Rafting the Green River (Gates of Lodore) – Dinosaur National Monument – Colorado

categories: USA Travel

Kayakers on the Green River

There is a fine line between determined and crazy and it occurred to me that I might have crossed that line a while back. All of the other kayakers had either climbed into or tied up to one of the large rafts, but I paddled on as one with something to prove, although what I was trying to prove and to who was less clear. My muscles burned with exertion while my lungs fought with the thin air at more than a mile of altitude.

My day had started in a tent along side the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado. I had arrived the night before in a flotilla of five 16 foot inflatable rafts rowed by the expert guides from Oars. I had been invited on the trip by George Wendt the (late) president of Oars who had been a guest on the Amateur Traveler and who was paying my way on this excursion (Rafting Down the Grand Canyon – Episode 223). He called this rafting trip at the Gates of Lodore the trip you ought to do if you don’t have time to raft the Grand Canyon.

Skittering among the 5 rafts were 3 inflatable kayaks and this day one of the two single person kayaks was my craft. What was a small rapid in a large raft was a much more interesting ride in a small kayak. But today Gus (as our guides called the wind) was blowing down the narrow canyon and at times it was all I could do to keep my kayak from blowing back up stream.

Bret, the guide was in charge of the kayaks, or “ducks”, called over “Is there a reason you are in that eddy?” Eddy? Sure enough, I had not noticed that the main current was to my right. I gradually learned to position my maneuverable craft where the river ran the fastest and kept paddling as we floated down the canyon.

Rafting down the Green River

The Green River Canyon is a geological wonderland. Strong tectonic forces have uplifted ancient strata of rock so that you start in rocks that are a billion years old and as you go down river the rocks get younger even though your elevation is decreasing. The large red cubic rocks of Lodore sandstone is replaced by flat white sheets of sandstone and then giant slabs of Navajo sandstone. Much of the time the shear clefts border both bands of the river and at other times sandy beaches with cottonwood trees and side canyons open off from the river.

We camped at campsites designated for us by the park rangers under the shade of the cottonwood trees. The 14 guests help unload their two dry bags (one checked luggage with clothes and one carry on with cameras, sunscreen and whatever else will be needed during the day) and then pitched their tents. Meanwhile the guides setup the kitchen, the portable latrine, the “living room” of portable camp chairs. Then one or more of the guides led a Hike while the rest put out appetizers and made dinner.

Pictographs in Dinosaur National Monument

We hiked to waterfalls and lookout points. We saw ancient pictographs and petroglyphs and even more ancient fossils. And then we returned to find a wonderful dinner. The steak dinner on the final of the 3 nights stands out most in my memory.

When the wind was not blowing (which was most of the time) the ride in the raft or the kayak would alternate between the excitement of the whitewater and the lazy beauty of floating down a wonderland of cliffs and canyons, faults, uplifts, and beautiful blue skies.

I send my thanks not only to George and the 5 wonderful guides: Pete, Seth, Bret, Tom and Scotty but also to my wonderful fellow travelers who made this a most memorable vacation. Half the travels had done a previous river trip and I understand why someone would do this more than once. Next time I am kayaking the entire 44 miles of the river… or I will die trying. Wait, where was that line again?

Rafting the Green River (Gates of Lodore) - Dinosaur National Monument - Colorado

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

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