AN EXPEDITION ALONG THE GREEN RIVER
On November 19, 2015, Aaron Griggs and I left Buena Vista, Co and traveled to Moab, UT. It takes 6 hours to drive from my house to Moab via US Hwy 24 and I-70. We stayed at the Motel 6 in Moab. Friday, Nov 20th, we met our driver, Doug at Tag-a-long tours. After paying our fee and filling out a BLM permit, we followed Doug out to Mineral Bottom. We parked Aaron’s truck and loaded our canoe and gear onto Doug’s vehicle and trailer. Doug took us to the town of Green River, UT where we launched our canoe at midday. The State park has a nice boat dock for launching. The launch is at river mile 120.
During our paddle we saw many ducks, some geese, three swans and several hawks. A forked horn Mule deer buck was lying on the west bank as we came through the riffles just downstream of the railroad bridge on the south side of town. We saw a Mule deer doe and another forked horn buck in the agricultural area at mile 113.
The wind picked up and we had a headwind and a tailwind depending on our direction down this winding river. We made 16 miles and camped on the east bank of the Green River, mile 104, at dusk. We made a campsite for ourselves in the sagebrush under some cottonwoods. I built our fire with flint & steel and cooked some ground venison with noodles for supper.
Aaron is very interested in trapping and the old ways of living. I bought a hunting license and he bought a trapping license. We modified a dozen traps with a 3/16″ gap between the jaws so they would be Utah legal. Aaron registered with the State and was issued a trapper’s number to put on the tags he made for our traps.
For my hunting forays, I brought a .45 caliber “Kentucky” style rifle. Being a little worried about losing my rifle in the river, I opted to bring my least expensive weapon. It just so happens this was the first rifle I ever purchased for myself in 1976; I was just 16 years old. It was made in Spain and imported and marketed by Connecticut Valley Arms.
Upon reflection, I should have brought my fowler with non-toxic shot and purchased the required waterfowl stamps. There was more waterfowl along the river than any other small game. 16 total miles today.
Day 2, Saturday Nov 21, we broke camp this morning planning on travelling 7 miles to the San Raphael River. We were mesmerized by the scenery and the flocks of Canada geese and we floated right on past the mouth of the San Raphael without seeing it.
We were about 1 mile past it when we realized our mistake. We turned around and paddled 1/2 mile back upstream but the current was so strong around a large sand bar island that we couldn’t make any headway and finally turned around and continued down to Dead Cow wash were we set up camp. Mile 94.5. This camp was absolutely gorgeous with the sheer rock wall to the north of the wash and the huge old Cottonwood to camp under.
Missing the San Raphael may have been the best mistake we made on the entire trip! After setting up camp, I took my rifle and hiked up the wash for a scout. In the bottom of the wash, I found a beautiful piece of amber flint. I saw tracks of lion, coyote, fox, deer and other small critters. I learned later some of the small tracks that I was unfamiliar with were that of Ringtail. Ringtail is a cat-like relative to the raccoon. It is almost completely nocturnal and lives in these desert canyons. We canoed 9 1/2 river miles today and another mile trying to backtrack and another mile scout. For supper, we fire roasted a squash and cooked more ground deer on a fire I struck with my new found flint. 11 1/2 total miles today.
Day 3, Sunday Nov 22, we warmed up the left-over meat and made coffee for breakfast. After breaking camp and loading the canoe we paddled only 4 1/2 miles down the river to the entrance to Labyrinth Canyon. We landed at a place called Three Canyon. Mile 90. We hiked a short way up the path to a great camp under a sheer wall that overhangs the site.
We set up our lean-to and I headed off up canyon to hunt and Aaron set out to lay some traps. I hiked/hunted my way up the main branch of Three Canyon and back to camp in the afternoon. With the side trips I made, I covered at least 4 miles on foot. I saw some tracks but never got a shot at anything. Three Canyon is composed of slot canyons. Slot canyons may be only 50 feet wide across and hundreds of feet high in places. These may be the only canyons of this type remaining since the inundation of Glen Canyon by Lake Powell.
