About a year after Chris’ first canoe trip we went on another, this time with an extra day on the river so we could start at Ruby Ranch, although with only four days we still hurried through Labyrinth Canyon. This trip was mostly focused on the river above Spring Canyon where we put in last time, but that meant a lot of paddling on our last day past stuff we’d seen on that earlier trip. On Wednesday evening we set up the shuttle, leaving my Jeep at Mineral Bottom and taking Chris’ Ridgeline to Ruby Ranch with all our gear. We arrived at Ruby after dark and slept on our cots that night. We got up at 7AM on Thursday but it took us a little over two hours to get ready to launch. After a short one-mile float we stopped on the left bank hoping for a short hike to a manganese mill at the lower end of Ruby Ranch. A quick tromp through the mud led us to an impenetrable thicket of tamarisk that ended that thought.
Next we made a couple more stops, one at Placer Bottom to see some gold mining relics and petroglyphs, and a second at Three Canyon for more rock art.
Below Three Canyon we stopped at three more places– some deeply-etched M. Keller carvings, pictographs and petroglyphs at Bull Hollow, and some early river runner names. We considered landing at June’s Bottom but decided against the mile or so of hiking we’d have to do to see only a bit of the stuff there.
We made our first river camp on a sand bar a couple of bends below Bull Hollow. That evening we enjoyed some beer cooled in the river and a camp fire made from drift wood. This was our first time bringing cots on a river trip, eschewing tents altogether and hoping for dry weather. Each night we lucked out with dry weather and dry air. On past trips I’d slept in a tent and awakened to extremely wet conditions inside, but this time conditions were perfect and dry each night.
On Friday morning we hit the water and tried landing just across from where we’d camped, hoping to hike up to a constructed stock trail 500′ above the river. We spent 20 minutes fruitlessly looking for a way through the brush, but then gave up and floated a quarter of a mile downstream and landed on the upper end of Tenmile Bottom for a quick hike. We had to walk through the camp of some older folks who had just spent their second night there, and we had a nice chat with them. Then we hiked following an obvious trail I’d seen in the satellite imagery that dead-ended at what looked like an alcove, but it wasn’t really much of one. I’m not sure why there’s such a well-used trail (maybe a groover spot?) but there wasn’t anything interesting to see there.
The next plan was to hike the river bottom across from Keg Spring Canyon. We landed at the upper end of the bottom to find some dudes camped there who were decked out with three canoes, two of which were connected together and had solar panels, a generator, and a small cooler/refrigerator. We apologized our way through their camp and walked just over a mile along the river bottom. I’ve done this trip enough times that I think I’ve seen everything listed in Kelsey’s guidebook and whatever else I could find online, so on this hike I was hoping to see something new to me. Besides getting an up-close look at some bighorn sheep, which was pretty cool, the only other possibly interesting thing was a group of names carved in the same hand, I think, in 1911. There are no last names carved, just the last initial “W,” but what caught my eye was “Capt. Norvell W.” E.T. Wolverton had a son named Norville who would have been 22 years old in 1911. Maybe whoever made the carving (Mr. Bob W.) misspelled his name?
We got back on the river and made stops at the always-humorous Howland Bros. inscription and the River Register, then floated another three miles and made camp on a sand bar below Hey Joe Canyon.
On Saturday we visited the Julien inscription from May 16, 1836, then the very large 1911 Launch Marguerite painted on the canyon wall. The rest of the day was spent checking out old mining stuff at Bowknot Bend. Thanks to a fire within the last couple of years, we were able to easily access the mining area at the upper end of the bend. There we saw a large wooden structure and a couple of sealed mine adits.
We floated a couple of miles farther down the bend and scrambled up a steep, rocky slope to some vehicles that I’d seen on previous river trips. Two of them appeared to be for making/storing compressed air for the mining equipment, and another was a small tracked vehicle with a shovel/scoop on front for moving material. We also saw a couple of sealed up mine entrances there.
Another 1.5 miles of floating brought us to our last camp of the trip, on the far southern end of Bowknot Bend. The next day was mostly a travel day since we had almost 13 miles of river to travel before reaching the takeout at Mineral Bottom. The only stop we made was at the mouth of Horseshoe Canyon. There had been a major flash flood recently and it left an enormous delta of sand at the mouth, extending into the river about 400 feet. We walked up the canyon a short distance to see the carnage, then got back on the river. My GPS registered a speed of 5.4 miles per hour in the narrow channel left between the delta and the opposite river bank, which is a pretty good clip considering the low flow of the river (1,780 CFS).
It was a calm float the rest of the way to Mineral. We paddled when we felt like it, but mostly let the current drag us along. We’d covered 52 miles total, most of that on the river and a bit of it hiking. We loaded the canoe onto my Jeep and then headed out, picking up Chris’ Honda at Ruby on the way home.
Photo Gallery: Labyrinth 2021