Five years after the group took our first trip down Labyrinth and Stillwater canyons along the Green River, we set out for our fourth canoeing trip (the middle two being the upper part of Labyrinth from Ruby to Mineral). Lyman led the charge and did all the legwork with Tex’s Riverways and Canyonlands National Park to book the trip. Everyone met in Moab on Wednesday morning at Tex’s and we helped to load gear into the trailer, then we were on our way to Mineral Bottom. The NPS ranger watched us prepare our boats and gear and decided to spare us the obligatory lecture regarding rules and regulations, and we were on the river shortly after 11:00AM.
We only floated about a third of a mile before the first stop at Tidwell Bottom. There we hiked a couple of miles and found the remains of an old cabin, some inscriptions, rock art, and ruins. We also searched for a rumored 1880s inscription but failed to find it. We got back on the river briefly and floated less than a mile and checked out a corral at the far lower end of Tidwell Bottom.
Our next planned stop was a stone cabin quite a way down the river–about eight miles–and although we got out to try to hike there, we ran into too much tamarisk. The group floated a short distance downstream and found a place to camp on an island and set up for the night. On Thursday morning we floated about half a mile down the river and found/improved a break in the willows and tamarisk below the stone cabin. We hiked about 1.2 miles round trip to see the cabin. It was a well-constructed structure against a ledge in a small canyon. There was a fair amount of fancy-looking broken glass lying on the ground. On the hike back to the canoes I found a nice shed deer antler, and I picked it up very briefly with the intent to bring it home with me before I remembered I was in a national park and couldn’t legally do that, so I threw it back on the ground where I found it.
The next stop was at Fort Bottom and the Walker Cabin. Most of the group had seen the cabin and the nearby Native American ruin, so we split up at the cabin and some of the group and I walked downstream along the bottom while others hiked up to the moqui fort. The part of the group I was with visited several granaries along the base of the cliffs before returning to the canoes.
We spent the following five hours or so floating about 15 miles down the Green. There were several places we wanted to stop to visit points of interest that our research had turned up, but at most of them there was too much brush to get off the river. We did stop at Gin Pole camp where early paddle boats had frequented and left car axles embedded in the sandstone to moor their boats to. We also spotted some granaries between Anderson Bottom and Valentine Bottom but we weren’t able to stop for a closer look.
A sandy beach at the lower end of Valentine Bottom was our camp for the night. On Friday morning we paddled less than a mile down the river and stopped to see a couple of granaries. After another mile on the river we stopped to see the remains of a cabin supposedly built by Bill Tibbetts that burned down in the mid- to late-1930s. All that was left was the chimney.
After a couple more miles on the river we stopped above Turk’s Head and hiked to some boulders with a lot of petroglyphs on them. It was a challenge getting off the river and past some ledges and brush up to the rock art.
Another five miles on the most scenic portion of the river brought us to Deadhorse Canyon. There we found some petroglyphs, including one panel reminiscent of some fighting scenes in Nine Mile Canyon and along the San Rafael River closer to home. Alan and I stopped at Jasper Canyon to see a granary there, while the rest of the group passed us up. We met up again a few miles downstream at our camp about seven miles above the Confluence. It had been a long day on the river–over 20 miles–perhaps the longest stretch of river we’d floated in a single day.
Saturday morning came and most of the group packed up camp and paddled across the river a very short distance. We climbed about 1,800′ above the river to an old cabin that had burned down relatively recently. All that’s left is a few bed frames and other junk lying around, probably dating to the latest uranium boom in the region.
After meeting back up with the rest of the group and floating seven miles down the river, we poked around at the Confluence. We found a couple of inscriptions by early surveyors and then continued downstream along the Colorado River and camped at the first camp spot at upper Spanish Bottom. According to my GPS, we’d covered 70.7 combined river and hiking miles. It was a pleasant night except for the time I saw a mouse run under my tent, which worried me until I eventually fell asleep.
Sunday morning came and our trip was basically over even though we had a nearly full day ahead of us. We all packed up our gear along the river bank and waited for the jetboat pickup–everyone except the three who stayed behind an extra day to hike up to the Doll House. The rest of the group boarded the jetboat shortly after 11:00AM. About 25 minutes later the jetboat stopped to pick up Randy and his group who had spent four days on the Colorado River in Meander Canyon. A couple of hours later we were at the Potash boat ramp near Moab waiting for the short bus to take us into town. After returning to Tex’s and spending quite a bit of time waiting for the jetboat to arrive and unloading all the gear and packing it up into our vehicles, we ate an early dinner at Moab Brewery. Alan and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the group and drove back to Price. It was so nice to return home and see my wife and kids and doggos, but I missed the river enough that a month later Chris and I returned for a very nice late season trip…
Photo Gallery: Labyrinth and Stillwater Canyons II