Photo Credit Scott Shaw
Paddling Down the Green River in Utah Through
Labyrinth & Stillwater Canyons
A road trip to southern Utah provides superb paddling opportunities. The Green River begins at Flaming Gorge, located in the northeast corner of Utah. It then meanders through Dinosaur National Monument. Eventually, it follows the labyrinth of desert wilderness in east-central Utah, and passes the town of Green River before it unites with the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park.
Kayaking the flat water section of the Green River from Labyrinth to Stillwater Canyons allows paddlers of all ages to experience paddling the serenity of calm water. The quiet desert beauty along the Green River offers an exceptional paddling experience with memorable landscapes; the best Utah has to offer. This section of the Green River is one of the most spectacular flat water paddles in the entire United States. Mile after mile of jaw dropping canyons and .pristine waterways wind through spectacular desert settings.
The excitement builds as you paddle along canyons carved into red rock and sandstone that are thrilling to explore. As you glide along, an occasional soaring bird can be heard. Otherwise there is utter silence, except for the sound of trickling droplets of water as your paddle blade moves through the water.
The unique beauty of the Green River is hard to describe. The desert scenery is remarkable, and the side canyons are breathtaking. Moenkopi Rock formations tower well over a thousand feet above the water. Stillwater Canyon is a steep-walled sandstone canyon, void of any noticeable riffles.
The river’s current flows at about 1 knot in the slower sections and 4 knots in the swifter sections. If you paddled steadily, you could paddle 15 miles comfortably in several hours.
Numerous side canyons offer hikes into the Upheaval Dome and the Maze in Canyonlands National Park. The Anasazi Indians, who inhabited these lands some 700 - 1500 years ago, left dozens of ruins tucked away among the cliffs, waiting to be discovered. The canyon walls were decorated with petroglyph images by the now departed tribe.
The best time to paddle this section of the Green River is in the spring and early fall, when the temperatures are milder and there are fewer people on the water. The river is the least crowded before April 15th and after October 15th. The lower the water level is, the easier it will be to find campsites compared to the higher water times. Camping is permitted on sandy beaches, sand bars, and along the shore, nestled amongst yucca, sage, numerous cacti, wildflowers and huge cottonwood trees that provide the perfect place to set up camp.
Some sections of the Green River have more challenging rapids up to Class III. Below Lodore Canyon, the Desolation and Gray Canyon section of river has over sixty Class I - Class III rapids. Below Desolation Canyon, the Green River meanders through Labyrinth and Stillwater Canyons. The calm waters are a favorite retreat for flat water kayakers.
Always make sure to check the river’s CFS flows before you depart, especially after storms. Although the Green River is moderately easy, during flood stage it can be very challenging to paddle. Heavy rains can cause large torrents of water, swift currents and flash floods,
In the springtime, you may encounter some rain, with temperatures lingering in the 70 F range during the day and 40 F at night. Avoid planning a paddle outing to the Green River in June – August when the temperatures soar into the upper 90s, unless you enjoy the heat. It is typically not windy, but strong head winds can occur.