Today would be our last day in the canoes. Our destination was Spanish Bottom, a popular campsite on the Colorado River. The guide told us that finding campsites could often be a problem, so we tried to set out early. A few miles below Spanish Bottom is the start of the Cataract Canyon rapids. Going over these rapids in a canoe would be borderline suicidal.
And so we set off, paddling down the Green River to the Confluence with the Colorado. The character of the river changes here. Although the Green River is actually bigger than the Colorado, the joining of the two rivers makes for one very big creek indeed. Life jackets are required by the park service, and for good reason: whirlpools and eddies are everywhere, much more powerful than the placid Green upstream. While not white water per se, the currents were big and powerful, and required almost constant attention.
As you can imagine from the description above, Spanish Bottom is a popular campsite, both with folks floating the Green, and with rafters heading farther down the Colorado. For this reason, there is a campsite registration book about a mile upstream from Spanish Bottom. Landing here to sign the book was the most difficult part of the entire trip. The current, a strategically placed rock, high water, and a steep bank made landing almost impossible. Kevin and I took three tries before I was finally able to land, and even then he had to stay in the boat to keep the canoe from floating downstream. But sign in we did, and not long after that we beached the canoes at Spanish Bottom.
After setting up our tents, we headed off for the biggest day hike of our trip. Spanish Bottom provides access to The Maze, a district of Canyonlands National Park that can otherwise only be reached by 50 miles of 4WD roads. In particular, a steep climb up from the river provides access to The Dollhouse, a region of sandstone pinnacles, geologically similar to The Needles on the other side of the river.
Kevin and Dave hike up to the Dollhouse
One really nice area was a “joint”- a fissure between the rocks that was as tall and narrow as any slot canyon.
The hike concluded with a side trip to the Surprise Valley overlook and the ruins of a granary from a long ago tribe of Native Americans. Our last evening on the river ended with a spectacular moonrise over the canyon walls, and the draining of our remaining alcohol supplies…
Moonrise over the Colorado River