Aaron made 6 sets. We met up at his last set on my way back. As we walked back, I found another beautiful piece of purple tinted amber flint. I instructed Aaron in how to make a fire with flint and steel which he did with this piece of flint. For supper, I reconstituted some jerky and cooked some noodles with it to make a soup. I found it difficult to walk up these canyons very fast. The trails are rocky and difficult at best and the view is so spectacular a man has to take his time to watch his footing while watching for game and taking in the fantastic scenery.
When we rolled out our beds I scooped out of the sand a hole for my hips and one for my shoulders. I had read about this in the past but I don’t do it very often. What a great difference this made in sleeping on the ground. I will have to make a habit of it when preparing my bed. 8 1/2 total miles for today. Day 4, Monday Nov 23, we got up with the sun so Aaron could check and pull our traps while I made coffee and broke camp. Aaron came back with a Ringtail and to quote my good friend, Darrell Nichols “with a smile so big you could barely see your face”!!
He skinned his prize and we packed up and hit the river. We travelled 11 miles through the magnificent Labyrinth Canyon to Keg Spring Canyon. Mile 79. We carried our gear 1/4 mile up the canyon to a bench under some cottonwoods. Another beautiful camp site.
We set out on our hunt immediately. I went at least two miles up the canyon (there was no defined trail here at all) and made a call for predators. Aaron set seven traps for various critters. We saw several sets of lion tracks, deer tracks, fox and ringtail tracks. I found another piece of flint here and as usual struck the fire off of the piece of flint I had found in that place. There are a lot of petrified trees here.
For dinner, I cooked the ringtail and some ship’s biscuit. It was the best Ringtail either of us had ever had! 16 1/2 total miles today.
Day 5, Tuesday Nov 24, Aaron pulled our traps while I made coffee and started packing. He had two sprung traps but nothing caught. I made a trip to the river with my bedroll and other gear and met Aaron with his bedroll on my return.
We made 3 trips to haul our stuff to camp and back to the river. Each trip being 1/2 mile around equals 1 1/2 miles to pack into camp and 1 1/2 miles back to the river this morning. We headed downstream and saw the river registry while watching some coots. We travelled 17 1/2 river miles today. We paddled around Bow Knot bend and saw a Grey fox along the bank. Aaron took a shot at it with his pistol before I could bring my rifle into play. The fox ran away and when we checked the riverbank there was no blood or hair so we figured he missed. We made camp on a bench above the river.
Mile 61.5. Aaron set 5 traps while I made camp and started the fire. This camp was the worst for firewood but we managed. I cooked dried fruit for supper supplemented with piňon nuts, jerky and hot chocolate.
We passed through the picturesque heart of Labyrinth canyon today. My neck got sore from looking up at all of the high walls. 19 total miles today.
Day 6, Wednesday Nov 25, Aaron pulled our traps – nothing. I cooked coffee and broke camp. We hit the river and paddled 9 1/2 miles to Mineral Bottom. Mile 52.25. After we passed Hell Roaring Canyon we had a ferocious head wind for the last 3 miles. 81 total miles afoot & afloat.
We arrived at Mineral Bottom at 1 PM, drove into Moab for some food then drove the river road up the Colorado to I-70 and home to Colorado. As can be seen from the pictures we had clear skies and warm fall weather during the day. Daily temps were in the 50’s & 60’s with night time lows in the 20’s & 30’s. The moon was waxing from 1st quarter to full, so our evenings were bright with moonlight.
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Seeing the Ringtail reminded me of camping in the local mountains around Phoenix, over 60 years ago, and hearing noises around our camp and shining a flash lite to find our camp surrounded by 10 to 15 Ringtail cats. Sadly they are all gone from that area now. Looks like you had a great trip
Great trip and well written, thanks Gabe!
Good trip son. From what I read and saw in the pictures, one of those once in a lifetime adventures. Glad you both fared well and found the many interesting things you did. What in the heck does that ringtailed thing taste like? Good job!
Great trip and a fine write up, thanks Gabe!