Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Adventure Learning Trip Report - Stillwater Canyon Canoe Trip

Stillwater Canyon runs 52 miles down the Green River, through the heart of Canyonlands National Park, and separates the three distinct districts within the park; Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze districts. Completely “still,” Stillwater Canyon features flat water from the put-in at Mineral Bottoms at the terminus of Labyrinth Canyon to the confluence of the Green River and Colorado River at Spanish Bottoms, the beginning of notorious Cataract Canyon. Redrock walls, towers, buttes and mesas rise prominently along the corridor and hide ancient ruins, rock art and other historic features.

More often than not our seasoned adventure guides have completed a trip prior to pushing off from shore with our students. This trip was special though because we were all in the same figurative boat; we were all, students and staff, laying eyes on this majestic landscape together for the first time. While extensive research was done to familiarize and prepare for the trip, there is always a different feel to a trip when you’re not totally sure what is around the next corner; it provides a great opportunity for learning together, increased camaraderie, and adventure.

We took three full days to float all 52 miles and landed at our final camp two miles above the rapids of Cataract for our jet-boat pickup. Because this area of Utah is so remote there are no roads that access the confluence, the only way back to civilization is a 67 mile jet-boat ride back up the Colorado River to Moab. Unfortunately we did not have good luck spotting any of the elusive wildlife besides a quick glance at a River Otter and several Great Blue Herons. The top risk of a river trip through Canyonlands is wind. There are dozens of stories of lost gear, scattered boats, stranded people and miserable times because of the wind that can howl up and down the canyon. Our first night on the river brought with it strong winds and slight rain around midnight, but after that small scare we had nothing but sunshine and mid-90’s. Our best defense against the relentless sun was a swim in the mighty river as we floated along around three miles per hour. Everyone really seemed to enjoy the trip despite the early wakeup calls and long days in the sun with the promise of another beautiful landscape around the next bend.  

Mike Bodrero, Adventure Learning Coordinator