Green River Rising
by Christina King
This year is starting off much better than last season (see Grand Evacuation story) and by Memorial weekend weve already run the Salt and Taos Box (four weekends at ever increasing flows up to 4,500 cfs). Memorial weekend we managed to pick up a cancelled Green (Gates of Lodore) permit and better yet Flaming Gorge dam was releasing substantial flows. In fact, we got a minimum of 6000, 7500 and 18000 cfs at the confluence for our river trip. Very nice.
Day 1, Pot Creek camp, May 29, 2005, Sunday (6000 cfs)
We arrived at the Gates of Lodore put-in with a lot of Memorial weekend campers enjoying the area but no other groups launching. No launches arrived either day we were at the put-in and the 2 plane fly shuttle with Dinaland Aviation went off flawlessly.
Our pilots John Gardiner and Donnie flew a scenic shuttle with lots of opportunities to take pictures. I got a good shot (as well as can be expected from a moving plane) of Hell's Half Mile, Steamboat Rock and Island Park.
Hells Half Mile, Steamboat Rock, Island Park
We landed on the dirt road and (thanks to Ralph) got a ride back down to the put-in from a friendly hiker and her son in their truck. We launched quickly after a quick ranger checkout and enjoyed the warm weather. Our lunch stop was at Wade and Curtis campground (steep, very slick bank) but nice camp. The fast current makes drifting down the river a piece of cake. Lots of willows and tamarisk are under water because the typical flows on the Green (Gates of Lodore) are 1000-2000 cfs. The high flows are being released to simulate natural spring runoff for the native fish.
Winnies rapid is easy, just a rock in the river really. We don't typically scout any rapids other than Hell's Half Mile but played it cautious and scouted Upper Disaster Falls. It was a straight forward left of center drop with nice waves and we continued through Lower Disaster Falls with no problems. Keith had an interesting meeting with the rock on Lower Disaster Falls and wasn't sure how it would end up (all okay). Saw several Big Horn sheep (rams, ewes and two lambs) along the river as we floated along. We pulled into a wonderful sand beach (great for boats) called Pot Creek camp. Lots of fish in Pot Creek. Got to set up tents just in time for a hard rain/hail storm which cleared quickly.
Enjoyed a wonderful Szechwan Chicken prepared by Keith and share a round robin of cookies for dessert that end up on Karen's lap. Jeff, Betsy and I walked across the creek (up the canyon a bit) and enjoyed the views from a rock overlook with fantastic views up and down river.
Day 2, Jones Hole 1, May 30, 2005, Monday (7500 cfs)
River is up this morning and approaching our tent door quickly after breakfast. Seemed like it rained all night but we stayed warm and dry. We start a packing up frenzy when we quickly take down our tent. I notice Pot Creek 2 is a also a nice camp but smaller (not as sandy beach- more rocks) for boats. We haven't seen anyone all yesterday and early today on the river (nice and quiet). Ralph runs lead for about 20 minutes until we reach Harp Falls (false alarm for Triplet Falls) and then we continue on to scout Triplet Falls. Harp Falls was filled with fun rollers. Triplet is a relatively easy run down the center and then left. Ralph had a "perfect" run way left while in the meantime, two of our boats passed him during the rapid. We turn a corner and recognize the horizon line drop of Hell's Half mile. It's our big rapid of the trip. We scout and see several entries. Several of us enter different slots (usually only one good entry at lower water) and run through the big waves easily and take the center channel at the end of the rapid. No matter which entry was made it seemed to funnel everyone to the center of the rapid. I'm finding that the runs in Lodore are actually easier at higher water than the typical low flows.
It's a cold day and we are all wearing warm clothes. Irene even put on her ski goggles. No echoes at Steamboat Rock today. The Yampa joins the Green and the flow jumps up to 18,000 cfs. We enjoy a lunch out of the wind at Echo Park but have no desire walk up to Refrigerator Cave or the petroglyphs due to the cool breeze. Right after we have lunch the weather really worsens. Rain and hard hail make us put on our helmets for hail/head protection. Waterfalls are literally forming in front of our eyes along the high canyon walls. I've seen many river waterfalls from thunderstorms but it is really amazing to see each waterfall actually begin it's torrent downward (ledge by ledge). We see some groups sheltering on the river under rock overhangs to get out of the rain/hail. The whirlpools in Whirlpool canyon are really strong due to the high flows. It's really cold and I row to keep warm but the flow really pushes me along. It rains/hails on us all the way to Jones Hole 1 camp and as we pull into camp the rain lessens and stops.
We set up our group Parawings and tents and everyone enjoys getting into warm dry clothes. Some walk up Jones Hole canyon. I've never camped at Jones Hole 1 before and really like it over the other Jones camps. Usually the outfitters have this camp but we've seen an unusual low number of groups on the river. Unfortunately, they have very carefully dismantled (and kept the parts) the foot bridge across the creek so to hike up the canyon you have to ford the creek. After getting into warm dry clothes I'm not motivated to get wet up to my knees again so instead I meander up the canyon on the right side of the creek to an overlook. Irene fixed Pete a birthday cake along with decorating the parawing and we enjoyed Bill's wonderful BBQ for dinner. Keith put the final planning touches on our upcoming back to back Selway trips and we had a great evening. The rain stayed away tonight.
Day 3, Split Mountain, May 31, 2005, Tuesday, 18,000 cfs
We wake to a cloudy morning which gives way to blue skies and warmer temps by Split Mountain (our takeout). I've had only one other trip where the float was so easy through Island Park (also high water on the Yampa). We didn't even have any wind. I watched two Big Horn rams flirting with two ewes as we float by just before we hit the flat part of Island Park. Saw a group of boaters scouting Moonshine rapid as we floated by, which had big waves with the pour-over domer at the bottom (not a big deal to avoid). The rest of the remaining rapids (SOB, Schoolboy, Inglesby) were straightforward. We arrived at the Split Mountain takeout with no effort by noon. Overall, the rapids at this level are easier than lower water but you need to be able to read and react to the rapids with experience. Fast water and cold water can always contribute to danger if mishaps happen.