Rafting the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument – Colorado
By Chris Christensen
There is a fine line between determined and crazy and it occurred to me that I might have crossed that line a while back. All of the other kayakers had either climbed into or tied up to one of the large rafts, but I paddled on as one with something to prove, although what I was trying to prove and to whom was less clear. My muscles burned with exertion while my lungs fought with the thin air at an altitude of more than a mile.
My day had started in a tent along side the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. I had arrived the night before in a flotilla of five 16 foot inflatable rafts rowed by the expert guides from OARS. I had been invited on the trip by George Wendt the president of OARS who had been a guest on the Amateur Traveler and was paying my way on this excursion. (Rafting Down the Grand Canyon).
Skittering among the five rafts were three inflatable kayaks, and this day one of the two single person kayaks was my craft. What was a small rapid in a large raft was a much more interesting ride in a small kayak. But today Gus (as our guides called the wind) was blowing down the narrow canyon and at times it was all I could do to keep my kayak from blowing back upstream.
Bret, the guide who was in charge of the kayaks or “ducks” called over, “Is there a reason you are in that eddy?” Eddy? Sure enough, I had not noticed that the main current was to my right. I gradually learned to position my maneuverable craft where the river ran the fastest and kept paddling as we floated down the canyon.
The Green River Canyon is a geological wonderland. Strong tectonic forces have uplifted ancient strata of rock so that you start in rocks that are a billion years old and as you go down river the rocks get younger even though your elevation is decreasing. The large red cubic rocks of Lodore sandstone is replaced by flat white sheets of sandstone and then giant slabs of Navajo sandstone. Much of the time the sheer clefts border both bands of the river and at other times sandy beaches with cottonwood trees and side canyons open off from the river.
We camped at campsites designated for us by the park rangers under the shade of the cottonwood trees. The 14 guests helped unload their two dry bags (one checked luggage with clothes and one carry on with cameras, sunscreen and whatever else will be needed during the day) and then pitched their tents. Meanwhile the guides set up the kitchen, the portable latrine and the “living room” of portable camp chairs. Then one or more of the guides led a hike while the rest put out appetizers and made dinner.
We hiked to waterfalls and lookout points. We saw ancient pictographs and petroglyphs and even more ancient fossils. And then we returned to find a wonderful dinner. The steak dinner on the final of the three nights stands out most in my memory.
When the wind was not blowing (which was most of the time) the ride in the raft or the kayak would alternate between the excitement of the whitewater and the lazy beauty of floating down a wonderland of cliffs and canyons, faults, uplifts and beautiful blue skies.
I send my thanks not only to George and the five wonderful guides: Pete, Seth, Bret, Tom and Scotty but also to my wonderful fellow travelers who made this a most memorable vacation. Half the travelers had done a previous river trip and I understand why someone would do this more than once. Next time I am kayaking the entire 44 miles of the river… or I will die trying. Wait, where was that line again?