a camp. It's just one more bit of excitement on a brown water river. Be sure to bring plenty of clean water for drinking and food preparation because you will find none in Labyrinth and Stillwater Canyons. Silt content in river water is too much for successful filtration or purification for consumption.