12 Days and 66 Miles Through Labyrinth Canyon

The Plan: Drive to Moab, final provision, camp at Green River State Park, and launch for a 66 mile and 12 day float down the Green River through Labyrinth Canyon. 

During the last week of April, we happily shifted gears after making the decision to leave Mexico for a month to seek a new adventure. A lot of thought goes into planning a trip for 12 days in remote and roadless areas but it’s also half the fun! Our biggest concern was water. The Green River has a lot of sediment which makes filtering water difficult and is also quite salty (leftovers from when the area was coastal waters hundreds of millions of years ago). Therefore, you are responsible for packing in all of your water. The recommendation is to bring at least one gallon per person per day and another 1/2-1 gallon for cooking per day. For us this meant we needed 32 gallons of water, which weighs 260 lbs. Definitely an important and potentially limiting factor when deciding to go on a trip for so long. 

Another important part of the trip is planning the menu. We carefully selected 12 non-perishable meals. Striving to eat as much fresh veggies as we could and planned our menu accordingly. Dinners we really enjoyed were, a big veggie stir fry, spaghetti, curry & coconut rice, beet, yam & coconut soup, spicy Spanish rice with sausage and pesto pasta. We also excitedly packed 2 bottles of champagne, one for the first night on the water, another for the last night on the water, and we left a bottle in the car for our celebratory toast when we got back to the state park. 

An underlining concern for us was the river levels, which were rising, and the 200% snow pack in the local La Sal  Mountains made it a little questionable. However, as luck would have it, as days grew closer to our launch date, sure enough the water started slowly dropping. Days weren’t as hot as we imagined and nights were much cooler. A nice change from the warming weather in Mexico. 

We had reservations in Moab at the local hostel in a very cool private log cabin. This was a great place for us to completely explode our gear and get organized. After pumping up just one of the kayaks we could see right away that everything would fit. We enjoyed a few days in the amazing adventure town of Moab. We also bought our detailed river map and provisioned our fresh veggies and a few other small needs before we headed out to the state park. 

We made camp at Green River State Park the night before we launched. Upon arrival we eagerly pumped up the two kayaks and a paddle board, filled water jugs, and went over our gear for the last time. The next morning we woke up early and excited. We carried all of the gear to the boat ramp, and packed up the boats. We splashed, and with proud smiles at one another, took a deep breath of gratitude and enjoyed the comforting silence as we embraced the journey ahead. 

While underway, Lauren piloted the lone paddle board and Brian was the gear boat, towing a fully loaded kayak behind him and only saving enough space in his kayak for room to sit. The water, a brisk 50-something degrees and chocolate milk color, had a nice current moving us along at ~3-5mph (5-7.5kph). All we needed to do was throw in the occasional paddle stroke for direction and enjoy. And there was so much to enjoy! 

The first 25 miles and 3 days of our trip we paddled through low sandstone/shale hills. We were incredibly thankful for our detailed river map for many reasons. In the evenings, Brian would read aloud while Lauren prepared dinner. Choosing from a variety of subjects, we looked forward to learning about the history, geology, explorers, mining operations, and flora and fauna of the canyons in which we were traveling through. We were thankful to have all of this education at our finger tips. Having a better understanding of the area greatly added to our experience.

The Green River started to cut deeper quickly, and we knew we were entering Labyrinth Canyon. This is a very meandering section of the river, carving its way through deep red rock cliffs. Around every corner we were stunned with vistas of enormous Wingate Sandstone walls striped with black desert varnish, a sign that water has run down these ancient rock faces. We loved seeing the native Pueblo petroglyphs, and found inscriptions from early trappers in the 1830’s and surveyors in 1901 quite interesting. The enormity of time is truly on display here, and its history is visible everywhere you look.

