Moab Utah May 21
Canyonlands National Park preserves a wilderness of rock. There are three separate areas, one is completely wilderness for diehard hikers and campers. Obviously not us. The main section is called Island in the Sky and is likely to be where we spend most of our time. The Colorado and Green Rivers divide the various sections and then meet at the end of Island in the Sky.
The Colorado River is very brown with silt. The Green River originates in WY and looks green due to minerals in its drainage basin. Originally the Colorado River was not considered to start until the confluence of the two rivers. From its origin in Grand Lake CO, in the Rocky Mountains, the river had been known as the Grand River. In 1921, the State of Colorado petitioned the US to rename the upper section as the Colorado also and over Utah and Wyoming objections, it was renamed. The Green River covers a larger drainage area prior to the confluence but the Colorado’s volume is higher.
We began Wednesday at the Visitor’s Center at Island in the Sky and listened to a park ranger (the one from West St. Paul) discuss John Wesley Powell. Powell served in the Civil War where he lost the lower portion of his right arm. He was an adventurer from early on, traveling down the Mississippi from St. Paul to New Orleans by himself.
Powell gathered together an expedition, funded by himself, family, friends and donations, some left over US government property after the Civil War. He and 9 others, none with previous whitewater river experience, left Green River WY on May 24, 1869 to explore the previously unmapped and never successfully journeyed section of the rivers from Green River down to the Grand Canyon. When they reached their end point, they had 10 pounds of flour left. One of their group left early on, three others left and were never heard from again.
Powell’s exploration opened up this area of Utah, previously marked on maps as “Unknown”. He had advance thinking and suggestions for his time, suggesting that the river resources should be husbanded and shared. Most suggestions were ignored.
After education, it was time for exploration. One of our first stops was Mesa Arch with a great view of the La Sal Mountains in the east. However, the wind was ferocious and it was like being sand blasted. We put up the hoods on our windbreakers and stood with our backs to the wind to ease the hassle.
Lunch was peanut butter and crackers at one of the overlooks and then it was on to the Green River Overlook. All of these views are from higher elevations looking down at the rivers. In fact, once the Colorado leaves the town of Moab and enters the “Portal”, it is surrounded by cliffs for something like 500 miles.
You look down into this great, deep valley/canyon and can see the river in the distance with these steep cliffs descending from your location. It is quite an amazing sight.
Our final stop was at Grand View Overlook. It is the farthest point south casual visitors can go at Island in the Sky. In the far distance is the confluence of the Colorado and the Green followed by Cataract Canyon where the whitewater rapids are especially potent as the combined volume rushes through a narrow canyon. Todays flow was quite strong as the mountain runoff in Colorado is strong but not yet at its peak.
Dinner was at a local BBQ restaurant which we chose since it had local musicians playing that evening. The food was fine, the music just bearable. Tomorrow morning we get up early for a full day of adventure.
Ed and Chris May 22 9:15 pm