Ask Me: Advice on Floating the Green River in Canyonlands National Park
We were so enthralled by your story about floating the Green River that we’ve started to make plans for our own trip with another family. I’d like to ask which outfitters you used, and whether you’d use them again. I’d also be interested in your opinion as to whether it’s a better idea to do a jet boat shuttle or use a car relocation service. Finally, I’m deeply interested in your lessons learned on the trip, particularly what you’d do differently. If you were me, what questions should I be asking you, but haven’t?
Thank you again for such a wonderful story, and we are looking forward to planning our own trip.
PS: One Kindle version of Before They’re Gone ordered just now.
Thanks for writing and for following The Big Outside—and for purchasing my book, I hope you enjoy it.
I’m delighted that my story about floating the Green River through Canyonlands National Park inspired you to plan the trip. To answer your questions:
To be honest, I think we used Tex’s Riverways, but I don’t remember with certainty. I think both Tex’s or Tagalong have been in business long enough to have demonstrated their reliability. I would select one based on whether they’re providing the exact gear and logistical support you need. (See my comment about boats below.)
I’d go with the jet boat service. It’s quite an enjoyable ride back upriver, especially for kids, but also quite scenic and relaxing for adults. Plus, the usual takeout for the Stillwater Canyon trip doesn’t have any road access, so there’s nowhere to have a car waiting for you. If you plan to takeout somewhere else, consider that the back roads down there are quite rough, so there’s a risk of vehicle damage.
Another reader had previously asked me what to do for drinking water when floating the Green River, which I answered in this Ask Me post.
As for other tips, I’ll offer a few. My story about that trip mentions that the best times of year are mid-April through May and mid-September through October. River levels can vary greatly from year to year, depending on the previous winter’s snowpack in the mountains, so that’s a good thing to find out when you’re planning the trip—if there was a low snowpack, don’t wait too late into spring or until fall because the river could be so low that it’s difficult to make good time, and many campsites can become big mud flats. Also, be aware that in early spring, generally before mid-April, the canyon can get strong up-canyon winds that are hard to paddle into, and cold temps and even snow flurries.
The first logistical task to tackle is reserving dates for your trip with an outfitter, at least a few months in advance. That’s the hardest part to nail down, and it’s critical.
I believe at least one of the outfitters now rents a boat rig that consists of two canoes joined by a small platform, creating a sort of canoe-catamaran. If I do this trip again, I would definitely rent one of those instead of a raft, because rafts are so heavy and slow on a slow-moving river like the Green in Canyonlands. And yet, the canoe-catamaran is as stable as a raft, very unlikely to flip over like a canoe could. While the Green is quite easy to paddle, you will hit the occasional eddy line that has the potential to flip a canoe. It happened to one pair of people in a canoe in our group; it wasn’t a dangerous situation—they just stood up in the water and pulled the canoe to shore—but some gear got wet.
If you’ve never done a river trip before, try to organize your food according to what you’ll eat every day, and label your coolers and dry boxes so that you know which ones you want to open each day. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of time looking through various food containers for what you want that morning or evening. River trips are great for how much food and beverage you can bring along, but that demands a high level of organization.
Lastly, we took five days, and if doing it again, I might plan six or seven days to have more time for hiking side canyons along the way. Taking a canoe-catamaran (or any boat faster than a raft) would also give you more time for hiking because faster boats mean less time on the river every day. But I’d still recommend building in the extra day or two.
Best of luck on this adventure. It’s still one of my family’s favorites of all time. I think you’ll love it. Let me know how it goes.
Note: In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at email@example.com, message me at facebook.com/TheBigOutside, or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission. I receive a high volume of questions, so I cannot always respond quickly.