For twelve days we moved with the river’s pace. We slept in. Most days we packed up camp and moved downstream, but some days we would lay over and enjoy long hikes up the side canyons or simply relax in the shade at camp talking and playing Farkle. We were thrilled to meet our new neighbors. The local collared lizards were found in the most abundance throughout the entire trip.  As luck would have it, on our very first night, we camped near a great horned owl. Brian’s tuned in ears could hear her, and we walked until we spotted her large nest and her comfortably viewing the river from it. What a home she had! We even saw pronghorn, a few pretty impressive falcon swoops, many funny bird encounters and even a beaver one quiet morning. We were also very thankful to be in the desert while the wildflowers and cactuses were in bloom. In the evenings we enjoyed good food, wine, playing cards and sleeping outside. 

Water levels were perfect. Just high enough to move along at a good speed, while also providing access to side canyon creeks that we were able to paddle up, explore, and camp in.  Brian had the clever idea to put a stick at the waterline each night to gauge the water levels. Surprisingly, it dropped for the first 9 days, but then it all changed. 

We know that canyons are prone to getting late afternoon headwinds that build strength quickly and become gale-force. And this canyon is no different. Campsites are advised to be found early due to these strong winds. Our first 9 days on the water, we got completely spoiled, and, unfortunately, picked up some bad habits, like sleeping in and leaving camp too late. Just out of our 10 day screen shot of the weather forecast, threatening clouds started to roll over the canyon top, only giving a slight glimpse of what might be coming, but still leaving enough hope that blue sky could still be up there. Over the last few days of our trip, temperatures started to drop and the wind became more common. We did have a few uncomfortable paddles fighting strong head winds, but the last few days of our trip, we set ourselves up to for short, 4-mile days, and thankfully never had to endure the bad weather for too long. We also prepared for this and by the last night, when a little rain did come, while the desert plants greedily soaked up the water, we hunkered down in our tent, warm and enjoyed our card games.

On our take out day, we had arranged a shuttle company out of Moab to drive us and our gear back to the state park. When we arrived, we spent an hour cleaning everything. We dropped off a huge load of laundry, set our timers for the 40 minute load, and enjoyed our first, loooonng, HOT shower in two weeks! We said screw it to our planned meal of vegetarian lentils that awaited us in the car and drove to the small local store and bought two big steaks, potatoes and salad. In the evening, we enjoyed our delicious steaks cooked over a fire and drank too much whiskey with the neighbor (not a good idea!!). 

Moving slowly, the next day we were ready to pack up and head south. We talked about camping along the way but a massive storm was developing overhead and temperatures were plummeting. It wasn’t a hard decision to get a hotel for the night. We checked in early and let out a big “AHHHHHHH” as we laid on the bed, our first bed in 13 nights, what a treat! As the enormous snowstorm rolled over head, we sat in the hot tub and enjoyed a cider, a great way to end our Utah adventure. 

We got back to the boat at the end of May, and were beyond excited to see Echo and her progress. She was truly looking ship shape. With her first coat of bottom paint on, below the water, Echo is brand new. When we walked inside for the first time, both of us were struck by the comforting feeling of home. We realized how nice it is to leave on trips like this one, not only for the amazing experience while away, but it makes us very thankful to return and call Echo home. 

(Lesson #7- Book it!!!) 

4 thoughts on “12 Days and 66 Miles Through Labyrinth Canyon

  1. I really enjoyed reading this! I am familiar to Utah and its surrounding areas and definitely makes me jealous! lol. I am glad you guys had a great adventure! The photos made a great ending!

    Thanks for sharing!

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  2. SO wonderful to read about your trip and see all the photos!! What an experience to get to spend 12 days in this beautiful canyon! And how lucky to have (mostly) good weather and not too much wind! Ahh all the desert camps and cactus photos make me miss this region!

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  3. Amazing post and photos! What a grand adventure. We are so happy for you both! Cheers, JAM

    On Sun, Jun 16, 2019 at 11:58 AM Adventures of SV Echo wrote:

    > svecho77 posted: ” The Plan: Drive to Moab, final provision, camp at Green > River State Park, and launch for a 66 mile and 12 day float down the Green > River through Labyrinth Canyon. During the last week of April, we happily > shifted gears after making the d” >

    Like

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