on Utah's Green River
a Wild and Scenic River in the Desolation Canyon Wilderness
Length: 6-8 days
Distance: 84 miles
Rapids: Class II - III
Minimum age: 5 years
Dates: April - October
Types of boats: Rafts, inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddle boards
Exploration History and Wilderness Designation
It was July 1869 when John Wesley Powell and his expedition members, over a month into their first exploration down the Green and Colorado rivers, first floated into a canyon where they found “the river sweeping in great and beautiful curves and canyon walls steadily increasing in altitude” and declared it “a region of wildest desolation”.
Desolation Canyon, despite its seemingly uninviting name, is enchanting. It has remained essentially unchanged from Powell’s time. Around every bend you are met with interesting geology, outstanding views, and wildlife sightings. petroglyphs and turn of the century ranches to explore and good potential for wildlife sightings. At the canyons deepest point, it is deeper than the Grand Canyon. There’s also fun whitewater and plenty of time to truly settle into the rhythm of river life.
In 2019, Desolation Canyon received designation as a Wild and Scenic River, and Wilderness designation. You will find that Desolation Canyon is more than deserving of these official designations and like many of its previous visitors, you may be inspired to add some accolades of your own.
Several different groups of prehistoric peoples have called Desolation Canyon home, all the way back to earliest known occupants in 11000 BC. Today the east side of most of Desolation Canyon is Unitah and Ouray Reservation land.
Archaeological sites along the river give us a glimpse into the lives of these historic peoples. We will have a opportunities to hike and admire some of these, such as ancient rock art panels.
Flora and Fauna
The plant community of Desolation Canyon is varied and creates habitat to many creatures. Pinon pine, juniper, sagebrush and Freemont ash dot the banks. The majestic Cottonwood trees stand watch as the river flows downstream and offer us shade.
We will see and hear the calls of many birds - Great Blue Herons, finches, canyon wrens, hummingbirds and others.
During our time on the river we may see: lizards, toads, big horn sheep, mule deer, rabbits and fish.