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Ask Me: What Do You Do For Drinking Water When Floating the Green River?

Ask Me: What Do You Do For Drinking Water When Floating the Green River?

Michael,

I was reading through your paddling adventure in Stillwater Canyon on the Green River. I first heard of it about a year ago and fell in love with the idea. My family (adult siblings and my mom) is committed to experiencing all of our national parks. In preparation for our trip planned for early July 2014 I’ve read that the fine silt of the desert rivers can be very hard on water filters.

Most of our trips to date have been eastern parks with fresh mountain streams or clear lakes. We’ve used an MSR Hyperflow with great results. However, I’m sure a hollow-fiber filter is awful for the Green River. I’ve had it partially clog once and it requires a lot of work. I’m considering a ceramic filter such as the Katadyn Pocket, but I’m unsure if it is up to the task, either. Can you comment on any experience you’ve had? Have you tried using any flocculants and/or know of a good source for them?

Thanks,

Nick
Newport, MI

Hi Nick,

You’re planning one of my family’s favorite trips of all time. My first suggestion is to spend six or seven days, to allow more time for hiking side trails off the river. We took five days and I wish we’d spent more time. Just packing up and setting up camp every day is time-consuming. In early July, you’ll have hot days and possibly low water levels; I’d pick campsites with good side hikes and take those hikes in the evenings or early mornings.

Green River, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Green River, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

To answer your question, we did not even attempt to use a water filter on the Green River. It’s very silted, and I don’t think there is a filter that would hold up well to that level of silt. If you were going to attempt using filters, I think you’d have to collect water in pots first, give it time to settle, and then pump that settled, unsilted water. But that’s much too time-consuming. We had rafts, two kayaks, and a canoe on our trip, which provided plenty of cargo space for water. The smartest strategy is to carry all of the drinking and cooking water you’ll need in hard-sided containers in your boats, 4-5 liters per person per day. It’s heavy, but the weight drops significantly every day, and you’ll have space for it, and it’s much more convenient to not have to worry about treating heavily silted water.

But as for water filters, I’ve used many pump filters over the years, as well as iodine pills and Aqua Mira (which I like for convenience and low weight). These days, when I’m backpacking in mountains with generally clear water that I’m harvesting near the source, I carry a Platypus GravityWorks filter. It does the filtering for you (once you fill it with water and set it up), and you can easily backwash it when it starts to slow down because it beginning to clog, then it works like new again. The model with 4-liter capacity is good for a small party.

Thanks for writing and following The Big Outside.

Best,
Michael

Michael,

We’ll have six days total, not counting our travel days on either end. We’re also planning on seeing Arches National Park while we’re there, so the plan was to spend three full days on the river and get picked up on the morning of the fourth day, leaving us with two full days to explore and hike in Arches. I would love to stay longer (and go before the July heat) but vacations can be tough to line up sometimes.

I’m certainly going to reconsider my water plan. We’re going to all be in kayaks and space for water was a concern, but as you said, it will drop off quickly with each day.

Best,
Nick

Nick,

You can probably cover the distance no problem in kayaks, though that may require paddling several hours a day, and depends on the river level. We had rafts, which are slower. Keep in mind also that this is a popular trip and campsites on the river are not reserved, so sites often get occupied by early to mid-afternoon. If you’re paddling longish days, start early.

If you mean touring kayaks, you might have the space for water. You might ask the park’s backcountry office, but I’m not sure many people who float the Green treat available water. By July, the few side creeks coming into the river may be pretty low or dry. Also, are you aware of the requirement for a portable toilet? I’m not sure you’d be able to transport that with kayaks.

I can see why you’d want to fit in a visit to Arches. We’re taking a family trip hiking there and in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park this spring.

Good luck with your plans.

Michael

[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 mlanza@thebigoutside.com 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.]

About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Best way is to let the water sit over night in a big container, then filter the water out in the morning, with all the silt sitting at the bottom. Any other way is difficult, if not risky. A clogged water filter will leave you thirsty. But the bucket method is quite easy.
    In some places, you may find small streams of clean water, that tastes wonderful. Just watch out for canyons that have cattle higher up versus spring water.

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Peter, yes, that’s a proven method, and the one I use when backpacking on silted rivers like the Green. With a boat, though, you can usually carry all the water you need, which is much more convenient. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Reply

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