By Michael Lanza
Our flotilla of five rafts and two kayaks drifted lazily toward what looked like a geological impossibility: a gigantic cleft a thousand feet deep where the river appeared to have chopped a path right through the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah. Cracked cliffs of burgundy-brown rock framed the gap. Called the Gates of Lodore, its’ a canyon as famous today for its scenery and whitewater as it was once infamous for the crises that befell its first party of explorers, led by a one-armed Civil War veteran, who set out in wooden boats a century and a half ago to map the West’s greatest river system.
In July, joined by 21 friends and relatives, my family took a guided, four-day, 44-mile rafting trip on the Green River through Dinosaur National Monument, on the Utah-Colorado border. Our five guides from Holiday River Expeditions led us safely through challenging rapids, including Disaster Falls—where that exploration party, led by John Wesley Powell, suffered the loss of one of their wooden boats, splintered to pieces on rocks—Triplet Falls, and Hells Half Mile, all named by Powell.
We pitched our tents each night on sandy beaches below soaring canyon walls and a night sky riddled with stars—some of the prettiest campsites I’ve ever experienced. We hiked up side canyons to view prehistoric pictographs and stand beneath icy waterfalls. We saw at least 10 bighorn sheep—more than perhaps any of us had seen on one trip, ever.
I’ll post a feature story about this trip, with many more photos and a video, later. Meanwhile, for information about a guided trip next year, contact Holiday River Expeditions, bikeraft.com.