Moab, the Green River, and Canoes (The Fourth Part)

When the party of the third part agreed with the party of the first part to host part of the party at the party of the second part’s party house,

Sorry – wrong story. I’ll try again.

Monday, September 28, was another beautiful day on the Green River. After watching the total lunar eclipse the previous night, we rose at a reasonable hour and had another delicious breakfast created by our chef-in-residence. While packing my gear afterward, I noticed that I had had many (small) visitors during the night:


I don’t know where they came from, as our sand bar was big and barren, and our campsite was many yards from the shore. But nonetheless, we had lots of little visitors.

So I deflated my tent


while Eve and Rick swept the sand out of theirs


and then, after loading the canoes, we paddled off into the late morning sun. The stretch of river between Anderson Bottom (Mile 31) and Turks Head (Mile 21) is home to several cliffside ruins; in fact, Rick pointed one out to me that I had never seen before.


Two structures in one niche – river left, about Mile 30

New (to me) ruins - closeup

New (to me) ruins – closeup

Cliff ruin, river left, about Mile 29

Cliff ruin, river left, about Mile 29

Granary? Dwelling? Ruin, river right, about Mile 26

Granary? Dwelling? Ruin, river right, about Mile 26

And, of course, there’s the ever-present awesome scenery!


While the Park Service prefers that people camp on sandbars where possible (their presence is washed away every year during high water), there are several permanent campsites along the Green. They’re called “shelf camps” because, naturally, they’re on rock shelves. One of these, and our potential campsite for the evening, is at Mile 21 – the south side of Turks Head, after the river bends around the mesa.

We got to the Turks Head campsite in good time, so we decided to do a little bit of exploring before proceeding to Deadhorse Canyon. (Moving on from Turks Head meant two things: an extra 1.5 miles paddled today that wouldn’t have to be paddled tomorrow – our long day – and 2 miles of walking/hiking that we wouldn’t have to do to get to our “historical marker.”) As we looked around the Turks Head campsite, we noticed that some enterprising group (Boy Scouts?) had built model dwellings in some of the rock crevices. Most of them were rudimentary, but one was really detailed. In addition to the basic four walls, it included a walkway to the door; a complete roof; two woven grass mats; a tiny woven basket-in-progress; a fire pit; and an interior divider to create two distinct spaces inside. Whoever built this was *very* industrious! And the good part about it all is that the models were built under protective overhangs, so barring vandalism they should last for a long time. I hope to see them on my next trip. Here are some photos:

4 model homes: 1. even with Rick's hip, left side of picture; 2. just left of Rick's face, between his shoulder and his hat; 3 & 4. Shoulder height, to Rick's right.

4 model homes: 1. even with Rick’s hip, left side of picture; 2. just left of Rick’s face, between his shoulder and his hat; 3 & 4. Shoulder height, to Rick’s right.

The most detailed model

The most detailed model

One of the grass mats inside

One of the grass mats inside

basket-in-progress, mat #2, and the fire pit

basket-in-progress, mat #2, and the fire pit

After being suitably impressed by the models, we climbed back in the canoes and set off for Deadhorse Canyon. There’s another shelf campsite there, but we were also looking for potential sandbar sites because the shelf camp isn’t directly accessible from the river – depending on the water level, you must either paddle or hike up the canyon stream to get to a reasonable access point. Since the water was low, we found that we would have had to carry everything more than a quarter-mile from our canoes to the campsite. Luckily, there was a mudbar just slightly upriver, with a section that wasn’t *too* muddy.

So we parked our canoes at the mouth of Deadhorse and set off for our scenic hike / rock scramble. From the river level, it’s necessary to climb up to a higher level of rock in order to access a trail that leads to what I call “Newspaper Rock” – a rock literally covered in petroglyphs:

Eve and Rick at "Newspaper Rock"

Eve and Rick at “Newspaper Rock”

On the trail itself are some fascinating erosion patterns:


After returning to our canoes, we paddled furiously to get back upstream (about 100 yards) and then across to the mudbar – because, of course, the mudbar just *couldn’t* be on the same side of the river! We spent a pleasant evening in front of another campfire and went to bed when it finally got dark.

Oh, by the way – that layer of white sandstone (The White Rim Formation) that I mentioned a couple of days ago? It’s now this far above the river [and the cliffside granary is at the bottom of the big, red, sheer layer below it]:

White Rim Formation is now a couple hundred feet above the river

White Rim Formation is now a couple hundred feet above the river

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