Stillwater Canyon Trip, Day 2

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As we pulled into the parking lot at Tex’s Riverways, our greatest concern was that we had too much gear to fit in 2 canoes and a kayak. It sure looked like a lot of stuff! As expected, though, the guides told us that they were pretty good at eye-balling a pile of stuff and telling if it would fit, and nobody freaked when they saw our gear pile.

The five of us and two other parties loaded our gear onto an old school bus pulling a trailer of boats and more gear. We drove north from Moab and into the Island of the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. It seemed like forever driving across the flat featureless plateau, when finally the bus stopped. “You can stay in the bus if you have bad knees, but I’d prefer if everyone gets out and walks this next section. This is an old bus, and the brakes aren’t as new as they used to be.” No argument from us.


“No, I don’t mind walking”

It was a nice scenic hike down through the tall walls of Windgate sandstone and into the mine-pocketed Moenkopi. (Get used to it- I’m a geology buff). The bus waited for us at the end of the hill, and drove us the rest of the way down to the river.


At the River

Our driver, Sean, helped us unload the canoes, and then we began the process of trying to figure out where everything would fit. He was an excellent guide- he sat down with everyone and walked us down a map of the river- showing us campsites, ruins, pictographs, and other things to watch out for. He even showed us how to use the portable chemical toilet!

Here’s the necessary “Before” picture for trips of this kind:

Back Row, L to R: Dave, Paul, Kevin, Mark (trip leader). Front: Me

And then we were off on our grand adventure! For the first few hours we simply floated, letting the strong current carry us along. We marveled at the canyon walls, the birds, the water, and just sat there. It was a very relaxing experience.

Paul doing absolutely nothing

It was afternoon when we found the inlet to Horsethief Canyon- the first side hike on the trip. This was pretty fun. At low water you would just park your boat on the main beach and hike in. But the water level was extremely high, and there were precious few beaches to be found. Instead we paddled, poled, pushed, and pulled our boats up a shallow water-filled channel. It felt to me like we were traveling through some kind of African Queen-type jungle.


Dave and Kevin: “Is that a piranha biting my foot?”

When the channel finally ended, we left the boats behind and started our hike up Horsethief canyon. There was no real trail; we just hiked up the dry riverbed. I was pretty shocked to find water up in the canyon- albeit salty, nasty looking water that I wouldn’t actually want to drink. Our hike was a total of almost 6 miles, to a side canyon with a tall overhanging alcove and a small waterfall. It was a pretty great re-introduction to canyon country.


Horsethief Canyon

Back at the boats, someone made the mistake of looking at a watch. It was about 6:30 and time to camp. The disadvantage of not paddling became apparent, as a quick glance at the map told us we had traveled about 6 miles. 49 to go…

Luckily, there was a great old Cottonwood tree right next to our boats with a great beach underneath. We set up camp while Kevin cooked up dinner- Grilled Salmon fillets with rice. You eat much better canoe camping than backpacking, that’s for sure. The evening gave us great sunsets and fleets of swarming bats to keep the bugs away. A wonderful way to end our first day.

One Reply to “Stillwater Canyon Trip, Day 2”

  1. Nice work! But you might want to clarify what you mean by “Sean showed us how to use the chemical toilet.” Or did I miss something?

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